If you haven’t heard of the dark web before, its a part of the deep web that isn’t accessible using a normal browser and is usually affiliated with illicit activities such as drugs, guns, killers for hire & whatnot. But that is not all it consists of, it’s also a great tool to be used if you value your privacy and happen to be practicing a profession like journalism.
In this article, we’ll go through what you can find on the dark web, how you can find it, how activities take place, some facts and the legal implications surrounding it.
How to access the dark web?
To access the dark web, you need to use a special browser named ‘TOR’ which is available on Windows, MAC & Linux. After you’ve downloaded it, completed the setup process and connected to the Tor Network, the browser will open.
Finding Websites on the Dark Web
But not so fast, websites on the dark web do not have user-friendly URLs and consist of really long strings followed by a .onion which are quite hard to remember so how do we find websites?
We look up to directories containing links, not all of these would work but the majority would and frankly that’s a relief.
Here’s an example. A well-known directory is the Hidden Wiki.
How do Illegal Activities take place?
Huge marketplaces exist to facilitate the buying and selling of different products not found on the internet you know about.(Surface Web). We’ll take a look at a drug named ‘Cocaine’ being sold on the infamous Silk Road marketplace.
First of all the buyer would create an account,sign-in and then start exploring goods.
After someone is done selecting their goods, this is how the order takes place according to the marketplace.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies such as Monero are used as the payment methods since they are hard to track and offer great anonymity centric features which would not be found using traditional payment methods.
According to Silkroad, “Addresses are encrypted by Silk Road automatically with vendor’s PGP. ” This would protect the buyer’s identity or location.
Drugs although are really common, there are other illegal products available as well such as Fake Passports & Counterfeit Cash.
Are their only Illegal Uses?
As with every technology, TOR too can be used for good and bad with the good often not being shown to people.
According to TOR’s official website,
Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization.
A branch of the U.S. Navy uses Tor for open source intelligence gathering, and one of its teams used Tor while deployed in the Middle East recently. Law enforcement uses Tor for visiting or surveilling web sites without leaving government IP addresses in their web logs, and for security during sting operations.
Apart from this, you can also set up a website on the dark web to avoid revealing your location or who is behind the site, use it for communicating with anyone when you need to hide your identity, anonymous bloggers, government officials and the like would greatly benefit from this.
- The principle of anonymity behind TOR called ‘Onion Routing’ was originally developed in the mid-1990s by employees of the United States Naval Research Laboratory.
- Famous whistleblowers such as Julian Assange & Edward Snowden used the dark web to expose government secrets.
- The FBI shut down the original ‘Silk Road’ marketplace in October 2013 but since then it has bounced back.As Taylor & Francis Online State,
As part of their investigation, they determined that over $1.2 billion in sales had occurred involving 150,000 customers and 4000 vendors. These staggering numbers show the scale of illegal trade on the Dark Web.
- Facebook also offers its site over the TOR network. You can access it at https://www.facebookcorewwwi.onion using a TOR browser.
What should you do?
Exploring the dark web is nothing wrong or illegal, however being involved in criminal activities occurring in it is so you shouldn’t hesitate from checking it out but browse safely and benefit from the good side of it especially avoiding scammers trying to exploit you.