The Dark Web
Have you heard of the Dark Web? If not, you aren’t alone. It’s a collection of thousands of different websites that use various anonymity tools, such as I2P (Invisible Internet Project) and Tor (The Onion Router) to hide their IP address. The Dark Web is most well known as a black market for drug sales and trafficking stolen information. This information can cover everything from people’s personal info (credit card numbers, SSNs, addresses, etc.) to corporate trade secrets and data leaks (email credentials belonging to a particular company). Conversely, the dark web also provides the ability for anonymous whistleblowing and helps to protect users from censorship and surveillance.
Due to the rise and the fall of the Silk Road, there’s been new light cast on the Dark Web in the past few years. After all, when a well-respected and reputable organization, such as “60 minutes” describes the Dark Web as being a vast, cyber underworld that makes up about 90 percent of the Internet, it’s definitely time for a refresher course.
Before diving in any deeper, it’s important to understand what the Dark Web is not. It’s not exactly vast, and it doesn’t make up 90 percent of the Internet. In fact, it’s not even really that secret.
The Dark Web is a collection of websites that can be publicly viewed using specialized web browsers like TOR. This means that anyone has the ability to visit one of these sites, but it’s extremely challenging to determine where they are hosted – or who they are hosted by. Since all traffic coming from the browser is sent to many remote destinations before the website, the evidence to prove your access becomes virtually untraceable.
Dark Web vs. Deep Web
Many news sites that mistakenly describe the Dark Web as making up 90 percent of the Internet and this isn’t the case. When this happens, the Dark Web is being confused with the so-called Deep Web.
The Deep Web is the collection of all websites available online that can’t be reached by a traditional search engine. While those unindexed sites actually do include the Dark Web, they also include more mundane content, such as poorly-secured dynamic pages (i.e., registered account profiles and registration-required web forums). These aren’t really the “scandalous” pages described by the news anchors on “60 Minutes.”
By contrast, the Dark Web-only accounts for about .01 percent of the total web. In fact, fewer than 10,000 Tor hidden services were recently counted, compared to the hundreds of millions of regular websites out there.
The Light Among the Dark
The Dark Web is most commonly thought of for more nefarious things, such as the sale of counterfeit documents, child pornography, weapons, and drugs. While all of those industries do use Tor for hidden services, not everything found on the Dark Web is actually that “dark.”
One of the initial higher profile sites on the Dark Web was WikiLeaks, which was a Tor hidden service. It was created with the goal to accept leaks from sources who wished to remain anonymous. The idea has now been adapted into an actual tool that is referred to as SecureDrop.
Being informed is one of the best ways to understand why the Dark Web is something you are best to avoid.
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