You might have stumbled across the term Dark Web if you have encountered articles about internet conspiracy theories, cybercrimes, phishing, scams, and horrible internet crime networks. So what is this piece of the internet that is so scary and dangerous? The Dark Web is that part of the internet that is unregulated. Not so easy to find the deeper part of the Deep Web that you should probably stay out of.
What are the surface web, Deep Web, and Dark Web?
Before you understand the Dark Web, you need to know about the Deep Web. Often mistaken to be the same, the Deep Web is not the same as the Dark Web. As we all know, the world wide web is a huge network of devices connected to the internet worldwide. But we usually get to access and use a tiny part of it called the surface web. Most of our browsers are used to access publicly available domains and those web pages that are exposed to a search engine like Google. And these pages that are part of the surface web constitute just 0.03% of the internet.
The rest of the internet would be the Deep Web that requires special access privileges, private domains, or is simply not exposed to search engine results. Now, the Deep Web, in general, is quite benign. Almost all services and pages requiring specific access privileges usually come under the Deep Web. And the size of the Deep Web is huge, about 500 times bigger than the surface web, and it only continues to grow. Some content on the Deep Web includes paywall-protected pages, social media apps, online banking sites, email, intranets, databases, private forums, and so on.
The Dark Web is just about 0.01% of the Deep Web. It is a tiny space within the Deep Web where the websites are known for their shady behavior and total anonymity. Dark Web sites use encryption methods to ensure all their users remain anonymous. This allows anyone to use these sites to carry out any activity without the fear of being tracked by law agencies worldwide.
Users can hide their identity, their location, and their financial transactions and thus be able to carry out illegal smuggling, pornography, drug cartels, and more. Online black markets thrive on the Dark Web, and it takes quite a lot of effort to track and shut down these illegal activities.
The Dark Web also has its uses for people who want to remain anonymous but spread information or misinformation without being linked. The famous whistle-blower site WikiLeaks is one example you can find on the Dark Web.
How did the Dark Web come to be?
There is no proper consensus on how the Dark Web came to be, but it is generally believed that it started in the early 2000s. A University of Edinburgh student Ian Clarke released a thesis project called Freenet in 2000, which gave the seed idea to form a distributed network to share files and information anonymously on the internet. This idea soon caught the fancy of many more tech enthusiasts and resulted in the launch of the Tor project. Tor is a specialized browser launched in 2008, allowing any user to browse the internet anonymously.
Uses of the Dark Web
The US Defense Department initially used the Dark Web to communicate anonymously, but it has now become a safe space for any anonymous and possibly illegal activities over the internet.
Using the Dark Web in itself is not illegal as you are just trying to access a deeper part of the web anonymously. And it is often thus used by rebels and civilians who may want to communicate to avoid any tracking by their governments. But with any good tool, people can find nefarious purposes as well. And thus, illegal uses of the Dark Web have grown in popularity, including arms smuggling, illegal money transactions, human trafficking, and more. Government agencies have repeatedly put in many measures to curb such crime hubs on the Dark Web like the Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Hansa.
The Dark Web is also the originator of many security issues and threats that individuals and companies face.
Why should you stay out of the Dark Web
The power of anonymity that the Dark Web provides enables a hacker to easily access an unsuspecting user’s account. It makes it very difficult to track down and deal with the cyber attack they launch. Many reports of stolen identities and private information leaked on the Dark Web are being used for extortion, espionage, and more. Stolen credentials and data could be sold on the Dark Web and be used for many kinds of illegal activities as well. While the Dark Web has useful sites that may sound interesting to explore, it may not be worth the risk of exposing your private information or putting your systems at risk of cyber attacks.
If you are still curious and want to explore the Dark Web, you must take the necessary security measures. You must employ a proper secure VPN, update your antivirus software, and ensure you don’t expose your email address or any private information and credentials to these sites.
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