Everything in the virtual world is designed to mimic reality, including the internet.
Imagine a city (a huge, ever-growing city) with streets, homes, and businesses. Everyone living in the city has an address (your IP address). You can move through the city (using transfer protocols). You can go to the malls (popular websites like Google or Bing), you can watch movies in the cinema (Netflix) or go shopping (Amazon). These parts of the web that we all readily have access to is called the surface web.
However, some parts of the city require a special permit (passwords) to access them (your inbox, video streaming account, or online banking). And some of these pages cannot be found by simply typing a link or Googling it. This part of the web is called the Deep Web.
The surface web makes up less than 10% of the entire web network. The rest is the Deep Web. These are web pages that won’t show up when you query them in any search engine. You need special tools to access these pages, either through specialized software or browsers, passwords, or other security measures.
This restricted part of the city has some questionable alleys (Hidden Wiki or Not Evil) as well called the Dark Web. Simply attempting to access it can put you at risk (virtually and in reality) so don’t attempt to.
Never download anything from the dark web, unless you want some sort of malware or Trojan horse on your computer.
The Deep and Dark Web are often used interchangeably or confused with each other. The Dark Web makes up a small portion of the Deep Web. Any page with the extension .onion belongs to the Dark web. These web pages can be accessed only through special anonymizing browsers like Tor. Tor hides your IP address and creates a private browsing session that cannot be tracked back to you. Accessing the Dark Web without a VPN and an anonymizing browser can put you and your data at risk.
The Dark Web is predominantly home to shady activities like money laundering, trading stolen credentials, peddling prescription and ecstasy drugs, and leaking source codes and databases. Illegal activities that would otherwise be easily tracked shut down on the surface web, like human trafficking or inhumane discussions, often find their place in this relatively unrestricted, and anonymous, part of the web.
However, with increased cybersecurity awareness, authorities regularly crack down on nefarious activities on the Dark Web. In 2014, Europol and the FBI made 17 arrests worldwide and seized hundreds of Dark Web domains associated with well over a dozen black market websites.
In 2019, international law enforcement agencies from the US, Canada, and Europe made 61 arrests and shut down 50 Dark Web accounts used for illegal activity, seizing nearly 300kg of drugs, 51 firearms, and 6.2 million Euros worth of currency. These authorities are also known to disguise themselves as potential sellers or customers in honey-pot operations to catch offenders in the act.
You may end up becoming a victim of fraud or get trapped in a web of deception.
It’s easy enough to get on the dark web. But websites keep popping up as quickly as they get shut down, making it difficult to browse. Never download anything from the dark web, unless you want some sort of malware or Trojan horse on your computer.
The Dark Web, while dangerous, has its upsides such as providing access to information that might otherwise be restricted in a specific country, due to political motivations.
Journalists and researchers, for instance, often use the .onion version of The New York Times and other news or media companies to read articles or reports that are censored in their countries. Right after the Chinese government’s crackdown on VPN connections in 2015, Chinese discussions started popping up on the dark web. They were merely people who wanted to communicate and be informed.
In the real world, you may not find people venturing into dark alleyways merely out of inquisitiveness (unless you’re in a horror movie) but many people do surf the Dark web just because they’re curious. It is highly advised not to visit without a good reason though as there are quite a few security risks. You may end up becoming a victim of fraud or get trapped in a web of deception. As good digital citizens, we need to educate ourselves about being vulnerable on the internet and also the consequences that come with our carelessness.
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