The dark web. With a name like that you can’t help but feel a little bit ominous. The dark web is a massive section of the internet that isn’t accessible by search engines. In fact, you need a special browser called “Tor” to even reach the dark web.
So, why is the dark web hidden and what can you hope to find there? If you’ve heard the rumors circulating around about the dark web than you’ve likely heard that it’s a place where criminals go to hang out to engage in all sorts of illegal activity.
You can purchase stolen credit cards, buy login credentials for streaming sites like Hulu and Netflix, engage in illegal background checks, order counterfeit money and much more.
Is the dark web illegal?
There is plenty of illicit, horrible things that take place on the dark web, but that doesn’t mean everything on the dark web is illegal. Initially, the dark web was used as a way
to communicate anonymously so that people could avoid the prying eyes of government agencies.
The dark web hosts a variety of services that keeps its users hidden such as encrypted email accounts, forums on how to stay anonymous, and even instructions on how to install anonymous operating systems. People can even hold discussions on controversial subjects and expose confidential information on whistleblowing websites such as Wikileaks without fear of reprisal from their respective governments.
Gaining access to the dark web
So, if the dark web is so popular with so many groups of people why is it so difficult to locate? It’s because accessing the dark web isn’t as easy as pulling up Google Chrome and typing in a website. The process is much more involved than that.
To get to the dark web, you’ll need a special anonymous browser called Tor. The Tor browser is unique in that it redirects every web page request you make through a series of proxy servers that are manned by thousands of volunteers scattered all around the world. In theory, routing your web requests through so many proxies should make your IP address anonymous and untraceable.
However, law enforcement has proven time and again they’re capable of tracking dark web users, especially if the user is careless with their browsing habits. With that being said, the advanced security of the Tor browser is still a breath of fresh air for those who wish to keep their browsing habits hidden.
The anonymity of the tor browser, however, comes with a price — sometimes the network can be slow. Extremely slow. But if you’re willing to twiddle your thumbs for a few extra minutes as your web pages load you’ll be able to view everything the dark web has to offer. That includes the good, the bad and the ugly.
Dark web websites
The dark web is a dynamic place, and that’s perfectly characterized by the sites hosted there. At first glance, you’ll notice dark websites aren’t quite as negotiable as websites on the surface side of the internet. For example, you can easily pull up Google Chrome and type in “Google.com,” and you’ll be whisked off to the Google search engine in a few seconds.
On the dark web, however, domain suffixes are structured differently. So, instead of typing in “.com,” “.net,” or “.org” as you would with surface level websites you would type in “.onion.” Furthermore, dark web websites use a complicated URL structure that makes it extremely difficult to memorize. For example, typing in “http://fncuwbiisyh6ak3i.onion” will take you to a site called Keybase, an online service that allows you to link all of your online profiles using cryptography. Not quite as easy as google.com, is it?
And only browsers with the proper proxy, such as the tor browser, allows you to reach such sites. Google Chrome or Internet Explorer would not be able to make sense of such a URL.
As mentioned before the dark web is a truly dynamic environment. Websites up and move every single day. This happens a lot with scamming websites who offer a specific type of service, but suddenly take their customer’s money and run for the hills, set up under an entirely new URL later on.
Many online merchants who sell illicit goods also keep on the move to avoid law enforcement. Thus, the dark web is always changing, leaving behind a virtual graveyard of outdated URLs that no longer work.
Dark web commerce
Just like anything else on the dark web, anonymity is highly prized when it comes to commerce. This has been made possible with bitcoin, a monetary based cryptocurrency which allows separate parties to engage in anonymous transactions. It could be said that part of bitcoin’s popularity is due to its widespread use on the dark web.
You can find plenty of legitimate goods on the dark web, but if you’re slinking around the back alleys of the internet, there’s a good chance you’re looking for goods that aren’t exactly easy to obtain, or entirely legal.
You can buy guns, drugs, bombs and much worse if you know where to look. If you can think it there’s a good chance someone sells it. Beware, due to the anonymous nature of how commerce works on the dark web, there are plenty of scammers ready to take advantage of you.
And don’t expect any form of quality control services either. Due to the fact that both parties are anonymous to one another during transactions, you can’t truly trust any form of rating system on a site (think of the five-star rating system for products on Amazon). These systems can be easily manipulated, and nothing is stopping the merchant from simply taking your bitcoins and slipping away into the night, opening shop elsewhere with an entirely different name.
Don’t worry, there’s still some civility’ when it comes to dark web commerce. Many sites will use an escrow service that will put a customer’s funds on hold until their goods have been successfully delivered. However, even successfully completing a transaction doesn’t mean you’ll ever see your purchase.
There’s a good chance your package may come from overseas which means it has to go through your country’s customs. If you ordered something illegal, you might find the police knocking at your rather than the UPS man.
Be careful where you click
The dark web is a place full of hackers, thieves, and much worse. It’s a place where you can buy all sorts of illicit goods while keeping under the radar of the police. But it’s also a place where you can communicate anonymously without fear of eavesdropping. You can engage in private transactions and express your opinions freely without fear of reprisal. The dark web certainly has its pros and cons. If you decide to visit there, be very careful where you click, or you may just get a knock on your door by the FBI.