The Dark Web – What is it and Why is it Bad?
If you’ve ever read about internet conspiracy theories, online scams, phishing, or horrible internet crimes, then you’ve probably heard of the term “Dark Web.” What is this piece of the Internet that is so scary and potentially dangerous? The Dark Web is the part of the internet that isn’t regulated by any government. It’s the not so easy to find deeper part of the Deep Web that you should probably stay out of.
What is the surface web, Deep Web, and Dark Web?
Before you learn about the Dark Web, you first need to understand the Deep Web. Often mistaken to be the same, the Deep Web is not the same as the Dark Web. The World Wide Web is a huge network of interconnected devices connected to the Internet worldwide. We usually get to access and utilize a small portion of it called the Surface Web. Most of our browsers use publicly accessible websites and those web pages that can be found by a search engine, such as Google. And these pages constitute just 0.03% of the internet.
The rest of the Internet would be the Deep Web which requires special access privileges, a private domain, or is simply not visible to search engine results. Now, the Deep Web itself, is quite benign. Most services and webpages requiring specific access privileges come under the deep web. The Deep Web is huge, about 500 times bigger than the Surface Web, and it only continues to grow. On the deep web, there are websites protected by paywalls, social media apps, email, intranet, databases, private forums and so on.
The Dark Web comprises of about 0.01% of the Deep Web. It is a tiny, dark corner of the deep web where the websites are known to be shady and totally anonymous. Dark Web sites use encryption methods to ensure all their user’s identities remain hidden. This allows anyone to access these websites to carry out any activity, without the fear of being tracked by law enforcement agencies worldwide.
Users can hide their identities, locations, and financial transactions, which makes them perfect for carrying out illegal activities such as smuggling, pornography, drug trafficking, and more. On the Dark Web, online black markets thrive. It takes quite a lot of time and effort to track them down and shut them down.
The Dark Web also offers services for people who want to spread information or misinformation without having their identity revealed. The famous whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks is one example you’ll find on the Dark Web.
How did the Dark Web come to be?
It is generally believed that the Dark Web started in the early 2000s, although there is no proper consensus. An Edinburgh University student named Ian Clarke released a thesis called Freenet in the year 2000. It gave seed to an idea for a distributed network to share information anonymously on the Internet. This idea soon caught many more tech enthusiasts’ interest, resulting in the launch of the Tor project. The Tor Browser makes all users appear the same and encrypt your traffic three times so advertisers and third-party trackers can’t follow you.
Uses of the Dark Web
The US Defence Department originally used the Dark Web to send messages anonymously, but it has since become a safe haven for any anonymous and potentially illegal activities online.
It’s not illegal to use the dark web in itself. You’re just accessing a deeper part of the internet anonymously. It is often used by rebels and civilians to communicate without being tracked by their governments. But with any good product, there are always people who use it for nefarious purposes as well. Because of this, illegal uses of the dark web have become increasingly popular, including arms smuggling, money laundering, human trafficking, and so on. Governments have taken many measures to curb such crimes hubs on the Dark Web including the Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Hansa.
The Dark Web is the originator of many cyber security issues and threats faced by individuals and companies.
Why should you stay out of the Dark Web
The anonymity provided by the Dark Web allows hackers to easily access an unsuspecting victim’s account. It makes it very hard to detect and stop the cyber attacks they launch. Many reports of stolen identity and private information leaked on dark web are being used for extortion and espionage. Stolen credentials and personal data are often sold on underground markets and used for many different kinds of illegal activities. While the Dark Web may contain some useful websites, it may not be worthwhile to expose your private information or put your systems at risk by visiting them.
If you are still curious and want to explore the Dark Web, you must take the necessary security measures. You need to use a proper secure VPN, keep your antivirus software updated, and avoid exposing your email address or any personal information and credentials to these websites.
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