The Dark Web is Getting Bigger and Bigger

By Staff Reporter - 04 Nov '21 14:42PM
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  • The Dark Web is Getting Bigger and Bigger
  • (Photo : Photo by benjamin lehman on Unsplash)

In recent years, there have been dramatic technology-driven changes in dark web criminal markets. These changes, which mainly surround the high use of cryptocurrencies and encrypted technology such as The Onion Routing (the famous TOR), have enabled the widespread use of these markets to trade illegal goods. 

The anonymity of bitcoins happens to be one of the reasons why the dark web is such hype right now. This cryptocurrency enables sellers and buyers alike to perform a trusted transaction without knowing each other's identities. According to a Chainalysis report, bitcoin transactions on the dark web have reached more than $1 billion in 2019, and they keep going.  

Though hidden transactions involving bitcoin and stolen financial data may sound nefarious, some experts argue that the dark web is also beneficial in circumventing internet censorship. While we all spend our time online on what is known as the "surface web" - the portion of the World Wide Web that can be accessed with search engines and standard browsers - it has become relatively easy for anyone to access the dark web. 

What Is the Dark Web Exactly?

The dark web is a portion of the internet that isn't indexed by search engines. You've certainly heard of it as a hotbed of criminal activity - and it is. Researchers from King's College in London classified the contents of 2,723 live dark websites over a five-week period and found that 57% host illegal materials. 

Another study shows that things have somehow become worse. The amount of dark web listings that could harm a business has reached 20% since 2016. Of all listings, 60% could potentially harm a business.

On the dark web, you can purchase basically all manner of drugs, credit card numbers, stolen subscription identifications, hacked Netflix accounts, and software that helps you hack other people's devices. You can buy passwords and usernames. You can hire hackers to do the dirty job for you. 

But contrary to our expectations, not everything is illegal. The dark web happens to have a legitimate site as well. For instance, you can join a Black Book (Facebook for TOR) or a chess club. 

Deep Web vs Dark Web: What's The Difference?    

Let's start on the surface. When using search engines like Google to ask, say, "Why does my cat sleep so much?" -the results you get come from the surface web.  The surface web involves content that's public on the internet that doesn't require logins or paywalls to access and is indexed by search engines like Google, Opera, Yahoo. 

To put it simply, much of the content you access on the internet is part of the deep web: your online baking credentials, your email, your streaming subscriptions, or your private social media accounts. 

The deep web isn't illegal nor fictitious. It consists of any content that lives behind authentication forms, paywalls, logins, or passwords - so you probably access the deep web on a daily basis.

Under the surface lies the dark web. Its content is intentionally unsearchable by traditional search engines like Google, but it can be accessed through The Onion Router.   

Is It Illegal to Access the Dark Web?

While the dark web isn't necessarily the safest place on the internet, it's totally legal to access it from the U.S but not all countries. Due to anonymous browsing, much of the dark web is devoted to illicit activities. On the same side, its privacy protections are vital for activists and whistleblowers who work relentlessly to share information and expose corruption but can't risk revealing their identities in the process. 

Access to the dark web, however, depends massively on the country you're in. In fact, renowned platforms like Facebook have created onion domains for users who want to remain anonymous or live-in areas where access to the normal Facebook platform is restricted. For that reason, dark web domains remain a vital communication method for activities in states where free speech is banned or limited and who want to share data or organize without being prosecuted. 

How to Access the Dark Web?

Contrary to many inexperienced beliefs, the dark web isn't that difficult to access. First, you will need to download the TOR browser. From there, you can access any URL your mind takes you to. It should be noted that though they provide encryption, Tor and VPN are not the same. However, you might think that enabled browsers like Tor are supposed to keep your identity hidden by rerouting your traffic and encrypting your data through remote services worldwide. 

So you don't need a VPN, right? Not really.

As dark web activity has become ubiquitous, ISP and government surveillance have skyrocketed. That means, if you're looking to add an extra layer of anonymity to your dark web browsing, you may want to consider to use a VPN service..

Reliable VPN services have hidden service in the Tor network that offers the anonymity and privacy of the Tor network. That means snoopers like internet service providers and the government won't know you're using the dark web, which is ideal for counteracting unwanted surveillance. 

●      Dark Web Engines

Even after you've made your way under the surface, you still have to figure out how to search on the dark web. These search engines exist, but they have a hard time providing quality results as websites constantly change appearance, domain and disappear frequently. More often than not, URL addresses are just strings of apparently random numbers and letters that are not easy to remember. 

DuckDuckGo is one example of browsers that exist on the surface web but also has an onion version for the dark web. Most dark web search engines aren't free as they require payment to localize and use target-related websites specifically. 

Don't be fooled into thinking that accessing the dark web is safe. Whatever your reasons, it's even more important to keep your anonymity intact. Under the surface the web is home to thousands of trolls, all spreading malicious content. To protect your device from malware, a virtual private network may do the job.  

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