What Is The Dark Web?
First, let’s clear up a common misconception: “deep web” and “dark web” are different things.
“Deep web” content is web data that search engines can’t find or index. When we go to a website, we see only what it wants us to see. It hides the rest of itself within the deep web – protected content that includes things like passwords, website codes, and databases.
The dark web (also known as the dark net or black web) is a category of deep web content that’s further encrypted and hidden from view. Accessing dark web websites is much harder than accessing deep web content and often needs special programs and encryptions.
So all those websites you see in a search result page? That’s less than 10% of everything the Internet is. Think of most websites as the tip of an iceberg, and the deep/dark web is what lies below.
How To Access The Dark Web
Accessing surface web content is easy, but it will cost you anonymity. Cookies record user activity on every website and search engines keep tabs on what you input. Privacy issues aside, it’s a relatively straightforward way of accessing the Internet.
But if you want to access deep web content, non-tracking search engines like DuckDuckGo are your best bet. For dark web browsers, you’ll need a program that completely conceals your computer’s identity online. Onion or TOR browsers are the most user-friendly engines to use.
You’ll notice a few key differences once you look up TOR websites. For example, you don’t enter a www for the websites. Each TOR website identifies itself with an alphanumeric string that’s almost impossible to recall from memory. They don’t end with a .com either – you’ll notice that their domains fall under .onion, showing that the site is encrypted from your end to theirs.
What’s The Big Deal Then?
So what’s all the cloak-and-dagger business that the dark web has going on? It can’t be all that bad, right? Well, the answer to that is tricky.
The dark web is a big deal because it contains a lot of stuff that doesn’t need – or want – to be seen. Some dark web content is perfectly legal. In fact, “surface web” sites like Facebook regularly use dark web content to store some of your data like the exact web links to all your photos. But privacy can be used for good and bad reasons, and here’s where the sketchy stuff comes in.
Since the dark web can’t be indexed and needs special programs to access, it’s become a haven for illegal stuff like drugs, underage pornography, and even terrorism. It’s estimated that a little over half of dark web content is linked to criminal activity – and merely visiting one of those websites can land you in a lot of trouble.
On the dark web, you never know what (or who) is watching you. You may fall victim to the many hackers that prowl the dark-net-markets or be mistaken as a criminal by law enforcement. You take one wrong step while exploring the dark web, and you may find yourself in a very unpleasant situation.
Is it illegal to access the dark web? No, not really. The dark web is already present in our everyday browsing habits, and we brush up against it all the time. But is everything on the dark web legal? Definitely not. Our advice? Don’t go poking your nose into it if you don’t have to.