Today, we live in a world where the internet is central to our daily lives. We rely on it for so many things, from social media and entertainment to news and banking. Over time, the internet has become increasingly accessible and continues to grow each day. Over time too, so did its dark side – one that is shrouded in secrecy and cannot be accessed by normal means. That dark web, where crime thrives behind a mask of anonymity.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is an encrypted network of peer-to-peer users that allows anyone to access information without the risk of being monitored. This means that it cannot be accessed by regular methods, such as through search engines, but rather with special software tools. On the dark web, you can find everything from black markets and drugs to weapons and people trafficking. This has made it a dangerous place for anyone who dares to go there.
Who uses the dark web?
Those who use the internet for illegal activity are attracted to this space. While law enforcement agencies like the FBI try to crack down on crime that takes place online, they can’t monitor every bit of data exchanged on the dark web; it’s simply too big and too anonymous for them to police effectively. As a result, criminals can communicate with each other freely and even make transactions (such as buying drugs or guns), all while remaining undetected. Even hackers, who usually stay in the shadows, have been known to use this space to communicate with other leaders and share information.
Is it really anonymous?
No – there are ways that authorities can monitor users of the dark web. Many people turn towards anonymity tools such as Tor or VPNs in order to hide their identities from being spied on by other users. However, these tools aren’t foolproof. Law enforcement agencies have come up with techniques for tracking down criminals before, which means they could also use them on those who dare venture into the dark web.
Others only communicate anonymously online because they don’t want their private messages falling into the hands of third parties like Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and government agencies.
History of the Dark Web?
In 1994, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, often referred to as simply “The Web.” It was a system that allowed anyone with a computer connected to the internet access through a graphical interface containing links to documents located across servers. It was open-source, free for everyone to use, and most importantly, it was non-discriminatory. Everyone had equal access to the web, regardless of age group, economic status, religion, or whatever else you can think of.
That is until 1998 when free online hosting services like Geocities made an appearance. Although separate from The Web itself, these services worked in a similar way – they allowed anyone with a computer to post content on their own personal page without having to pay for server space. This led to skyrocketing growth in internet usage at exponential rates because information could be shared freely amongst the masses. Nowadays we know this as social media.
Why Dark Web became the next big thing?
Ever since the birth of the internet, people have been going crazy about sharing information with each other. However, most users couldn’t care less about who watches them as they feel nothing wrong is doing it. It’s only after Edward Snowden leaked out his NSA files which revealed how government organizations were spying on Internet users that everyone realized their folly and demand for better security grew manifolds overnight. In this context, many tech-savvy netizens started exploring various possibilities to ensure their online privacy, including shifting to the dark web.
The term ” Dark Web” was coined by Dave Wong in his article for Mashable in 2007. He used this phrase to describe websites that are not indexed by traditional search engines like Google or Bing. These were usually forums where people posted illegal stuff that would generally be removed if they were noticed by search engine crawlers.
However, since these sites are not indexed, it’s impossible for one to access them unless he/she has specific knowledge about their URL address ( known as deep web ). For example, if you want to access www.facebookcorewwwi—.the onion you will need TOR browser installed on your computer.
As the Internet grew more and more mainstream, its user base increased exponentially. In the beginning, users were most concerned about their privacy from governments and big corporations, but as time passed by people started getting wary of their security from hackers as well. For instance, you might have noticed that most web services ask for your credit card details at sign up.
Here are some more big reason
This is a result of two major incidents that happened in 2007 – one was a large-scale phishing attempt that resulted in the theft of lakhs of debit card details from various banks and other financial institutions. The other incident mentioned above was when Dave Wong revealed the dark web to the general public. After Snowden’s revelations people realized how insecure the Internet really was, those who had been using it for illegal purposes always knew this bit already. Consequently, they opted for the deep web which was mostly used by hackers to share stolen credit card details.
Later in 2013, two similar but different technologies were released which dramatically changed the way people accessed the Internet. This was when the TOR browser started gaining momentum among internet users. It immediately became a sensation with over 2 million hits per day. Whereas, on the other hand, Satoshi Nakamoto introduced his most revolutionary creation called bitcoin along with its whitepaper.
Reasons Why Dark Web Is Used:
1) Hacking – People use the dark web for hacking purposes. This is the first and primary reason for its existence. Hackers use it for buying and selling malware, exploits, stolen identities, etc.
2) Protection from surveillance – Many users want privacy at the same time they don’t want their information to be tracked by any third party such as ISP or Government Agencies. For this purpose, people use anonymity tools such as VPNs/Proxies and Onion Routing (TOR). TOR helps them to browse anonymously but you can also buy a lot of stuff there using bitcoin which provides a good level of privacy.
3) Buying goods – There are different darknet markets where you can buy different items like drugs, weapons, counterfeit money, exploits, etc. These markets work on a similar principle as eBay does i.e. you place an order, make payment, and then they will send it to you in the mail. However, there is no refund policy.
4) Communication – There are many forums and chats available on the dark web where people communicate with each other using anonymous aliases. A good example of this is TorChat which allows users to chat with anyone anonymously without giving away their identity or location.
5) Entertainment – Yes! You can even find some fun stuff on the dark webs such as music, movies, etc on different websites like TheColonial (a specialist in underground hip-hop), DeepDotWeb for reviewing darknet markets, and OnionLand TV for streaming videos on Tor browser.
6) News & Blogs
People use the TOR network to read news and blogs anonymously. It is because most of the mainstream media sites are tracking what people are clicking on through third-party cookies. And this is why they don’t want their IP address to be tracked.
7) Uncensored – The dark web gives you an uncensored experience which means you can find anything that would normally be blocked in your region or country. Thus, people often use it for watching censored TV shows, listening to radio channels etc over TOR browser without revealing their identity.
8) Education – There are some school-level classes available on the dark web where students can learn new things from the world’s brightest minds i.e professors etc up-close and personal using an onion routing network. Websites like SamSam provides access to interactive classes on the deep web.
9) File Storage – Some people use the dark web for file storage purposes. They upload files anonymously to public directories and then share links with others. One of the most popular websites for this purpose is Onion Share which allows you to send large amounts of data without exposing your identity. 10) Gaming – Longcat is an anonymous game server where players can play games like Agar.io, Slither.io, Slender, etc over TOR browser in a multiplayer mode using a virtual currency known as CATs.
10) And the most important reason is that it’s fun! You can find anything on the dark web from a new iPhone to Indian cooking recipes. Thus, you always have something new and exciting to look forward to.
How to access the dark web?
You can access the dark web through the TOR browser which is an open-source project with the main goal of providing anonymity to its users. To use Tor you simply need to download it from their official website, install it and enter a darknet address into your browser’s address bar.
Now that you have created your virtual identity. You are free to do whatever you want on the dark web without being tracked or traced by anyone. You can now log into onion sites using your previously generated username and password.
To find any hidden service on the TOR network you just have to go to the “search” option at the top right corner of this page. And then enter a specific keyword or phrase i.e best onion services or something like that and click “search”.
Is it illegal to access the dark web? There are no laws against using TOR browsers or accessing the dark web in most countries. However, since there is no governing body over this virtual space. It’s advised to follow all local rules and regulations when you’re on the dark web.
How to stay anonymous on the Dark Web?
If you want to access/browse dark websites anonymously. Then your best bet would be using the Tor browser. Which hides your identity by bouncing off your Internet connection around various Tor servers.
You should also always check the onion address of each site before logging in. Because many of them are fake i.e may infect a computer with malware or steal your information. Thus, always get proofreaders whenever you get something new from the deep web. If possible avoid downloading anything free on TOR because most of them are illegal.
To stay completely anonymous on TOR you should also use a VPN like Cyberghost. Which encrypts your internet traffic and assigns it to an anonymous IP address.
How is Dark Web different from Deep Web?
Many people often confuse the deep web with the dark web as both of them sound similar. But there is a slight difference between the two as below:
1) Deep web refers to those parts of the Internet. Which have been indexed by search engines for the general public to view. But require special Tor or other browsers for accessing these sites. For example websites behind paywalls, private torrent trackers, etc fall under this category. Whereas dark web consists of various hidden services that exist within onion networks i.e only accessible over Tor.
2) Another difference between the deep web and the dark web is that the former is not illegal at all. But the majority of sites present on the dark web consist of illegal services like drugs, counterfeit documents, etc.
3) It’s impossible to find any hidden service on the deep web. (Except search engines like duckduckgo). Because it’s only accessible over specialized browsers like TOR. Whereas dark web can be reached both through normal browser i.e Firefox. Or Google Chrome as well as through special software like Tor.
Things you can find on the dark web?
1) Online Drugs –No matter how strict drug laws are implemented in your country or how expensive prescription is, you can always buy drugs online. Even though deep web markets are being shut down regularly by Federal Authorities. There has not been a single day when people didn’t access their favorite illicit substances.
2) Weapons – Firearms and other related equipment can be easily found on the dark web. Want to become the next Rambo? Then don’t forget to purchase automatic weapons online before that!
3) Pornography – Anyone who’s into pornography knows that it’s not cheap, but on the dark web, you can watch Porn videos along with adult movies without worrying about anyone finding out. This is the only place where watching porn does not burn holes in your wallet!
4) Hacking Services – Want to have a password for your girlfriend’s Facebook, email, or bank account? Or want to spy on someone? You can buy hacking services online anonymously so that you remain totally unidentified.
5) Fake IDs – Don’t be surprised if somebody offers fake ids for sale on the dark web because it’s one of the most popular things sold over there.
6) Weapons – Firearms are not the only weapons that you can buy from the deep web. There are thousands of weapons available online at discounted prices, but they can be dangerous too!
7) Stolen Data-Do you know any person whose card details were stolen after shopping at some retail store? If yes then definitely he/she must have bought something from the dark web. Because most of the time stolen data is sold over there.
8) Child Pornography –
Who isn’t surprised at this? But yes, you can even find child pornography over the dark web. But since it’s one of the most searched things on the deep web. Authorities keep taking down sites containing CP regularly.
9) Counterfeit Money-It might sound unbelievable how counterfeit currency could be found online, but it’s true; you can purchase fake dollars or Euros, etc. The only thing which needs to be taken care of. That it must be purchased from a trusted seller. Otherwise, you might end up holding useless cash in hand!
10) Stolen Credit Card details-You heard it right! You can buy credit cards over the dark web with their respective pin numbers and CVV.
11) Services of Hackers-The famous saying is “Want it done fast, then do it yourself”, but why waste time when there are thousands of hackers available online that you can buy services like hacking email, Facebook, or any other social networking site, etc.
12) Hitmen for Hire – We all know that Mafia always remained busy with these illegal activities, but now you can hire hitmen without paying a single penny! Yes, this service has been started by the Dark web crowd like many other crimes for an economical price. It’s nothing but ZERO COST KIDNAPPING & MURDER SERVICES!
13) Fake University Degrees-Can your friend take admission to one of the universities through a fake certificate? NO, but it can be done easily through the Dark web. There are many sites that provide fake degrees at a low cost. Which you can present before any university for admission purposes.
14) Forging Documents-
You always need some important document to represent yourself in front of others, whether it be a degree or a driving license, all can be forged by using dark website hosting tools. There are many companies & high-profile people who hire their services to enhance their online reputation by buying documents or providing their services for doing so! This is why Amazon was sued for 1M$. Because hacked details were used on Amazon. (The person who sued Amazon was buying products like refrigerators. And TVs on Amazon while purchasing gift cards with stolen credit cards).
15) Phishing – There are many phishing sites on the Internet that claim to provide access to free movie or music downloads, but instead, they steal your private data. However, the dark web provides you phishing site hosting service that allows you to create your own phishing site. Some of the popular social networking sites where phishing is done are Facebook & Twitter.
16) Selling Passwords for Porn Websites- Have you ever thought about why there are so many hackers? The reason is simple nothing can be hacked without having proper knowledge of computers and web servers etc. So, if someone hacks any porn website. Where he has to enter a password for logging in, then it’s the seller’s market! This means that people who have credentials for po—rn websites can sell their passwords at rates of dollars. But, this is a bit difficult task to get into because you need prior knowledge about hacking and cracking, etc.
17) Child Pornography-
You must have landed on many articles which talk about child pornography & the dark web, but did you ever wonder how it’s happened? It’s been happening from the beginning of the Internet when websites or servers were not monitored by authorities. Since then, there was no way except hacking or phishing to get access to such sites over the dark web!
18) Fake IDs – There are many fake ID makers available online who make fake passports, driving licenses, and other identity documents for illegal immigrants who don’t hold legal status in the USA. These online ID makers on the dark web make it easy for illegal immigrants. To obtain legal documents like passports which they can use without any fear of getting caught by authorities.
19) Professional Assassins – Just imagine that you are arrested against all proofs & evidence on some murder case or some other crime, then who will save you? Yes, it’s possible through ” A KILLER FOR HIRE ” of the dark web. There are many professional assassins available over the dark web who kill your target in exchange for money securely! It’s more than just hiring a person for doing so.
20) Cyber Stalking-With the advancement of technology, there is no boundary between stalking and cyberstalking. Cyberstalkers can track your social network profiles, messaging accounts and can even track your location through GPS. However, this is not limited to the real world only because stalker has to follow or watch you but in cyberspace, they just need to hack into your account & track you! That’s why cyberstalking is also known as online stalking.
21) Assassination Market-
You must have come across the ‘Silk road’ website which was used by criminals over the Internet for selling drugs, weapons, etc. Although it was shut down by the FBI. There are many other dark web websites like it available on the internet. Where people can put a contract to kill someone. The interesting part is that every deal closes when the target is killed! This means that if anyone wants to kill their target then they can use the website to hire an assassin. However, there are many people who don’t believe in the dark web & think it’s just a myth but there are proofs of professionals available on the assassination market for killing someone.
22) Internet Fraud-Most of you must have heard about phishing websites or phishing emails that are used by hackers to steal your data! The dark web provides you the same service but instead of using email, they use instant messaging apps like Telegram. This makes it more secure because messages are not stored on servers where admins read every message!
There are many examples of the dark web which can be given. But these are some of the most common uses. The list is not final, there are many more things available on the dark web & new stuff gets added every day! You never know when you may need to use it for your safety.
Although there are illegal activities taking place on the dark web. One must not forget that it’s also used by people who cannot speak about their rights openly. Dark Web provides them a platform where they can meet & discuss their problems or organize protests against the illegitimate government! Even journalists use the dark web to connect with whistleblowers who provide them with secret documents against governments! So, without knowing both sides of the story it is unwise to conclude dark web is a hell of a criminal on the internet!