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What is the Dark Web?

What is the Dark Web

This is one of the great questions in IT - albeit, a very grand and hard-to-answer one by any token. A lot of us want to find out more about the dark web these days, whether we’re ‘nerds’ or not, simply because this corner of the internet is what most are still apprehensive about entering by themselves. 

The dark web has appeared on the news countless times, mostly connected to some sort of crime. However, as with most mysterious and unknown aspects of life, the dark web’s reputation precedes it negatively, unfortunately. 

The name itself hardly conjures up any positive imagery in one’s imagination. However, these fears are often illogical and based on several misconceptions and misunderstandings about the dark web (although there is still a bit of truth in it, as you shall find out). The point is that the dark web is not all that bad!

So, What is It?

Ah, the dark web. Perhaps one of the most contentious topics in information technology to date. First of all, it is important to understand that this corner of the internet is not necessarily a dangerous or taboo realm. 

That is, of course, if you use it wisely. The same goes for anything in life that can become a dangerous weapon if the user desires it. Then again, when used right by sane people, the dark web can be a powerful tool for those requiring true anonymity and privacy.

Online content that is encrypted (enciphered) and not searchable by traditional search engines is referred to as the "dark web" or “darknet.” Simply put, Google and all other popular search engines are obsolete regarding the dark web. 

Only certain browsers, like those able to access .onion websites like the infamous Tor browser, can be used to access the dark web. Your default web browser is not even programmed to open these links and will simply return an error. 

Using the dark web as opposed to conventional websites on the clear web offers a lot more privacy and anonymity because access to the dark web happens through several computer relays. This is specific to the dark web and nowhere else. 

The design of the dark web is entirely different from that of the HTTP and HTTPS clear websites we access every day without so much thought. A lot of the pages on the dark web are either incomplete or look like they belong in 1995. One reason for this is that the dark web is all about function over form.

As a result, when people think of the dark web, they typically associate it with something dangerous or illegal such as online drug markets, data trades, and other unlawful activities. This is what the media tells people. 

Despite this, not many know that there are plenty of people who use the dark web for beneficial and completely legal reasons, including political dissidents, journalists, academics, and others who want to keep their traffic private or away from prying eyes.

What Can Be Found On the Dark Web?

The dark web consists of some websites that are not accessible to the general public. This indicates that they cannot be found using conventional search engines like Google, Yahoo, or any others. 

Due to their indexes of website links, traditional search engines produce results. These are ranked according to relevance and keywords. On the other side, the dark web uses material that isn't included on these other search engines, including documents, databases, and content from individual accounts such as email, social networking, and banking. 

For instance, large media corporations and tech behemoths have relatively little effect on the dark web, if any at all. Simply put, the dark web is not a ‘commercial’ space. 

Similar to the early internet, the dark web is usually linked to illegal and criminal conduct and is known as a sanctuary for illicit activity. For instance, the dark web has contributed to illicit and immoral transactions, while it also gives those who might otherwise face persecution for their identities or political ideas a social outlet. 

Additionally, it even provides the additional resources required for law enforcement to catch those who engage in unethical behavior. Then again, it usually takes a while to uncover illegal operations on the dark web precisely because of the amount of encryption and obfuscation (relays) involved. 

As far as what exactly you can find on the dark web, there is a plethora of material. First of all, it is important to understand the distinction between the deep web and the dark web, which are often confused but have little to do with each other, other than residing within one another.

The idea that the deep web and the dark web are interchangeable is a frequent one. Anything that cannot be accessed using a search engine is referred to as the deep web. Despite similarities to the dark web, there are some differences. 

The deep web is mostly miscellaneous data that is concealed online, such as private data, member-only websites, and medical records. A lot of configuration files also reside on the deep web, making it, in effect, larger than all of the webs combined. 

To be more precise, content on the dark web focuses on topics such as;

- Alternative versions of regular websites

- Unlawful or radical material such as hate speech and racism 

- Online black marketplaces for everything you can imagine 

- Forums for hacking and related topics 

- Internet hosting that is truly safe and anonymous such as email and messaging

- Items and services for rent or sale but only via cryptocurrency

- Video games, hidden social networks, rare music, rare downloads, and other content 

There are also various subsections within each of these categories.

Do not access the dark web without a VPN running in the background, turn off your microphones and webcams, make sure your WiFi connection is private, and most importantly keep off of any pages that seem illegal or “dark.”

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