Demystifying Dark Web
I was introduced to the "Dark Web" back in 2016. Back then it was only theory and I was largely restricted to reading articles online, watching YouTube videos but I never did really venture out into the Dark Web. Those articles and videos really intrigued me as they mentioned about "classified mission and documents". I was curious until recently I found out how to use the Dark Web.
Dark Web houses the internet which is not indexed. The whole internet can be divided into 3 parts, namely the surface web, deep web and dark web. The surface web is what we use in our day to day lives. The deep web holds the content that’s invisible to search engines like your email content, your banking account content etc.
The dark web operates with a high degree of anonymity. It hosts harmless activities and content, as well as criminal ones. For instance, one dark web website might provide complex riddles. Another might be a kind of book club that makes eBooks look more professional. Yet another might offer a forum for people who believe free speech is threatened. But the dark web is better known for dark content meaning, illegal and sometimes disturbing content.
Although having a scary name, it is not so scary if you use it carefully. By following proper protocols one can stay safe while using it. Dark Web can be accessed using Tor browser and other similar web browsers.
What is Tor?
Tor is a web browser similar to Mozilla Firefox in aesthetics which masks one's IP Address while online. It allows one to stay completely anonymous while online. This service was created by the US Navy which was later released to the public. It is quite ironic to find out that the government created something to help people stay anonymous.
Let me explain how Tor masks IP:- Tor works on the concept of ‘onion routing’ method in which the user data is first encrypted and then transferred through different relays present in the Tor network, thus creating a multi-layered encryption (layers like an onion), thereby keeping the identity of the user safe.
Tor differs from a VPN (Virtual Private Network) service. One can be tracked back easily while using a VPN. VPN has only a single layer of encryption (as per my knowledge) and it useful to bypass restrictions such imposed by public/open internet service providers.
What did I find?
The dark web websites do not end with simple .com / .in / .org or other similar addresses. They end with .onion addresses and often contain URL's that cannot be pronounced or remembered easily. For instance, a website URL could be http://vvfjhhj5basdjhb78bdv78u43.onion. Apart from the actual dark stuff, I found a lot of interesting websites and stuff which are
1. Wiki Leaks:- The home to whistleblowers.
2. News websites containing critical information from countries which have restrictions imposed and curbs free speech.
3. The whole purchase mechanism is fascinating. Since Tor is highly anonymous and you cannot use your actual bank or credit card to make transactions, most of the transactions happen using Bitcoin or other similar cryptocurrencies. These cryptocurrencies again provide a lot of anonymity. They are public ledgers and do not contain information regarding sender and receiver. It is a highly decentralized banking system which uses blockchain technology to provide transparency.
4. To tackle the problem of spammers on Dark Web Shopping sites, the authentic (again, irony!) Dark Web Shopping sites provide a facility which is very unique. Suppose person X orders a smuggled Phone on XYZ.onion and has paid money using Bitcoin, it is highly probable that they could be scammed. To avoid that they have a central third party banking service which acts as a mediator. It collects the money from the buyer X and informs the XYZ.onion website that they have received money. Then the XYZ.onion website sends the phone and once X receives the phone they confirm it and the third party banking service provider sends the money to the XYZ.onion website. In this way, both the customer and the service provider are protected from getting scammed.
5. There is service which provides refugee status in developed cities upon certain conditions while is both interesting and daunting at the same time.
To conclude, the Dark Web is safe if one follows all the protocols and does not poke in unknown, gross things. Things can go from good to bad to worse in a matter of a few seconds if not careful.
If you want to be completely safe and want to surf deep web or dark web then you should consider using an Operating System known as Tails OS. This is an OS which is made to communicate only using the Tor network. It runs live on a computer using the Random Access Memory. This means even if you accidentally downloaded spyware or malicious software on this OS, it will vanish as soon as you shut down your computer. Thus keeping you safe from any harm.