Computer America is dedicated to explaining all sorts of topics related to technology. Whether it be policy affecting your right to repair, to quantum computing, and everything in between. The mundane to the confusing. One topic we have discussed on occasion on the program is the “Dark Web” (Not the Deep Web). So we wanted to shed some light on the topic, and not expressly endorse or encourage someone to engage with the Dark Web, but to understand it a little better.
TOR is free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.
Middle relays which receive traffic and pass it along to another relay. Middle relays add to the speed and robustness of the Tor network without making the owner of the relay look like the source of the traffic.
Exit relay is the final relay that Tor traffic passes through before it reaches its destination. Exit relays advertise their presence to the entire Tor network, so they can be used by any Tor users.
Bridges are Tor relays which are not publicly listed as part of the Tor network. Bridges are essential censorship-circumvention tools in countries that regularly block the IP addresses of all publicly listed Tor relays, such as China.
Dark Web is a term that refers specifically to a collection of websites that exist on an encrypted network and cannot be found by using traditional search engines or visited by using traditional browsers.
Deep Web is the collection of web pages that exist, but are hidden from normal browsers. Think of everyone’s emails in Gmail. You are accessing your own little corner of the Deep Web.T
Why Do People Access The Dark Web?
The Dark Web can be home to many kinds of content. Anyone can host a site. Anyone can share files or content. The reasons for doing such are as numerous and creative as people are. But people can be devious. Illegal activity DOES happen on the Dark Web. But that is not the only reason it exists. Cryptopolitik and the Darknet Report shows that 57% of the pages found on the Dark Web. To be clear, if you are accessing the Dark Web, you can get in trouble for looking at, sharing, or distributing the wrong materials. There is a very real danger.
But as an example, here is an article from ExpressVPN showing several stables of perfectly legal content found there. Everything from social media sites, publications and news organizations, and whistle-blowing sites. If you live in a country that has strict policies against human rights, or wants to shut down communication, the Dark Web may be one of the few ways to get messages in or out of your country. Which is why it’s always amusing that politicians refer to the internet as to what they can Google or find on Facebook.
If you value privacy, security, and anonymity, you can’t do much better than using the same tools and practices utilized by the Dark Web. Here is an article by the Tor Project to outline all the positive uses of the TOR Browser, and therefore, the Dark Web. But the short of it, centers around privacy. For journalists, victims, users, and more.
How Does It Work?
If you are experienced with using the internet we all use, the Dark Web can be shockingly similar and at the same time, very foreign. There are normal websites for just about everything, just done a different way. Then there are invitation only spaces that exist. Background checks, vetting, and recommendations to gain access to market places or databases that contain sensitive information. To exclude law enforcement, and simply promote a sense of community.
There are resources out there (which we won’t be linking to) that will aggregate addresses to visit. There are certain search engines, but overall, most content wants to remain hidden, yet accessible. This means that you have to have a direct address or link to reach many destinations. This is by design, and can lead to many dark, deep rabbit holes.
Here is an interesting article that showed the creative use of “Honey Onions”, a way for a collection of nodes to snoop on their intermediary traffic, and therefore discover new address previously unknown. This is no longer possible with the update to the TOR hosting services, but it shows that no technology is perfect.
Why Hasn’t The Dark Web Been Shut Down?
So if so much illegal content is to be found on the Dark Web, why will it still exist? That’s because it is the product of privacy, and self-controlled entity. There are numerous raids/crackdowns/arrests made every year to try to put a halt to the sale of some content. Look into the high profile take-down of the Silk Road.
But these are tools. Just like a firearm, a shovel, a rock, rope, anything. The use of it is not inherently wrong. But rather, the application can be. Unfortunately, this lead to the creation of not long after, of the Silk Road 2.0.
Should The WWW Be Darker?
Your every day browsers are angling the be the most secure. To value your privacy more than any other. Be it Google Chrome pushing for adblockers and Do Not Track, to Mozilla blocking cookies by default and adding features to ensure privacy, none truly approach the level of the TOR browser or their alternatives.
We hear of hacks on our daily radio program on a regular basis. Many solutions to the compromising of secure and personal information take from the Dark Web playbook. Making sure servers are decentralized, user data is private, and everything in encrypted.
To combat censorship on the scale of what happens in countries without strong beliefs in freedom of speech, such as China, our current path of the WWW is unfortunately not compatible. The more control we give to just a handful of arbiters of the internet, the higher the likelihood that journalists/citizens/others won’t be able to speak against abuse.
Should You Use The Dark Web?
Probably not. Not everything is illegal on the Dark Web. But. That doesn’t mean it’s completely safe to play around in. There is horrible content there. And if you are linked because your bridge is connected with that content, you can be held responsible. You could be arrested. You could see things that you really would rather not see. There are dangers. But that’s not the complete story. If you decide to go. Be safe!
Links For The Show
- What is the dark web? How to access it and what you’ll find | CSO Online
- Dark Web vs Deep Web: Separating Hyperbole From Reality – Phase Radar
- Onion Routing
- Tor Project | History
- Who uses Tor?
- What is a Tor Relay? | Tor Challenge
- 9 must-see .onion sites from the depths of the dark web | ExpressVPN
- Tor Found a Way To Make the Dark Web Even More Secret | WIRED
- Dark web – Wikipedia
- Silk Road (marketplace) – Wikipedia
- Dark web websites: 10 things you should know | CSO Online