Whether you’ve read about it on a news report or seen it in a modern day science fiction film, you’ve probably encountered the term Dark Web before. Of course, due to its shadowy name and reputation, it’s a part of the web that is rarely talked about and is relatively unknown.
In this guide, we’ll throw some light on the Dark Web and fill you in on everything you need to know about why it exists and how it works. We’ll also explain how you can gain access to the Dark Web for yourself.
A beginner’s guide to the Dark Web
What is the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is a part of the internet that can only be accessed by using a specialized browser called Tor. Made up of numerous layers known as Darknets, Tor works like a key that unlocks information contained in them.
Unlike the rest of the web, which is indexed and appears in search engines, the Dark Web belongs to a section known as the Deep Web. What this means is that you cannot access any pages or information stored there by browsing in the way that you would normally. Instead, you need to download and run specialized browsers such as Tor that can join encrypted networks that are otherwise inaccessible.
Why do people use the Dark Web?
The Dark Web gives its users greater anonymity than is possible on the regular internet. So it’s probably no surprise that it has naturally attracted users looking to participate in illegal activities. An excellent example of this is the Silk Road, a virtual black-market that once existed to allow Dark Web users to purchase drugs, weapons, and a number of illegal services via their Tor browser.
But it’s not all cloak and daggers. Indeed, the Dark Web has been used as a liberating tool for people living in parts of the world where their government severely restricts their access to the Internet.
By having the ability to browse the internet outside of the parameters enforced upon them, it’s possible for such people to learn more about the world and report on their situation in a useful way.
What Is the Silk Road?
Reportedly shut down in 2013, the Silk Road was a marketplace for users of the Dark Web. Trading with the famous cryptocurrency Bitcoin, people were able to exchange products and services anonymously.
This might sound like a perfectly logical idea until you consider that such an arrangement allowed people to sell and buy things like drugs and guns. Unsurprisingly, the authorities quickly caught onto the Silk Road and made sure they shut it down. Rumors persist that the Silk Road still exists, though nothing has been categorically proven.
Is The Dark Web illegal?
As with many things related to the internet, the legal status of the Dark Web is a complicated issue. In short, using the Tor browser and hiding your IP address is not illegal. However, using your anonymity to commit crimes is indeed against the law.
In other words, if your behavior would fall into the category of “illegal” on the regular web, then it remains so when it is committed through the use of the Tor browser. And using a Tor browser to commit crimes does not provide a criminal with an invisibility cloak, but something closer to a ski mask. It’s not foolproof.
How do I access the Dark Web?
Accessing the Dark Web is much easier than you may think. All you’ll need to do is download the Tor browser. Once you’ve downloaded the browser, you merely need to run it and begin browsing the content there.
A good place to help you navigate the Dark Web can be found at thehiddenwiki.org. Here, you’ll find a helpful list of the best places to visit as well as the best places to avoid during your time on the Dark Web.
And while this may sound like something out of a movie, it’s well worth covering up any webcams you have connected to your computer when you access the Dark Web. The reason for this is that your webcam is a little more vulnerable when accessing parts of the web that aren’t so closely regulated.
Can I get on the Dark Web using my smartphone?
Until recently, you could only access the Dark Web through a desktop or laptop. Now, thanks to the launch of compatible apps, you can browse on both iPhone and Android smartphones.
If you’re using an iPhone, the Onion Browser is available from Tor. Using it will give you all the same freedoms as using Tor on a laptop. For Android users, it’s a simple case of downloading Orbot. It is a browser similar to Tor but powered by another provider. In either case, it’s easy for mobile users to begin browsing remotely and anonymously while on the go.
Will I get hacked if I use the Dark Web?
Due to its shadowy nature, you might think that being hacked is far more likely to happen on the Dark Web, but this isn’t the case. Indeed, it seems that modern-day hackers have spent more of their time designing software to infect computers browsing the regular internet. If you use the Tor browser with the NoScript addon, you’ll gain even greater protection against would-be hackers.
What can you do on the Dark Web?
You might be surprised to learn that many activities that take place on the Dark Web are totally innocent. For instance, there is a thriving community of book lovers who gather on various blogs to form virtual book clubs. Some of these communities also take on more controversial types of fiction, the kind that might fail to gain an audience on the regular web.
The popular Strategic Intelligence Network is another resource found on the Dark Web. Sharing a large quantity of data, the network looks at how to survive major disasters. It might not make for uplifting reading, but it’s certainly something a little bit different than your average website!
If you want to participate in something truly relaxing, it’s also possible to play games of chess with other users of the Dark Web.
As you might expect, there is a significant social element to the Dark Web. Some users communicate with one another via an anonymous email service called AnonInbox.
How do I find my way around the Dark Web?
When it comes to surfing the regular internet, there’s no doubt that you’ll be used to using Google to find the stuff you want. For example, if you want to find out about tomorrow’s weather, or when your favorite TV show is returning, you just type these requests into Google.
When it comes to the Dark Web, however, there is no centralized search engine. Instead, you’ll need to refer to the Hidden Wiki, which serves as a directory of the most popular content available on the Dark Web.
You can take a look at this directory on the regular internet by heading to http://www.thehiddenwiki.net/. It’s well worth spending some time doing some reading ahead of your Dark Web voyage, and it’ll certainly help you decide if there’s anything there you want to check out.
From here on out it’s up to you to decide what you spend your time looking at on the Dark Web. Equipped with all of the knowledge you’ve gained from this article, you’re sure to have an interesting and unique experience.
So, there you have it. The Dark Web really isn’t scary and mysterious after all!