The Internet has brought many possibilities and has forever changed the way we do business and live life. Nowadays, having a stable high-speed Internet connection is essential for many of us. We no longer have to rely on slow dial-up connections. We do many things online, like paying bills, checking bank statements, emailing, finding information, and being active on social media.
Today, popular search engines like Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo only index part of the Internet. The part of the Internet that we use every day is called the clear or surface web. However, there are some hidden parts of the Internet that require some preparation to access. These sections are deep and dark. The Dark Web is a hidden part of the Internet that is encrypted and cannot be searched by regular search engines. To access it, you need a special configuration or authorization.
Here’s a simple guide to understanding and accessing this other Internet.
What is the difference between clear, deep and dark web?
The visible or surface web is the visible and easily accessible layer of the Internet. You can access it using Safari, Chrome, Edge, or Firefox.
The Dark Web, or Deep Web, is the hidden part of the Internet that search engines cannot find. The Deep Web features websites and pages with password protection, private forums, and personalized resources.
Search engine crawlers cannot index these pages. To access a website on this part of the Internet, you must have the exact link. Some examples of limited access or resources might be government services for records, health care services, special areas for members, intranets or access to corporate resources.
You need special software to access the Dark Web.
Is the Dark Web just for criminals?
The Dark Web is often discussed online in relation to illegal markets and arrests by law enforcement.
On the dark web, there are thriving markets for drugs, weapons, stolen intellectual property (IP) and data. These marketplaces offer large amounts of information for sale, often in terabytes. Merchants profit from stolen credit card data, access points to vulnerable systems, credentials, and intellectual property taken during cyber attacks.
The dark web has many uses for organizations and individuals beyond a few criminals.
To access dark web addresses, you need a VPN and a browser like Tor. The goal is to minimize your online presence, hide your traffic, and hide your location.
The services and communications of the Dark Web have legitimate purposes. This may include tools that help fight censorship and protect privacy. These devices are essential for people in countries with strict government surveillance. They also have anonymous email and whistleblower drop boxes.
Media outlets sometimes have a presence on the dark web when their regular websites are blocked. Similarly, other websites also use the dark web when countries ban them during times of unrest.
The dark web is known for its bad reputation. Remaining anonymous is important for protesters, civil rights groups, journalists, lawyers, and other vulnerable groups. Illegal markets are a small part of the overall picture.
How do I access the dark web?
To access dark web resources, follow these steps.
First, it is strongly recommended that you set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Use a browser like Tor to increase your privacy. It connects through nodes and proxy servers, making traffic requests more secure and anonymous. The Tor browser can access special domain names with the .onion suffix on the dark web.
1. Invest in a VPN
A VPN hides your location and blocks online traces that could expose your identity. When you use a VPN, your connections are encrypted, protecting you from eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks. With a VPN, you can choose where your location is visible, and they use servers and relays to make it harder to trace your IP.
VPNs can be used to access geo-locked content on streaming services. Payment-based and subscription-based VPN options are the best choices. Free options often slow down your speed or collect your data.
2. Download Tor Browser – Free Dark Web Browser
To download the Tor browser, which protects your online privacy by preventing fingerprinting, bypassing website blocks, and preventing trackers from profiling your browsing habits, visit the Tor Project website.
The Tor network is run by many volunteers around the world. They manage proxy servers that protect your identity. You can get Tor Browser for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android.
To access the Tor network on your iPhone or iPad, use the Onion Browser app. The app uses DuckDuckGo as its primary search engine and is supported by the Orbit Framework for secure access to the Tor network.
It is recommended to use VPN and Tor together for maximum security. It’s best to connect to Tor through a VPN rather than the other way around.
After downloading and installing the browser, click “Connect”. Tor takes longer to connect than other browsers because it routes your traffic through different nodes. Keep in mind that the overall speed may be slow. For example, a page may take a few seconds longer than usual to load.
3. Find the .onion address you want to access
To access a dark web resource, you need to know its web address. These websites will also have .onion domain names, which can be long and contain random letters and numbers. Standard search engines cannot access .onion addresses because crawlers do not index them.
Be careful when using directories with .onion links and websites. There are two types of websites: commercial and non-commercial. Commercial sites sell things like drugs and fake passports, while non-commercial sites feature legal content like education workshops, forums, and personal blogs.
The Internet includes Defcon, ProPublica, the CIA, libraries, and open-source software providers.
Is it legal to access the dark web?
In most countries, access to dark web resources is legal. Just remember this. Using the dark web for criminal activities is against the law.
If you browse the dark/deep web without proper protection, you may attract attention or investigation, even if there is no evidence of your involvement in illegal activities or purchases.
What should I be wary of?
If you don’t know where to find a legal and legitimate website, there are risks you should be aware of. some examples are:
1. What can you buy on the dark web
If you come to an underground market, you will find a variety of things for sale, such as drugs, weapons, fake documents, stolen information, and malware. Using the dark web and cryptocurrencies for purchases does not guarantee that you will not be tracked.
If you try to buy something illegal online, you may get scammed. Sellers can be misleading.
3. Excessive content visitation
Extremist or offensive content found may be investigated by law enforcement, but this is only possible if you actively seek it out. Downloading such content is generally illegal.
Like the Clear Web, the Dark Web also contains sites and resources that may contain harmful software capable of harming your PC or mobile device. Malware includes information stealers, trojans, ransomware, and exploit kits. You may also face phishing attempts.
Do I have to use a VPN?
Yes you should. It is a good idea to use a VPN to avoid being tracked by governments, companies, and advertisers. If you care about your privacy and want to switch to Tor from a regular browser, choosing a reliable VPN is essential.
In countries like China, they use the “Great Firewall” to block certain websites and also monitor the Internet activity of their citizens through their Internet service providers (ISPs). If you use Tor, your use of it may still be recorded. Using a VPN can help hide your use of Tor and your visits to dark web resources.
Can VPN and Tor make the dark web completely private and secure?
No, although strong encryption, virtual private networks (VPNs), proxy servers, and hidden web addresses can increase one’s sense of anonymity, no system currently exists that guarantees complete privacy and security.
Hiding does not provide complete protection from the possibility of being tracked or from danger in case of illegal activities. However, in a world of surveillance, personalized ad tracking, and bulk data collection, it is our responsibility to protect our privacy. You should at least consider getting a VPN.
The Dark Web is a hidden part of the Internet that can only be accessed using a special web browser. This helps keep Internet activity private and anonymous, which can be useful for both legal and illegal purposes. Some people use it to avoid government censorship, but it can also be used for illegal activities.