Basics

What is the Dark Web?

In its most basic sense, once can think of the ‘dark web’ as being an extremely small niche’ of the internet that is not available to the masses for regular browsing.

The term ‘dark web’ has continued to pique the interest of people all over the world, especially over the last couple of decades as the number of individuals with streamlined access to the internet has increased exponentially. In its most basic sense, once can think of the ‘dark web’ as being an extremely small niche’ of the internet that is not available to the masses for regular browsing, which is to say that pages laying in this zone are not displayed by conventional search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.

To access this digital realm, individuals are required to make use of a browser called ‘Tor’ that is designed specifically for this purpose. Thanks to its privacy-centric design, it allows for an anonymous, secure relay of information through the use of a network comprising of seven thousand independent volunteer nodes (operators) that are located all over the globe.

So what’s special about the ‘Dark Web’?

Straight off the bat, the fact that this side of the internet is not accessible to your average user means that a vast majority of activities taking place on the ‘Dark Web’ are pretty much hidden from public knowledge. However, some studies, such as the one carried out by researchers over the King’s College London found that of the 2,723 dark web sites (that were active over a five-week period back in 2015), 57% of them hosted material that was illicit in nature.

Upon entering the dark web, users are given access to all sorts of things that are traditionally not possible within the realm of traditional commerce. In this regard, some marketplaces operating within this space sell credit card numbers, drugs, guns, stolen subscription credentials, while others can go as far as offering users the ability to hire hitmen, dabble in gore-related activities.

As an example, quite recently scanned passports with a person’s information pre-inputted were available on the dark web at just $5 while a physical passport could be acquired for as little as $5,000. Not only that, a database allegedly containing the personally identifiable information (PII) of 92 million Brazilian citizens was available for auction at a starting rate of just $15,000 a little over a year ago. 

The legitimate side of the ‘Dark Web’

Even though it is usually the illegal side of the dark web that is highlighted to the masses, that does not mean it is just the domain of criminals and other nefarious individuals. There is a completely legitimate side of the ‘dark web’ that continues to thrive despite all of the negative media attention it has continued to receive over the years. 

For example, a whole host of users – who simply put their digital privacy before everything else – make use of this side of the internet to engage in everyday online activities such as chess clubs, social media engagement (via platforms such as BlackBook), etc. In fact, as per data released Terbium Labs, found a few years ago that from a collection of 400 dark web pages that were selected at random, more than half of what was being facilitated on these sites was completely legal.

To be a bit more specific, most of the activities that were picked up by Terbium’s web-crawling robots were simply mirrors of websites such as Facebook and ProPublica, promotional websites for various firms and political parties, chat forums related to gaming, privacy, etc.

Dark vs Deep Web? Is there a difference?

A lot of people tend to use the terms “deep web” and “dark web” almost interchangeably, however, there is a core difference that needs to be understood. For example, the deep web – which constitutes anywhere between 96% to 99% of the entire internet – refers to any information that is not indexed by traditional search engines. This can include completely legitimate data such as medical records, fee-based content, membership websites, as well as confidential corporate web pages. 

On the other hand, the ‘dark web’ can be envisioned as being a highly specific subset of the deep web that is intentionally hidden from the public, such that it cannot be accessed using traditional web-browsing means. That being said, it needs to be reiterated that not all of the dark web is used for illicit purposes.

Crypto and its connection with the Dark Web

Another association that immediately springs to the mind of many when talking about the dark web is its affiliation with cryptocurrencies. And while this connection may have been true to a certain degree in the early part of the last decade, there is now ample evidence to suggest that fiat currencies are used to launder substantially larger volume of funds across the globe on an annual basis.

Key Takeaways

  • The Dark Web is a small part of the internet (<1%) that is not accessible to the masses using regular web-surfing means.
  • Anything that one can think of – both positive or negative – is available on the Dark Web.
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