What is the Dark Web?

What is the Dark Web?

What is the Dark Web?

The “dark web” is a term that’s often repeated in movies and conspiracy theories. It sounds mysterious and a bit dangerous, right? The word sends off alarm bells in the head – we have had clients ask us about it because they were too scared to Google it! But what exactly is the dark web? Is it something that anyone can access? Can you fall prey to the malicious users of the dark web? Should you be scared of accidentally stepping into it when you’re casually browsing the internet? Our cybersecurity ninjas from Perth are here to put your mind at ease. So let’s get right on the topic.

What is the dark web?

In simple words, it is a network of internet sites hidden from the general public and can’t be accessed via conventional web browsers. The web content is unindexed, and the users are anonymous as all communications are routed through multiple servers and heavily encrypted.  

Deep web and dark web are often treated synonymously, but they’re two different concepts.

You cannot access content on the deep web directly via a search engine. Sites that require sign-in credentials are an example of deep web content. Such sites are usually set up for legitimate purposes.

The dark web is heavily encrypted and unregulated. Since it hides the users’ locations, it is home to many illegal activities, from drug sales to selling stolen social security information. It is the underbelly of the Internet. All transactions of the dark web use cryptocurrency like Bitcoin to reinforce its untraceable nature.

However, you’ll be surprised to know it isn’t just criminals who use the dark web’s anonymity and operating model.

History of the dark web

The origins of the dark web can be traced back to 1969 when ARPA developed the blueprint for the internet by creating a computer communications network. The prototype was created by researchers from the U.S. Naval Research Lab. Since open internet was under heavy surveillance, they came up with a design that will shield their communications and actions from the general public. The Tor Network, one of the significant networks constituting the dark web, went live in 2002. The Tor network, short for “The Onion Router”, allowed people to navigate the web anonymously.

At present, the dark web is a space that is commonly used for selling “illegal” commodities. But it isn’t limited to just criminal activities. People under tyrannical governments use the dark web for their communications with the rest of the world. Journalists, human rights organisations and whistleblowers also take advantage of the anonymity offered by the dark web. It provides privacy and safety to those wary of tracking and monetising their personal data by corporations. According to reports, major newspapers, Facebook, even the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency hold a hidden website on the Tor network, though of course not proven.

How do people browse the dark web?

What is the dark web | Computing Australia | Perth

We will never ever recommend browsing the dark web. So, this is for those who want to know just out of curiosity – you’ll have to download the Tor browser to access the dark web. To visit websites on the dark web, you’ll have to find their URLs. Since sites often come and go, it can be tricky to find active sites and visit them. Most illegal sites don’t last and get shut down.

You can find advice like ‘use a VPN when you surf through the dark web, don’t give out any sensitive, personal information’ etc. But these ‘precautions’ can never ensure your or your data’s security completely. Always remember that you are responsible for your own safety.

Is it risky to browse the dark web?

The darknet encryption technology makes it almost impossible to trace the users – this makes browsing the dark web a risky business. Most users here are proficient digital adversaries who can get past your cybersecurity defences, even if everything is up-to-date. The files you download can infect your devices with viruses or ransomware.

The anonymity and privacy mean that if something goes wrong with any digital, monetary or physical transaction, it would be difficult to get help to set it right. Also, associating with illegal activities will cause legal complications in the future.

So, in short, yes, it is risky to browse the dark web.

Yes, there is a very thin silver lining to the dark web.

Considering the number of illegal activities associated with the dark web, it’s of no surprise that it gets a lot of bad press. But it isn’t an entirely negative part of the web.

Many people, especially those under oppressive governments, can use the dark web to access information while protecting themselves. Political protestors, journalists, activists, and whistleblowers come together in dark web networks to expose the active corruption and exploitations in their communities. At the end of the day, the results depend on the ones who use it.

The concept of the “dark web” is heavily debated, even in this era. Though it started as a project to protect dissidents, it has become a hub for illegal activities. The anonymity and protection of the users can be both boon and bane for governments and the commoner. But as for everything else, the effects of any entity are determined by how it is used.

We hope you’ve found some answers to this ‘mysterious’ thing. Continue reading our blogs to understand more about cybersecurity issues. Or, if you need help to set up a good cybersecurity system, contact us or email us at cybersecurity@computingaustralia.group. If you need a website that follows all guidelines, is secured, optimised, and discoverable for search engines, we can do that too. Contact Codesquad, our group company, focused on providing Web development, Coding, SEO and Creative Services for Western Australia businesses.

Computing Australia is a member of The Computing Australia Group of Companies.

Jargon Buster

Encryption: The process of converting data into a code to prevent access is called encryption.
ARPA: The Advanced Research Projects Agency is a United States Defense Department agency responsible for developing new military technologies.
Bitcoin: Bitcoin is a digital currency without an administrator that can be transferred from one user to another without intermediaries.

Kat Warzek | Blog author | Computing Australia

Kat Warzek

Kat Warzek heads the Cybersecurity Consulting Team at The Computing Australia Group. She is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and has a wealth of experience in information security, risk management & IT system auditing/forensics. When you want to achieve full cybersecurity compliance, Kat is a great person to have in your corner. She is passionate about ISO compliance and has her hands full ushering clients through the often arduous process.

Kat Warzek | Blog author | Computing Australia

Kat Warzek

Kat Warzek heads the Cybersecurity Consulting Team at The Computing Australia Group. She is a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and has a wealth of experience in information security, risk management & IT system auditing/forensics. When you want to achieve full cybersecurity compliance, Kat is a great person to have in your corner. She is passionate about ISO compliance and has her hands full ushering clients through the often arduous process.