In the digital era, the internet has opened the world to an array of new things. It has made life easier as you can use online methods for various purposes. For instance, you can pay your bills without leaving the comfort of your home.
Besides that, you can also shop for groceries and order food without making calls. The internet provides various benefits to people throughout the world. However, you must remember that it also has some drawbacks. Many people use the web for illicit actions too.
One of the top things you may have come across when learning about illicit purposes is the dark web. This part of the online world is mainly associated with criminal activity. However, there are many misconceptions regarding the use of the dark web.
If you have been looking to learn everything about the dark web, you’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will provide you with all the knowledge you require. So continue reading to understand the dark web sites and much more.
The Dark Web History
Many experts consider the Freenet release in 2000 to be the starting point of the dark web. This was the thesis project of a student at the University of Edinburgh. Ian Clarke released Freenet to help people interact online and exchange files without revealing their identities.
After that, the dark web grew considerably in 2002 when some researchers created and released the Tor network. A key thing to note is that the US Naval Research Lab supported these individuals. This was an important point in the dark web history.
In 2002, the internet was in its early stages, and it was easy to escape tracking. However, remaining anonymous was relatively complex. This is why the Tor was formed to help political protesters and American operatives communicate worldwide communicate safely.
Later, the network’s code was released through a free license, and the Tor Project came into being. This is a nonprofit project. Lastly, the Tor Browser was formed in 2008. Because of this, people can now easily open dark web links and maintain anonymity on the internet.
The Three Levels Of The Web
When searching for the dark web, you may have encountered the “deep web” term several times. The vital thing you must remember is not to confuse the different phrases. This is because there are multiple levels of the web in this digital era.
Here are the three levels of the web to help you get a better understanding of the dark web links and sites:
You should first understand that the surface web is also called the open web. It is the internet you use for searching for useful information about multiple things. The surface web is readily accessible to everyone and is the primary level most people use.
Typically, everyone can use the surface web with an excellent internet connection and a functional browser. For instance, you may use Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and much more to use this web type. Some other terms that are interchanged with the surface web are Lightnet, indexed web, and visible web.
Here are some examples of the surface web content to help you grasp this part of the internet better:
- Open media sites such as the home pages of the New York Times and Buzzfeed
- Business websites for major to minor companies such as the Bank of America
- Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat
- E-commerce sites such as Walmart and Amazon
Simply put, the everyday sites that you use through a standard browser come under the surface web. The primary reason behind this is that the platforms can be located through search engine results. Besides that, they also have marked endings such as .edu, .org, .com, and much more.
You can find websites on the surface web because they have been categorized as indexable. This means that different search engines can rank them and show you the link. However, the most interesting fact about the surface web is that it only covers 5 percent of the online world.
The deep web is often considered the same as the dark web by many people. However, you should note that these are two different parts of the online world. Of course, they have some similarities, which is why you may confuse the two terms.
A primary thing you must note is that the deep web also covers websites and platforms that have been marked non-indexable. However, they may still appear in search results. This is also the level that comes right beneath the standard open web. Typically, this type covers 96 percent to 99 percent of the entire internet.
The top thing you should remember is that the content of this web may not be on the surface, but that does not mean it is illegal. Most of the time, the platforms are not indexed to help consumers maintain privacy. For instance, some sites are on the deep web to protect the login IDs of users.
Here are some deep web content examples to help you understand this part of the internet better:
- Fee-based content such as members-only content websites
- Databases containing sensitive files that must be protected, such as those from government organizations and private schools
- Intranets for helping public and private institutes exchange internal information. Typically, such sites require you to log in, and many private educational institutes use them.
- Official storage platforms such as Google Drive and Dropbox
Typically, any webpage that requires you to log in for use is considered a part of the deep web. Of course, this does not have to be the situation every time. Developers can also mark their site non-indexable if they don’t want the platform to appear on the surface web’s search results.
Besides that, many schools use surface and deep webs to maintain their operations. This is why you should not consider this part of the internet illegal or scary. On the contrary, the deep websites are legit and serve a useful purpose.
Finally, the last level of the internet is made of dark web sites and links. As we mentioned earlier, this type contains platforms that have not been indexed. This is one of the reasons why people confuse the dark web with the deep web.
However, you must note that the dark web is a subsection within the deep web. The distinct difference between the two is that you will not find dark web links on search engine results. They are concealed using various methods to ensure that the platforms remain hidden on the surface and deep web search results.
Another thing that distinguishes dark websites from deep websites is that the former can only be accessed through a unique browser. You will have to take various steps to join the dark web safely. Besides that, this part of the online world has a unique operator.
Moreover, the dark web uses multiple security tools such as firewalls and high-end encryption. This is why the links are inaccessible through the standard browsers. Whether you use a VPN or another service, you will never encounter dark web links on the usual search engines.
Lastly, the final feature that sets apart the dark web links is that this web level has a randomized structure. This means that traffic is formed through multiple funnels. Besides that, virtual features are also used for protecting privacy. Thus, the dark web has complex technical details.
What Is On The Dark Web?
In December 2020, there were 76,300 dark web sites in .onion, and many 18,000 of them contained original content. This hidden online world offers you many things, some of which are illegal while others not. Here are the things you can find on the dark web:
One of the top reasons the dark web is associated with black markets is that it is home to multiple black markets. You can purchase drugs, tech devices, and much more using this online world. The primary thing to note is that the web protects your identity.
Of course, you must remember that participating in black market sales is illegal. The top thing that most people buy from dark web links is drugs. A prime example is the Silk Road site. The FBI shut down this platform in 2013 to reduce the crime rate.
Another version of the same site appeared on the dark web in the same year. It was also shut down as the founder was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to life imprisonment. AlphaBay was another black market platform for buying illegal items.
Dark Web Versions For Indexed Sites
Another thing you should note is that the dark web links also contain a .onion version of standard surface websites. For instance, The Pirate Bay is a torrent platform you can use on standard browsers. However, some people cannot access the website usually.
Typically, the dark web version will let you use the same site without any issues. Of course, you will need access in specific conditions. For instance, your country may have put strict regulations on torrent websites. This is why you may not be able to use them on the surface web.
Besides that, you can also find new dark web sites of BBC, The New York Times, CIA, and much more. The different versions of these platforms will be available to you when you use the dark web.
The dark web is also famous for being the home to multiple email services. You can find ProtonMail, Mail2Tor, and much more on this part of the internet. The primary reason behind such dark web links is that you can send messages anonymously.
Apart from that, email services on the dark web also ensure that your location cannot be tracked easily. This is why many people use the platforms when they want to maintain their privacy. Some also send messages through the sites when talking about illegal things.
Secure File Exchange Platforms
You may come across file exchanging services on the dark web. The various .onion sites of MegaTor, SecureDrop, and BlackDrop will allow you to upload secure files. Not only that, but you can also transfer information through these platforms.
The best part about using the dark web for this purpose is that it protects the files through several encryption layers. Moreover, the services also encrypt your connection for secure exchanges. So you can have more flexibility when sharing information with someone.
Typically, journalists use such dark web sites to get sensitive information from sources. The browser also helps them to keep their source’s identity hidden. Besides that, police informants also use dark web sites for sharing critical data.
Forums And Chat Boards
The dark web is packed with chat boards and message rooms to help you talk freely. Many people use such websites to speak of things that are not as safe to talk about on other web levels. For instance, you may be engaging in political discussions about the government.
Besides that, chatrooms can also be used to talk securely about illegal and dangerous activities. You may also come across forums of different hackers. Such criminals can trade the stolen data with you for a hefty sum. Typically, you can get passport information, credit card numbers, and much more from dark web sites.
The top thing to remember is to avoid these dark web links if you don’t want to engage in illegal activities. Sometimes, you may also enter the illicit chat board mistakenly. This is why it is best to stay away from the relevant platforms by equipping yourself with sound knowledge.
Another thing that dark web sites allow you to engage in is whistleblowing. The hidden online world helps you maintain your anonymity and stay safe. At the same time, it also allows you to tackle illegal acts and report them.
For instance, you may have noticed that your company is engaging in illegal activities. Of course, reporting the acts to the authorities can be tricky through standard ways. This is because your identity will be disclosed, and whistleblowers aren’t considered reputable workers.
Besides that, you may also want to report your government for participating in illegal activities. Luckily, you can do this safely by using dark websites. Many people, such as Edward Snowden, have used this part of the internet in the past to spread their message.
This is another illegal activity that takes place on the dark web frequently. Many people buy unregistered weapons from the Tor websites without disclosing their identities. Some individuals get the firearm to keep it at home for safety.
Meanwhile, criminals also purchase weapons using multiple dark web links. 84 percent of the firearms listings on this online world include pistols. Meanwhile, rifles make up 10 percent of the advertisements. However, remember engaging in such activities can put you in deep trouble.
So it is essential to protect yourself by avoiding illegal acts in the first place. The dark web goes to great lengths to keep your identity hidden. Of course, you should remember that law enforcement’s technology is improving. So you can still get caught.
Many people wish to watch porn while keeping the browser history intact and maintaining anonymity. This is something that you can easily achieve by using the dark web. However, remember that some sites are illegal and can get you in trouble.
For instance, the dark web is infamous for being the home of child po*nography. You will find many criminal cases about this subject on the surface web. A prime example is the 2019 case in which federal prosecutors took action against a 23 years old South Korean male.
The individual was charged with running a marketplace for child pornography. As per the news, the dark website contained more than 200,000 videos of minors showing sexual acts.
The Three Reasons Why People Use The Dark Web
Here is an overview of the three primary reasons that people use dark web sites for:
It is no secret that most people use the dark web to keep their identities hidden. The top thing to note is that there are many reasons to use dark web links for this purpose.
For instance, the government may take action against you in your native country if you take about politics on the standard platforms. This happens mainly in places with strict censorship.
Besides that, you may also use the dark web to avoid becoming a cyber-attack victim. This can happen when conducting online transactions or sharing sensitive messages. The primary use of Tor is to help you browse the open web anonymously.
A hidden service is also called an onion service, and the platform mainly has a .onion ending. The top feature of this is that everything will be hidden on such dark web sites. Your identity will remain anonymous, and the IP address of the platform will also be hidden.
The primary thing to understand about hidden services is that not all of them are illegal. You can use some of the legitimately to perform whistleblowing or other actions. Of course, many of them have illicit content. Typically, such sites allow you to gain access through a login prompt.
This is the final reason why you may want to use dark web links. Most people use these hidden services to perform illegal activities. For instance, you may want to sell firearms.
Besides that, you may also want to get rid of drugs or sell pills at a high price to make a profit. The top thing to note is that you should avoid using the dark web for such actions.
Firstly, you should avoid such activities because they are illegal. Secondly, you can still get caught even with the dark web’s technical protection.
The Different Threats On The Dark Web
The dark web may appear a completely safe place to you because of the great technical details. However, that is not true. You may face various threats while using the platform for private browsing.
So dark web sites can be very dangerous to use at times. Here are the top threats you may come across during your browsing session:
Malicious software has been in being for many years and affects various people on the surface web. Unfortunately, you can come across malware on the dark web links too. The primary thing you must understand is that platforms in this online world are not bound by regulations or social contracts.
This is why the website hosts will not be doing their best to protect you from cyber-attacks. Typically, you can come across the following malware:
- Phishing malware
If you wish to use the dark web, you must consider the risks that come with it. You can fall victim to hacks and other attacks. The malware can also affect your entire device instead of just the browsing history.
The dark web links may allow you to engage in criminal activities, but that does not mean you will always remain safe. A vital thing you must remember is that many Tor sites have been taken over by government authorities. This means your actions may be being watched by law enforcement officers.
A significant drawback of monitoring for you is that you will never know about it until it is too late. Illegal drug marketplaces such as the Silk Road and AlphaBay have been shut down because of FBI surveillance. The authorities also use some of the dark web sites instead of closing them to have an insider’s view.
The top thing to note is that you can incriminate yourself without even making a purchase. For instance, accidentally entering an illegal chatroom may also get you in legal trouble. The dark web framework may be high-end, but it is yet to overcome all the loopholes.
Scamming is more prevalent on the dark web than the surface web because of anonymity protection. The primary thing to understand is that you may face an issue when hiring an illegal service from the dark web.
For instance, you may be paying a hacker to provide you lifetime access to paid streaming services at a reasonable price. Of course, many people require you to make some or all of the payment beforehand. So the scam chances are relatively on the dark web sites.
Besides that, you can also get scammed when hiring an assassin, buying weapons, and much more. Some of the issues are well-established on the dark web and tough to tackle. Meanwhile, many people also use the browser’s security to their advantage and ask for ransom.
Another thing to remember is that phishing scams are also prevalent on the dark web. A hacker may steal your identity or other information to extort money from you.
How To Access The Dark Web Safely?
Before diving into the specifics of accessing the dark web, you must understand some essential terms. The two primary tools that you will require for using the dark web links are the Tor browser and a VPN. You should also have an antivirus program on at all times when using the dark web.
What Is Tor?
The Onion Router (Tor) is a free, open-source browser that enables you to keep your identity hidden. The primary way this app does that is by channeling your internet activity through multiple IP addresses and web hosts. This is so that no one can pinpoint your accurate location.
Besides that, your activity will travel through a unique node network. At every node, some of the encryption will be removed. Because of this, anyone tracking you will only come across the last server your information passed through.
Simply put, the browser makes identification almost impossible with this node structure. This is the primary reason why this is the only platform you can use for accessing the dark web.
Another thing to note is that using Tor is legal in most countries. Of course, you may still get in trouble if you use the browser for illegal acts. Tor is also not foolproof, so it is advisable to also use a VPN when entering the dark web.
What Is A VPN?
The top fact you should remember about the dark web is that getting into trouble is as easy as entering the websites. This is why you must take precautions to improve your safety and privacy. One of the best ways to do this is by using a VPN.
A virtual private network (VPN) masks your accurate IP address by rerouting it to a different country. This means that the website host will see a different address than your actual IP address. So the VPN makes it complex for hackers to figure out your online activity.
Similarly, a VPN also prevents the government from monitoring your internet activity. This is why it is advisable to use a paid service when accessing dark web sites through Tor. The best part about a VPN is that it also protects you from censorship and lets you access banned sites within your country.
NordVPN is the most popular service that can help you mask your IP with high-end encryption. The best part is that the platform comes in free and paid versions. Of course, you can also get any other VPN of your choice.
Step-By-Step Guide For Accessing The Dark Web
Now that you understand what Tor and VPNs are, here are the steps you can follow to enter the dark web safely:
The first step you must take is to download the Tor extension and install it on your device. A vital thing you should remember is to hide the download by using a VPN. You should connect the service, then open your browser’s incognito window, and open the downloading link for Tor.
Another tip you should remember is to download the platform from the official site only. Otherwise, you may come across a version that contains malware or spyware. This means that you can make yourself vulnerable to cyber-attacks by downloading the platform from a third-party website.
Currently, Tor is available on Mac, Windows, Android, and Linux. However, most experts advise you not to enter the dark web through mobile. This is because your safe anonymity may get compromised.
Download And Use VPN
The primary thing you should note is that Tor will keep your identity and location hidden. However, the browser’s nod IPs are public. This means that internet services and website hosts can know when you are using Tor.
So you may raise unwanted attention from the authorities and hackers by using Tor without a VPN. This is why you must download a relevant service to help you mask your IP and prevent anyone from knowing you are using Tor.
If you don’t trust VPNs, you can get an alternative service. For instance, you should use Tor Bridges when using the browser. These are nodes that have not been publicly indexed. This means no one will know that you used Tor and entered the dark web.
Browse The Dark Web
Once you are connected to a VPN, you can open Tor and enter the dark web. The top thing to remember is that you will have to open specific websites. For instance, you can check the various .onion websites by searching them on the dark web engines.
You should note that dark web search engines are different than the standard ones. If you look for a site on the normal search bar of Tor, you will not come across dark web links. Instead, you must use engines such as NotEvil, Ahmia, Candle, Torch, and much more.
Besides that, you can also look for sites in the link directories of the dark web. One of the top ones you should be aware of is dark.fail. Typically, using dark web search engines and directories will help you navigate this online world with ease.
Top Tips To Access The Dark Web Safely
Besides the precautionary methods, you can also remember other tips to navigate the dark web sites safely. Here is what you must know about them:
Trust Your Gut Feeling
The dark web is not safe from scams, hackers, and other criminals. This is why you must always be on the safe side. For instance, avoid entering dark web links that require you to log in. Besides that, always follow your gut feeling about a site.
If you feel that something is not right, follow your intuition instead of ignoring it. You should also remove yourself from different situations if they don’t appear legal. The best way you can protect yourself is by avoiding participating in illegal activities.
Separate Your Real And Online Life
The top thing that will help you browse safely on the dark web is separating your online persona from your everyday life. For instance, avoid using your real name on the sites that require credentials. Besides that, don’t use your personal emails and usernames on the dark web.
You should also avoid making purchases from your primary credit or debit card on the dark web. This is because scammers and hackers can steal your data to extort more money. Simply put, keep your personal life away from the online dark web world.
Use Active Monitoring Tools
Another step you must take to protect yourself from financial and identity thefts is engaging in active monitoring. You can find various online security tools that will keep you alert about scams and hacks. Such services will also prevent your device from any harm.
Besides that, you should also consider using an antivirus tool when browsing the darknet. The service can detect if the platform has malware, viruses, or bots that will compromise your security. Taking advantage of the multiple tools will allow you to keep yourself safe.
One of the top things you should avoid doing on the darknet is downloading things. Typically, you will not come across malware and viruses on the website. Instead, they may be embedded within the download files to attack you unexpectedly.
So when you open a downloaded file from darknet links, you make your device susceptible to a cyber-attack. Once the infection reaches your computer, you will have to pay ransom to get rid of it. This is because most hackers use exceptional codes and encryption that computer experts cannot remove.
Once again, an antivirus tool such as Avast can help you with this issue. The program performs real-time scanning and lets you know if a file contains malware.
Disable Java And ActiveX
The network setting of your browser is most likely to have Java enabled. However, you must disable this before entering darknet sites for browsing or other reasons. The primary thing you must remember is that frameworks such as Java can easily be exploited by different parties.
Moreover, the dark web contains multiple potential threats that can cause harm at any time. So the best way to protect yourself is by taking active security measures. Disabling Java, ActiveX, and other frameworks will significantly enhance your overall security.
Keep The Tor Devices Away From Kids
If you are a parent with young kids or teenagers in your home, be sure to restrict their access to the devices with Tor. This is because your children may not follow the safety precautions when entering the darknet. Besides that, teenagers tend to fall into bad habits easily.
So your kid may purchase something from an illegal marketplace using your card. This can cause you to suffer from scams or data theft issues. Besides that, the activity may raise a red flag amongst the authorities.
Hence, you should always keep your Tor devices away from those who don’t know how to use the darknet or what it is. This will allow you to avoid unnecessary trouble.
Is The Dark Web Illegal?
The top thing you should note is that the darknet falls in a grey area. Typically, using this part of the internet is legal in most countries. However, it all depends on how you are using the service. You can use the darknet for browsing safe sites anonymously.
Besides that, you can opt for illegal activities using dark web links. If you use the internet for this purpose, you will face trouble with the authorities. Not only that, but you are most likely to serve jail time for knowingly participating in illegal acts.
Aside from that, you will face the consequences if you observe an illegal activity but do not report it. This is why it is best to fall all safety precautions and tread carefully when using the darknet. You should also avoid entering into a political discussion on the darknet.
Many countries have high restrictions on political conversations. This is why you may incriminate yourself by engaging in such talks. The best tip to remember is to avoid engaging in conversations. Instead, you should use the dark web for privacy reasons.
This is everything you need to know about the dark web. The key takeaway is that you can enter this part of the internet to maintain anonymity. However, using the darknet also comes with specific risks. So be sure to follow all safety precautions to avoid issues.