If you are a technology enthusiast, you have certainly heard the names Dark Web and Deep Web. Many people interchangeably use these two terms, and although they have some similarities, it should be noted that the “Dark Web” is a subset of the “Deep Web”. Stay with us at IT Assistant to further explore this topic.
As we said, the Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web. In fact, the Dark Web exists in a layer below the Deep Web. The infographic below is a good example that can show you the difference between these two.
As you can see in the infographic above, about 90 percent of the total volume of the web exists in the Deep Web, while the Dark Web is located in the lower layer of the Deep Web and can be considered a subset of the Deep Web.
Consider the internet like an iceberg, where only a small portion of it is publicly accessible and visible, and the majority of it is hidden and not normally accessible to everyone, which we call the Deep Web. Now let’s get a little more familiar with this concept.
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What is the Deep Web?
In simple terms, the Deep Web refers to that part of the web that search engines and guest users do not have access to. For example, websites that you need to log into your account to access, like your university course selection page, your email account, forums and sites that require an account to view their content, pages of website content management systems, website databases, social network profiles, etc.
All of these are examples of the Deep Web. As you can see, we deal with many of these items on a daily basis and in fact, we have all been to the Deep Web and used it.
Therefore, by these interpretations, the Deep Web itself is not dangerous. Many people confuse the Deep Web with the Dark Web. Stay with us to fully explore the Dark Web and tell you everything you need to know about it.
What is the Dark Web?
As mentioned, the Dark Web refers to a network of dangerous websites that regular users do not have access to and remain hidden from the eyes of search engines and governments.
Since there is no ability to track such sites, it is possible to trade any illegal product or service on them. Thus, it provides the possibility of buying and selling everything from drugs and weapons to murder, human smuggling, and body parts on this part of the internet.
The security capabilities of Dark Web websites are such that there is no information from the original creators and managers, and their transactions often take place using Bitcoin. This makes it impossible to track them.
History of the Dark Web
The release of the Freenet software in 2000 can be considered the starting point of the Dark Web’s emergence. This software was a student project at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Freenet was designed to create a method for establishing communication and file exchange, as well as fostering anonymous online interactions.
However, some sources regard the emergence of the ARPANET network (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) in the 1960s as the starting point of the Dark Web’s emergence.
This network was essentially created to exchange information over long distances without the need to use a telephone and can in fact be considered a prototype of today’s Internet without a central hub. It was designed to prevent the information network of the U.S. Department of Defense from being easily identified and destroyed by enemies by attacking the network core.
In 1983, ARPANET was divided into two parts. One part was dedicated to research by students and academics, and for general use by others, while the other part, named MILNET, was dedicated to unclassified military communications. Also, this year, the name of the network was officially changed from ARPANET to the Internet.
In 2002, a group of researchers, sponsored by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, significantly increased the growth of the Dark Web with the creation and launch of the Tor network.
At that time, the Internet was still quite new, and it was relatively easy to track and control users’ online activity. However, if users accessed the Internet anonymously, this was not feasible. The Tor network was created to establish secure communication channels for American political dissidents and intelligence agents worldwide.
After that, the Tor network’s underlying code was published under a free license, and a non-profit initiative called the Tor Project was formed in 2008. The formation of the Tor network also led to the creation of the Tor browser, which made access to the Dark Web easy for anyone. In 2009, the first Bitcoin mining operation took place, thus creating the most important digital currency used for buying and selling on the Dark Web.
Some of the most important events in the history of the Dark Web
- The first illegal online transaction took place in the early 1970s.
- The creation of first data havens in the 1980s, which were places for storing illegal data or non-stop data. Data havens, some of which are used for data encryption, are used for illegal activities on the web such as whistle-blowing, distributing obscene content, and online gambling.
- The Internet became accessible to the general public in 1991.
- The establishment of the Napster music-sharing system in 1999, was essentially an illegal system. This system allowed its users to receive their favorite music for free from the computers of people who had that music, thus illegally accessing all music and eliminating the need for legal music downloads.
- The initial sparks of the Arab Spring uprising in 2010.
- The revelation of classified information from the US National Security Agency by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. He was then an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency and a contractor for the National Security Agency.
- The demise of the Silk Road drug marketplace in the United States in 2013, known as the Amazon for illegal drugs. This marketplace was operated by a person named “Ross William Ulbricht”. Ross was sentenced to life imprisonment for this crime.
- The take-down of the PlayPen network in 2015, which was a network distributing child sexual abuse content on the Dark Web.
Protecting Identity on the dark web
The dark web is not always dangerous; however, because there is no oversight of this part of the internet, a lot of fraud occurs. Always use encrypted and anonymous email addresses to connect to websites created on the dark web or to purchase from them, and use anonymous digital wallets to pay for your purchases. It should be noted that purchases on the dark web are made using digital currencies like Bitcoin because these currencies are encrypted and untraceable.
Note: Before entering the dark web, make sure to use anti-virus and anti-trojan software to protect your system against possible hacks, cyber-attacks, and malware.
Dark Web Browsers
Browsing the dark web is not as simple as browsing the surface web, and for this reason, special browsers have been designed to surf this part of the internet. By using dark web-specific browsers and searching in forums like Reddit, you can easily find reliable Dark Web websites. You should use suitable browsers to surf these websites. As we previously mentioned, the Tor browser is a suitable browser for surfing the dark web.
When using the browser, all your traffic is directed through the Tor network and encrypted between at least three relay points known as nodes. This process hides the source of data and makes it difficult to locate the user’s IP address; however, this process takes a significant amount of time, which is why the Tor browser is much slower than regular browsers.
Dark Web Search Engines
Search engines designed for the surface web, like Google, Yahoo, and other similar search engines, cannot access the content of the dark web. To find your desired content on this part of the internet, you need to use dedicated search engines.
DuckDuckGo is one of the popular search engines for the dark web, designed with a focus on preserving privacy. It does not track users’ online activities. This search engine has indexed dark internet content, and you can easily find your desired content on the dark web using it. However, you must install the Tor browser to use it.
Other search engines designed for the dark web include:
- Dark Search
- Hidden Wiki
- Hey Stack
What is the Red Room of the Dark Web?
One of the horrifying myths about the Dark Web is the Red Room. This part of the Dark Web includes several sites related to online torture. In fact, they broadcast live events of killing, cannibalism, mutilation, sexual assault, and abuse of children and people.
This section is prepared to satisfy sadistic and perverse individuals and also has a very high-income potential. That’s because to watch such horrifying scenes, you first have to pay the cost. However, some people consider the existence of the Red Room nothing more than a rumor, because most of these sites do not show any online video of torture or murder after receiving money. Therefore, the aim of spreading and creating such a rumor is only to scam and exploit people’s curiosity.
Dark Web Websites
These websites can only be visited using browsers designed for the dark web, and most of their URLs are composed of random numbers and phrases, unlike surface web website addresses that can be easily remembered.
On the Hidden Wiki, one of the surface web websites, you can see a list of dark web links. However, such links don’t always open, and some of them may not be safe. Anyway, the Hidden Wiki offers you a selected list of dark web content, and you might find your favorite content on this list.
Most dark web websites are created for fraud, and they shut down after financial scams or get blocked by the police and other legal authorities after a while. Law enforcement is always on the lookout to identify and combat these dark websites. So far, the largest illegal sites on the web have been identified and taken down multiple times.
It’s worth mentioning that these websites are vulnerable to DoS attacks due to their anonymity. These attacks cause targeted websites to become inaccessible to users and no longer able to provide service. For this reason, dark web websites often change their address to counter these cyber attacks.
Difference Between the Dark Web and Deep Web
The main difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web is that the Deep Web refers to websites and web pages that are not indexed by search engines; these can include login pages and payment portals. The term Dark Web, however, refers to a part of the internet that can only be accessed using special software and techniques.
The Deep Web encompasses any content hidden behind parts of the internet such as Paywalls (a method of restricting access to content by purchasing the content or a paid subscription), authentication pages, login pages, and passwords. Many contents that individuals with average skills in accessing online content can find are located on the Deep Web. This includes email accounts, online banking accounts, personal accounts on social networks, and subscriptions to content-sharing services. Surely no one wants their email history to be accessible on the Surface Web where anyone can search for it.
Unlike regular browsers, the Tor browser uses onion routing. In this method, internet traffic is routed and encrypted through multiple servers located around the world in order to hide the user’s IP address and provide the possibility of private and traceless web browsing. In addition, all domains of the Tor browser have a top-level domain of .onion. Many layers of an onion domain provide different layers of encryption in the Tor network.
The image below clearly shows the difference between the three levels of the internet: the Surface Web, the Dark Web, and the Deep Web:
A. Surface Web: Contains accessible and searchable websites for all users, which can include most blogs, websites, online stores, news sites, content streaming services, such as YouTube, Netflix, and others, regular search engines, etc.
B. Deep Web: Contains services that require you to log into your account to access and use them; like email, payment platforms, and subscription services for content streaming.
C. Dark Web: Contains content that is not indexed by search engines, and accessing them requires the use of special software and tools like the Tor browser.
Size of the Dark Web
The Dark Web appears to be an expansive space; however, compared to the Surface Web, it constitutes a very small portion of the internet. Researchers from Recorded Future have estimated that although there are currently over 55,000 websites with an onion domain, only about 8,500 sites (approximately 15% of these sites) are active. Therefore, active sites on the Dark Web make up only 0.005% of active sites on the Surface Web.
Domains of Dark Web sites are unstable, and while some are created, others are shut down. Sites offering services and goods that are illegal or suspicious are usually quickly identified and shut down.
According to statistics published by the Tor project, the official website of the Tor browser, this browser has two million users per day, but only 1.5% of its users have access to the hidden websites of the Dark Web. Furthermore, according to information released by researchers from Recorded Future, 86% of Dark Web websites are in English, and German and Russian users also frequent them.
Trading on the Dark Web
It might seem that buying and selling on the Dark Web is illegal; although many of the transactions conducted on the dark internet are illegal, some transactions in this space are legal.
Illegal transactions in this part of the global network include buying and selling all types of weapons (even rocket launchers!), military and protective equipment (like bulletproof vests), various types of drugs, extremely deadly toxic substances, various types of illegal explosives, human body parts, humans themselves, and even private jets.
Even in this space, there is the possibility of hiring criminals for destructive and criminal purposes. Access to highly important governmental information is not impossible in this area either. Interestingly, the possibility of buying uranium also exists on the Dark Web. The Dark Web has hidden materials and guidebooks on achieving eternal and indestructible life.
In this section of the internet, services related to cyber-attacks are also offered; for example, there are individuals who offer ransomware as a service activity. Cybercriminals can even rent various ransomware from their owners and, in return, give a portion of the extorted amount via ransomware to these individuals.
Malicious codes are also presented in the dark web space, and cyber hackers can victimize many people using these codes and steal their identity information.
Other cases of unauthorized transactions on the Dark Web can include the following:
- Fake Visa or credit cards
- Stolen account information from online banking platforms
- Hacked user accounts from digital currency trading platforms
- Hacked social network user accounts
- Hacked online taxi user accounts
- Hacked streaming service user accounts, like Netflix
- Fake coupons
- Android malware
- Stolen passwords
- National codes
- Silicone masks for creating completely realistic faces
- Lottery tickets for winning digital currencies
Services for cyber-attacking various websites and making them inaccessible to their authorized users are offered. Nonetheless, valuable exposed or stolen information, such as credit card information or social network user accounts, quickly ends up on the dark internet, and anyone who has access to this space can easily gain complete access to this information by paying not too much money.
As we previously stated, because transactions on the Dark Web are usually conducted with the exchange of digital currencies, tracking them is impossible. The sellers of these sites might close their stores after obtaining digital currencies from users and set up a new store under a different pseudonym to victimize more people. Also, remember that a relatively long history of Dark Web stores does not necessarily mean they are highly reliable, and these stores may suddenly close.
Dark Web stores, or better said, stores active in the Dark Web’s black market, like surface web stores, have a rating system, the ability to register comments, and a shopping cart. However, when both the buyer and seller are anonymous, the rating system doesn’t mean or imply anything. Of course, someone who turns to an illegal store to buy illegal goods should not expect the seller’s identity to be completely clear!
In addition, there is no guarantee for the delivery of the goods purchased from these stores; because naturally, almost all goods offered in these stores are considered smuggled and illegal. The transportation of such goods through border checkpoints is very difficult and in most cases, the border guards identify these goods and prevent their entry into the country by registering and confiscating them. Obviously, the buyer of smuggled and illegal goods cannot complain to legal authorities about the seizure of their property! It is worth mentioning that even buying from illegal Dark Web stores is a crime, and buyers, if identified, are arrested and punished.
In addition, if an individual fails to receive the goods purchased from Dark Web stores, they naturally cannot take legal action to recover the money paid.
Is the dark web illegal?
The legality or illegality of accessing this space varies according to the laws of different countries; However, even if it is legal to enter this part of the internet in one country if you enter this space without using a VPN and using a Tor browser, your Internet service provider or responsible government sectors may become suspicious and carefully investigate the matter. Naturally, even if it is legal to enter the dark web in a country, it is certainly not legal to use it for criminal and destructive purposes. However, because the identity of users in this space is not clear, anyone can have illegal activity there.
However, if you want to publish important information (such as political and security information) on the web that is very important for various people to be aware of, but publishing this information is a crime in the destination country and has legal consequences; you must definitely use the domains of the dark web. Overall, in one sentence we can say that the dark web is not considered purely illegal; but access to it and also the use of VPNs are limited in some countries and completely prohibited in some countries.
Do’s and Don’ts of the Dark Web
Since the surface web satisfies all our legal online needs, and on the other hand, the dark web is considered a completely dangerous space, we recommend that you do not enter this space as far as possible and only out of curiosity; because malware and various traps designed for fraud like mines in war fields are spread all over this dangerous space. Also, you may encounter immoral and inhuman scenes and activities like torture and painful physical harassment, assault, and sexual abuse that are very mentally disturbing.
People who enter this space just out of curiosity and have no information about the lurking dangers and potentially serious threats are the best victims for destructive and criminal purposes. Also, the chances of easily falling victim to destructive and criminal purposes in this space are very high. Distinguishing safe and harmless websites from dangerous and destructive websites is also a difficult task on the dark web. In this part of the internet, there are many untrustworthy people who, because no law governs this space, can easily carry out their criminal intentions and take advantage of various people.
In any case, if you intend to enter this space, be sure to follow these steps:
- Cover your device’s microphone and webcam.
- Log out of all your user accounts that could be compromised through the device in use.
- If you wish to sign up and create an account on a dark website, definitely use a fake email, username, and password.
- Make sure to use software that constantly monitors the system for information leakage or theft and prevents it.
Things you should never do on the dark web:
- Trust active users in this space
- Argue with active users in this space
Download content from dangerous and untrustworthy websites: if you must do this, make sure to use virtual machines like Virtual Box for downloading your desired content. Virtual machines have a separate operating system; therefore, if the downloaded content is infected with malware or anything else, your main operating system won’t be exposed.
Purchase with a credit card or bank card: if you use a credit card or bank card, hackers may gain access to your card information. Also, no one wants a transaction related to a purchase from an illegal store to be recorded in their card’s transaction list (the only safe and risk-free way to buy from dark web online stores is to use Bitcoin and other digital currencies).
- Publish personal information
- Post comments and views on websites
Open onion domain websites with a regular browser without using Tor: this action makes your device very vulnerable to hackers and cyber attacks, and the risk of information leakage and theft increases dramatically.
Use Tor without changing your IP: Tor’s vulnerability has been proven, and this has sometimes led to users’ IP addresses being exposed. For this reason, you should also use an IP-changing tool alongside Tor.
Note: If you are exploited in this space, or your personal and identity information is leaked or stolen, promptly report the matter to legal authorities such as the Cyber Police to prevent any potential misuse of this information.
The Future of the Dark Web
The dark web will not be destroyed in the future; rather, the conditions and frameworks for its reinforcement will be more readily available. Even the current methods employed to counteract criminal and illegal activities cannot weaken it, as hackers always find new ways to operationalize their harmful objectives, access information, and infiltrate various systems.
There are always individuals who appreciate curiosity, and these curiosities lead to constant victimization, fraud, and illegal activities. It is also predicted that in the future, the user interface and user experience of dark websites will improve significantly, which will attract more users to such sites.
Experts in the field of the dark web predict that in the future, the activity of dark web stores will increase noticeably and the financial volume of transactions in these stores will increase significantly.
There may even be safe, untraceable, and anonymous services created by various mafias for the delivery of goods purchased from such stores in the future. There is even a possibility that a specific judicial system for the Dark Web may be created to resolve some disputes among people engaged in illegal activities in the future!
However, we must consider that the dark web can become a completely suitable platform for establishing communication and transferring information completely anonymously and untraceable among individuals and organizations. Therefore, political activists and proponents of freedom of expression may welcome it; hence, in the future, the dark web may be used extensively for legal purposes, and governments and other legal authorities may no longer oppose it like before.
How to Access the Dark Web Safe
Probably after reading this article, you’re curious to enter the Dark Web right now and experience it for yourself. Next, we aim to present a step-by-step, visual guide to entering the Dark Web. This method is implemented directly by us and is prepared in the form of images for each step for you. The key point about this method is its security and reliability.
Note: You enter the Dark Web environment at your own risk and IT Buddy does not accept any responsibility in this regard. Please note that under no circumstances should you enter the address of your user accounts, your real name, or your information in the Dark Web environment. Do not chat with others or send any comments at all, to avoid putting your security at risk.
Step 1: Download the Tor Browser
First, by entering the Tor download section, download the browser specifically designed for this task according to your operating system, and install it on your computer. Please note that you need to use IP change tools or a VPN to enter the Tor website.
For example, for the rest of the tutorial, we will download the Windows-specific version. After clicking the Download button, wait for the download process to complete.
Step 2: Install the Browser
Like any other application you install on your computer, simply double-click on the downloaded file and follow the installation steps.
After clicking on the installation file, you will encounter a language selection screen. To proceed, simply click on OK and then on the Install option to start the installation process.
Step 3: Set Up the Browser
Once the browser is installed on your computer, click on the Start Tor Browser icon to enter the Tor Browser. Then you will see the following screen.
Next, click on the Connect button and wait for the network connection process to complete. After that, you will see the following screen, indicating a successful network connection and entry into the Dark Web world.
The page you see is the DuckDuckGo search engine’s home page, which emphasizes privacy. However, as we said, search engines like Google do not work on the Dark Web, and you have to use special search engines or listing sites for this purpose.
Step 4: Searching in the Dark Web
As we mentioned, one of the search engines available on the Dark Web is named Gram. You can access it via the address http://juhanurmihxlp77nkq76byazcldy2hlmovfu2epvl5ankdibsot4csyd.onion/. When you enter this search engine, you will encounter the following page.
Please note that you should never log into your user accounts and not use your real name. Do not leave any comments anywhere and do not chat with others.
However, probably with just one search engine, you won’t be able to enter all sections of the Dark Web. This is because many illegal sites operate in hidden ways. Therefore, you can use sites like the Hidden Wiki at the address http://isprwrxfqg7zx22as3e27qiz2jwo2usmjvautudhp6skrvkm77hjpzid.onion/. Please note that illegal sites also exist at this address, so we urge you not to enter them, even out of curiosity.
Movies and Documentaries about the Dark Web
Undoubtedly, to better understand the Dark Web and gain a comprehensive view of this area, there’s no better way than watching movies and documentaries related to this topic. The movie “Unfriended: Dark Web”, made in 2018, is one of the newest films made about the Dark Web. Directed by Stephen Susco, it’s about a laptop that has access to the Dark Web and previously belonged to a cybercrime group.
The documentary “Deep Web: The Untold Story of Bitcoin and the Silk Road” made in 2015 by Alex Winter, recounts the events related to the Silk Road online marketplace and policies associated with the Dark Web. Therefore, this film is a rich source of information about the Dark Web.
If you want more information about the Silk Road marketplace, we recommend watching the documentary “Silk Road: Drugs, Death, and the Dark Web” made in 2017 by Emily James and Mark Levis. This documentary fully explains the formation and destruction of this marketplace.
The film “Horizon: Inside the Dark Web” made in 2014 by Mike Rodford, discusses the pros and cons of the Dark Web, everything that can be seen, recorded, and analyzed in this space. Also, this documentary refers to the dangers of the Dark Web and the expansion of the risks of being in this space over time.
The documentary “Dark Web” directed by Tray Nelson is another comprehensive and complete documentary about the Dark Web. This documentary covers topics such as victims of cyberattacks and combating these crimes.
The TV film “Down the Deep, Dark Web” made in 2016 by Yuval Orr has an exaggerated look at the Dark Web and provides information that goes beyond all the information given about the dangers of the Dark Web and its promises. In this TV film, hackers, people who are completely specialized in data encryption and enhancing the security of private and personal information, and those trying to escape from laws related to sending and receiving information from computer systems, uncover the untold secrets of this space and present a completely different picture of the depths of the Dark Web.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Dark Web
What is the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is a very small part of the Deep Web that has been deliberately hidden from public view. In the Dark Web, anonymity is paramount, which is why illegal activities and crimes occur abundantly on this part of the internet.
What are the Dark Web search engines?
Among the most popular Dark Web search engines are DuckDuckGo and Hidden Wiki.
What is the difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web?
The main difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web is that the Deep Web is used to refer to websites and web pages that are not indexed by search engines. However, the term Dark Web is used to refer to a space on the internet that can only be accessed using specific software and techniques.