What is the dark web? Myths and facts about the hidden internet

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Legend has it that humans use only 10 percent of their brains. Whether that’s actually true or not we’ll leave to the experts. What we do know for certain, is that for everyday use, we access only 10 percent of the internet.

The websites that we visit daily belong to the surface web, the part of the internet that search engines can index. But what about the rest? Everything else belongs to the deep web, including ebanking, cloud services, and email servers.

But the deep web is more than just transactions and correspondence. It is also home to the smallest and scariest part of the internet, the encrypted dark web.

We can therefore compare the internet to an iceberg. The part we use every day is only the tip.

What is the dark web exactly? Is it legal? Can you get in trouble by using it? Read on to find out!

The dark web in a nutshell

Ever wondered what is on the dark web?

The dark web is the hidden part of the internet that isn’t indexed by search engines. It’s the stuff we don’t see.

It is not technically part of the deep web; it is its own encrypted world. The purpose of the dark web is to give users absolute (or near absolute) anonymity.

That’s why dark web sites don’t have traditionally formatted links. Instead, they use a scrambled series of characters an average person wouldn’t have much luck memorizing. As for the content, it’s not much different from what you get on the “regular” web – message boards, shops, portals, news sites. You can even use a dark web search engine, but it’s not as effective as the ones we use in our day-to-day lives due to one important fact – the websites are constantly changing their addresses. This leads to a more secure, albeit slower, environment.

Even the money is anonymous on the dark web. Instead of using your credit card or PayPal account, you’ll be more likely to use cryptocurrency. Bitcoin is the most popular method of payment.

Accessing the dark web

Due to its design, the dark web is inaccessible by traditional browsers and software. If you’re wondering how to access the dark web and how computer-savvy you need to be, the answer is pretty simple – just get a specialized browser like Tor (The Onion Routing) or I2R (Invisible Internet Project). There’s no need to be a hacker or to use a special operating system. Just get a browser that supports dark web protocols.

Websites on the dark web don’t use traditional links. Dark web links end with a .onion suffix, which explains why the onion was chosen as the official Tor logo. You must figuratively peel off layers of the visible web until you find its truly hidden content.

These dark web browsers randomize the user’s IP address with each clicked link and website visit, creating an almost untraceable network. Anonymity is the prime reason for rising popularity of the dark web.

Anyone looking to conceal their identity online, whether military personnel or journalists reporting from war zones, use the dark web on a daily basis.

What is the dark web used for, then?

The dark web and illegal activities

An anonymous network, inaccessible by traditional methods, unindexed by search engines, populated by untraceable websites and anonymous users – that’s the kind of environment ripe for shady businesses and other not-so-legal activities to really spread their wings. And, to no one’s surprise, they quickly did. Ever since the darkweb came to be, there were reports and rumors of drug markets, human trafficking, and worse doing business on the secret corner of the web. Which of these are true, and which are just urban legends?

Silk Road

Silk Road is the name everyone associates with the dark web. This infamous market, launched in early 2011, was ultimately shut down by the FBI in 2013 due to the amount of drug trafficking it enabled. Silk Road is considered the first darknet market: the very first online store that allowed sales of illegal items in exchange for Bitcoin. At the time of its demise, more than 70% of items available through Silk Road were drugs, followed by fake driver’s licenses and pirated music and movies. Not everything on sale was illegal, and the website had strict rules against harmful materials and items. Still, the doors were wide open to the illegal activity the dark web is now infamous for.

Assassins on the dark web

One of the greatest myths about the dark web is that you can hire an assassin. Some say that kind of “service” costs as little as $5,000. But no dark web search records were ever found of an actual hit attempt or assassin operating there. What was found? A network of dark web websites and individuals who accepted bitcoins in exchange for – absolutely nothing at all. Scammers were relying on the veil of mystery that the dark web inherently provided. In reality, more injuries and murders happened through Craigslist and similar websites that are widely available on the surface web.

Other myths and facts

The media loves headline-making stories, so it’s unsurprising that myths and urban legends about the contents of the dark web originated there. Aside from the illegal items that ended up on sale (and are now much less common), this part of the internet actually has limitations. For example, you can’t host a livestream there. So you won’t witness depravities and horrors while searching the dark web, although you might end up getting scammed and losing your money for a service or a product you’ll never get.

There’s a higher chance of seeing a crime a couple of blocks down the street or even on popular social networks.

Is the dark web illegal?

Not everything on the dark web is illegal, and using Tor and other browsers doesn’t expose you to any consequences. But as the dark web became more notorious, some countries began imposing restrictions. China, most notably, has made Tor completely illegal due to the level of encryption it provides. Also, visitors of dark web sites are no longer completely anonymous, so a VPN would be required for increased protection.

All in all, the dark web continues to be a source of fascination for a lot of people. Just as Dorothy had to peek behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz, many of us long to see what all the fuss is about.

Most will come back disappointed when they find out what the dark web actually is – just another bunch of websites with content not much different from what they experience every day. Once the mysterious curtain is pulled open, all you’ll really be left with is Bitcoin and a community of scammers.