Not everything on the internet can be found through Google. Not everything on the internet is registered, seen, or is searchable.
Sometimes you’ve got to dig a bit deeper, get to places that are hidden, places that require unique software, a strange web address to type in, and many times a secret password to get in.
An online secret garden if you will.
Yes, there’s a place on the internet that many have heard about but few have seen – the Dark Web.
The Dark Web is a place on the internet where some shady websites exist and are not accessible by a regular internet browser.
These websites are only available on the “darknet”, a network that exists outside or “on top” of the regular structures of the internet.
This darknet network is only accessible by those who are aware of its existence.
What are the origins of Dark Web?
Back in the 1970s, when the US Department of Defense was developing ARPANET, which would eventually become the internet as we know it today, they also had a series of secret networks that could receive data from ARPANET but weren’t actively discoverable on the network, they wanted secrecy between different parties across their network.
The most popular way to access darknet sites is through Tor, which was released to the public in 2002, but there’s more.
Anonymity and Dark Web
The browser used to access dark web can offer users a certain level of anonymity but don’t think for a second that it is 100% effective all of the time.
In a landscape where people all over the world will discover that both ISP’s and the government may have the power to collect your personal information, including instant messages, emails, and logs of the sites that you visited, online anonymity is something that instantly appeals to people.
Online anonymity gives you the ability to not expose your interests, messages, and secrets to people other than who you intend to tell.
It prevents corporations from using personal data that they have gathered from you.Your web history is invaluable to them, and yet usually we give it all away for free.
What’s on the Dark Web?
Dark web contains hundreds of thousands, if not millions of websites.
Like the “Clearnet” (a term for the regular internet) dark web contains websites about pretty much anything.
Due to the nature of the beast, dark web has emerged as a place where both criminal activity and political activism or whistleblowing abound.
While you’ll still find cat videos on the dark web, the percentage as compared to the regular internet is a far cry.
These type of websites make up the largest proportion of websites on the dark web:
- Darknet markets
The biggest access requests by volume are for child pornography, even though these websites make up only a small proportion of the dark web.
How do you access the Dark Web?
The most common deep web browser where you can access darknet sites is Tor, or “the onion router”, which gives access to this network’s hidden services.
All access on Tor remains mostly anonymous, so you can browse the network without getting traced.
Given that you have the right setup, which includes using a trusted VPN and an OS that you can boot from removable media such as a USB or DVD which will load instead of your regular Windows or OSX configuration.
You can access the Tor network via the Tor browser, which is available for download via the official Tor website.
For those who would like to contribute their computer power to running the Tor network, you can run a Tor network node, to help others browsing the Tor network remain anonymous.
These websites, instead of having your usual .com, .net, .uk, etc. postfix will have a .onion address in their place.
These websites are also hosted anonymously, which means no one knows the physical address of the host machine, or who the owner is.
You can also access regular websites, such as google.com with the Tor browser.
It is recommended that you use the https prefix instead of HTTP when browsing to websites for extra security.
If you would like to host your very own anonymous website on Tor, you can follow the official instructions here.
A word on security
If you would like to be truly anonymous on the dark web you need to take very precise precautions to do so.
It has been shown time and again that law enforcement agencies and even educational institutions are able to track down individuals on the dark web through a combination of digital and social engineering techniques.
If experts like Ross Ulbricht aka Dread Pirate Roberts, the creator of the darknet marketplace Silk Road, a highly intelligent entrepreneur experienced in computer systems and online security, can get their identities uncovered, then it is very likely that you can too.
The dark web can be a great place to explore, especially if you like reading forums about taboo subjects, hearing about government whistleblowing, or yes, even buying and selling legal and illicit drugs online.
While it might not be everybody’s cup of tea, you might be surprised at what you can find.