THE DARK WEB
Fact: The dark web is synonymous with cybercrime and illegal, illicit and immoral internet activity. Not necessarily. In essence, the dark web is a subset of the entire worldwide web but that is inaccessible via standard browsers such as Chrome, Edge or Firefox. The most well-known method of accessing the dark web is using the Tor browser. Tor, which stands for The Onion Router, provides a great analogy for the dark web. If you think of the main web as the outer layer of an onion, Tor enables you to peel away the other 2 layers and access the hidden areas of the web.
WHAT ARE THE LAYERS OF THE WEB?
This matrix shows you the 3 layers of the web and their levels of accessibility.
|Surface Web||Deep Web||Dark Web|
|Indexed by traditional search engines like Google||Not indexed by traditional search engines||Not indexed|
|Accessible by any browser||Gated sites are only accessible through a password||Only accessible through specific software like Tor and I2P|
IS IT ILLEGAL TO ACCESS THE DARK WEB?
That depends. Put simply, you are just accessing a hidden part of the total web. That, in itself, is not illegal. Notwithstanding, it is the anonymity associated with this part of the internet that breeds criminal activity and lends itself to scrutiny. Bear in mind that many legitimate companies offer Tor-based services, including New York Times and Facebook. In May this year, the social media and advertising giant stated:
“People who choose to communicate over Tor do so for a variety of reasons related to privacy, security and safety. As we’ve written previously it’s important to us to provide methods for people to use our services securely – particularly if they lack reliable methods to do so. This is why in the last two years we built the Facebook onion site and onion-mobile site.”
Facebook estimates that in any 30 days, 1 million users access the Facebook Onion site. Remember that Facebook is a stickler when it comes to cybersecurity, so maybe the web in question isn’t that dangerous after all?
BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU GO AND WHAT YOU SAY
A character in the David Fincher movie, The Social Network, told Jesse Eisenburg, the actor playing Mark Zuckerberg:
“The internet’s not written in pencil [Mark], it’s written in ink.”
And that should be applied to any part of the web you are surfing – be it clear or dark. Caution, in particular, should be applied with the latter. Also, the dark web isn’t easy to browse. First off, you need to know the exact URL of any site that you want to access, although TorLinks does provide a list of directories. Furthermore, the dark web is not to be taken lightly. End up on the wrong site and you could engage in cybercrime by purchasing from one of the many marketplaces, and ultimately reside in prison for a while. Government agencies and secret services constantly monitor the platform due to the high number of users with malicious intent.
A LAST RESORT
The dark web was not designed for the average user so don’t go there unless it is a necessity. While many of the cybersecurity risks are the same as on the open or clear web, you need to know what you’re doing in order to avoid trouble. While you might desire the browsing anonymity that comes with Tor, the dark web is a hive of illegal activity. Unwittingly, you could download malicious software, like ransomware, keyloggers, and botnets. It’s not worth the risk.