The internet is a place of wonders. The world depends massively on it. It can help you socialize virtually through platforms like Twitter and Instagram, give you entertainment on apps like YouTube and Netflix, and you can use apps to sharpen your language skills, too. Even so, everything “good” has a darker side to it.
Many think that the dark web consists of dark contents due to its name. However, in this instance, the word “dark” refers to anonymity because the dark web is built on top of anonymity networks like Tor (as well as others like I2P, Freenet, and ZeroNet). Nonetheless, there is content on the dark web that is illegal, which adds to the name’s confusion.
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While the dark web secrecy provides a platform for petty criminals to easily deal with their business, it is not inherently scary. Many rumors and stories surround the subject’s actuality, but it isn’t much known about it.
Other than the easily gullible side, potentially normal work is carried on in it, as well.
Business and financial transactions in the dark web are done using cryptocurrency like bitcoin.
The dark web is safe in some cases, where it contains legitimate content. But in most cases, it has several safety issues. Here are some key points you need to remember:
- If you use the dark web for illicit activity, there is the chance of being caught and prosecuted because some servers are prone to promote criminal activity.
- You might go through links which consist of the content you don’t want to see; they may even infect your device with malware.
- Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and NSA, also use Tor to arrest people who break the law, such as those selling narcotics and stolen data.
- If you want to stay clear from all the issues regarding the dark web, you can directly just block those websites (https://www.techwhoop.com/internet-blockers/) with a few tools given.
- If you browse the dark web haphazardly, there is a chance that you may access websites run by people with nefarious intentions.
How is the Dark Web Accessed?
It is very easier than it may appear at first glance. Anonymity networks (“darknets”) are networks that mask the IP addresses of sites hosted on them, as well as those of users. One of these darknets is called Tor, which is an acronym for “The Onion Router.”
Onion routing is a method in which data packets are sheathed in encryption layers, similar to an onion layer. The Tor Browser (also made by the Tor Project) is a modified version of Firefox to which the developers have added several security features. It uses the Tor Network to improve users’ anonymity while browsing online and includes plug-ins HTTPS Everywhere and No Script by default.
While it has many more privacy features than the standard versions of Chrome and Firefox, it is not impermeable to attack. Different law enforcement agencies, and the teams behind certain websites, continuously make efforts to deanonymize or shut down onion sites, and sometimes succeed.
The Tor Project also funds Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System), a pre-configured Linux distribution that will run on almost any operating system. It can be downloaded from tails.boum.org. Tails force all incoming and outgoing connections through Tor to prevent data leaks and run as a separate OS on USB flash drives. It also includes apps like the Tor Browser, Pidgin (for off-the-record messaging), and the Thunderbird email client.
The dark web can sound intimidating and may also be complicated to navigate. However, there are multiple legitimate reasons why a user may want to access the dark web. Some common examples are listed below:
- Mainstream websites such as Facebook (facebookcorewwwi. onion), the BBC (http://bbcnewsv2vjtpsuy.onion), and ProPublica (http://propub3r6espa33w.onion) use Tor hidden services, both for privacy and to allow access in countries where their sites are censored.
- Political activists and journalists use the dark web to share sensitive and confidential information.
- The dark web is used by the FBI and other law enforcement organizations to monitor terror organizations.
- Stolen credit card information and compromised accounts are kept track of by corporate IT firms using the dark web.
Five Tips To Ensure Safety While Using Dark Web
1. Prepare a new USB flash drive (and/or a separate device)
You will need a new USB flash drive on which to install Tails. A whole separate device is not a viable option for many of us, so we must practice everything possible to protect and isolate critical information. When your session is finished, shut down Tails, and it will erase any information from that session; see How Tails works for a more detailed explanation.
2.Plan And Decide On Your Intent
The first thing to do before accessing the dark web is to plan. We must first determine which software to use and which websites to access before blindly navigating Tor. We should set a goal and decide what our intended outcome is. In other words, we must make sure that we aren’t pursuing something mythological or too risky.
Clarity of mind is necessary for using the dark web. For example, if we are clear that we wish to credit card information, we must look for darknet markets selling the hacked data. It’s also important to ensure that the sites we’re visiting aren’t scams. Use reliable sources to find them, such as Dark.fail, Darknet.live, or Darknet.stats, which have updated lists of darknet markets and forums. If you look for these types of sites on search engines or sketchy link lists, there’s a high possibility that you’ll end up on a phishing site.
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After you complete browsing on the dark web, disconnect from Tor by closing the browser and/or shutting down Tails.
3. Make Sure the TOR Browser is updated
Before accessing the dark web, we must keep in mind to check whether or not the Tor Browser is kept up to date. Only download the browser from torproject.org or use Tor Browser for Android; false Tor Browsers often contain malware or do things like steal bitcoin. The Tor Browser will send notifications when it needs to be updated and inform you about what changes are being made.
4. Do not use TOR for torrent downloading
It may seem reasonable to download from BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks with the Tor browser, but it is not necessarily the case. While it’s not impossible to do so, torrenting over Tor overloads the network. Also, though you might be connecting to the torrent tracker over Tor, the peer connections are routed outside of Tor.
5. You Do Not Need a VPN Provider with Tor
Some numerous articles and posts suggest you need to use a VPN provider with Tor, but this is not true. It may even be a detriment because Tor, by itself, does not require you to trust a third party with your anonymity. Even if the VPN provider claims not to keep your data logs, this is probably not true. You are better off using only the Tor browser or the browser in conjunction with Tails or a Linux distro like Qubes.