“Dark Web” and “Dark Net” include a subset of secret websites that exist on an encrypted network.
While the internet dominates almost every aspect of our daily lives at the moment, it’s important to remember that it’s only been around for a few decades. While this is a relatively short period of time compared to the course of human history, it is a multitude of technological eras. As such, the internet is a vastly large place, a series of individual web pages connected together in a complex combination.
The most famous websites, like Facebook (FB), Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN) are famous all over the world. Besides those popular sites, there exists a much larger collection of the less traveled parts of the internet. And lurking outside all the basic, accessible realms of the internet are other pockets of websites. These last groups form the so-called “dark web” or “dark net.”
Dark Net vs. Deep Web
The terms dark net and dark web are sometimes used interchangeably but with subtle differences in meaning. They usually consist of a subset of websites that exist on an encrypted network.
The fact that the network is encrypted means that it is not searchable by traditional means, such as search engines, and it is not visible through traditional web browsers. The dark grid exists in many forms, and the term itself does not necessarily suggest any nefarious underline. A dark net is any type of overlay network that requires specific authorization or tools to access.
Why might individuals want to host websites on a Dark net?
The dark net is often associated with a variety of different functions. They can be used for a number of crimes, including illegal file sharing, the black market, and as a means of exchanging illegal goods or services. These are often the most overt uses of a dark net.
But they are also used for a variety of other reasons. The dark net is often referred to as a means to protect political dissidents from retaliation, or as a tool that allows individuals to circumvent censorship networks. They can facilitate the leak of classified information, and they can help protect individuals from surveillance. As such, and because of the numerous uses of a dark net, they are a matter of fierce controversy.
“Dark net” is often confused with “Deep web.” Deep web sites refer to unsearchable web pages that are not searchable; In most cases, this is because those sites are password protected. Dark net pages are intentionally hidden from the surface net by additional means. The vast majority of internet sites constitute the “deep web”, as they are password protected.
Encryption and the Dark Net
One of the common ways that the dark net is separated from the surface net is through encryption. Most of the dark web uses the Tor encryption engine to help hide their identities.
Tor allows individuals to hide their location, appearing as if they were in another country. Tor encrypted networks require individuals to use Tor to access them. As a result, those users’ IP addresses and other identifying information are similarly encrypted. All of this combined to suggest that most people can access websites on the dark net, as long as they have the right encryption tools. But it can be extremely difficult to determine who created or monitored those sites. It also means that, if anyone involved in the dark net reveals their identity, it could be dangerous.
Tor uses layers and layers of encryption, securing traffic by routing it through a dense network of secure relays to anonymize it. Tor is not illegal software, just as torrent engines are not illegal. In both cases, the software is often used to carry out illegal activity (through the dark network or in the case of torrent engines, to download pirated material).
To put Tor’s dark net links in context, it’s helpful to remember that Tor only estimates about 4% of its traffic is used for dark net services, with the remainder being counted only by web traffic. individuals access common websites with an increased level of security and anonymity.
The Dark Net’s Infamous Example
When most people think of the dark net, a few prominent examples come to mind. These are sites or networks of sites that have made headlines for one reason or another. Most are illegal for one or more reasons. However, there are other potential dark nets, and not all of them are illegal.
One of the most notorious examples of a dark net is the Silk Road marketplace (Silk Road). Silk Road is a website used to buy and sell a variety of illegal items, including contraband drugs and weapons.
Silk Road was founded in 2011 and is often considered the first dark net market. Although it was shut down by the US FBI in 2013, it has spawned several copycat markets.
Markets like Silk Road are instrumental in the development of cryptocurrencies, mostly based on decentralization and advanced security measures. The privacy and anonymity of many cryptocurrencies have made them the choice of choice when completing transactions in the dark net markets.
Reasons to use or avoid the dark net
In addition to illegal trading, there are good reasons people might be interested in using the dark net. Individuals in closed societies and facing extreme censorship can use the dark net to communicate with others outside of their society. Even individuals in open societies can have some interest in using the dark web, especially as concerns about government snooping and data collection continue to grow around the world. .
However, a large part of the activity that takes place on the dark net is illegal. It’s not hard to guess why this might happen: the dark net provides a level of identity security that the floating net does not. Criminals looking to protect their identities to evade detection and arrest are incorporated into this aspect of the dark net. For that reason, it’s no surprise that a number of notable hacks and data breaches have been linked to the dark net in one way or another.
In 2015, for example, a trove of user information was stolen from Ashley Madison, a website that purports to provide spouses with a means of cheating on their partners. The stolen data appeared on the dark net, where it was then retrieved and shared with the public. In 2016, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch warned that gun sales taking place on the dark net were becoming more common, as it allowed buyers and sellers to circumvent regulations. Illegal pornography is another relatively common occurrence on the dark web.
Considering the nefarious bases of the dark net, it is not surprising that most individuals have no reason to access it. However, given the growing importance of cryptocurrencies in the financial world, it is possible that dark networks will become a feature for everyday internet users in the future. In the meantime, they can still provide criminals with a means of arrest, although true anonymity is never guaranteed, even using the kind of encryption found in these networks.
See also: What is the Deep Web?
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