What is the “Dark Web”?
Think of an alternate universe that has the Internet but doesn’t have law and order. Where anyone can do anything they want on the Internet without worrying about getting caught.
It’s like the evil twin of our current Internet.
It actually works as a layer on top of the Internet we use today but with all the data encrypted and also anonymized so that no one can track where the traffic is coming from, where it’s going, or who sent it or who received it.
What are “Dark Nets”?
A Dark Net is a collection of this anonymized content and hosts that use the same protocol or access method to communicate. TOR is one of the most popular protocols but there are many others as well.
The collection of all Dark Nets makes up the Dark Web.
What’s the difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web?
While the Dark Web is anonymous and can be “bad”, the Deep Web is just the name for Internet content that isn’t indexed by search engines. Think about all the sites that require a login to access their content. That content is part of the Deep Web, but it’s not necessarily bad.
The Dark Web is part of the Deep Web but only part. Unlike the Dark Web, most of the Deep Web isn’t bad at all.
Is the Dark Web always bad?
No. In countries that block, ban, or filter Internet usage, the Dark Web protocols might be the only way the people can access the Internet without being blocked, punished, or shut down. Because all traffic on the Dark Web is anonymous and encrypted it allows people in oppressed countries to communicate where they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
Political activism sites and whistleblower sites are two examples of positive sites that benefit from the anonymity of the Dark Web. There are discussion forums that choose to be on the Dark Web so they can avoid all censorship as another example.
Some mainstream websites like Facebook and Wikileaks have Dark Web sites too.
How do people access the Dark Web?
The easiest is to install the TOR Browser Project. It’s an easy to install package that includes a web browser that’s automatically configured to use the TOR protocol so it can access the Dark Web.
From there many people start with a list of Dark Web sites called the “Hidden Wiki” which can be found by a simple web search.
The Dark Web sites that use TOR use addresses that are random-looking letters and numbers and end with .onion.
Should I allow access to the Dark Web for my children? (Or employees?)
Good justification for allowing children or employees to access the Dark Web would be very hard to find. In most cases parents aren’t going to want their children accessing the Dark Web and employers aren’t going to want their employees accessing the Dark Web.
Only in extremely rare cases would you want to allow access to the Dark Web.
Can I block my children (or employees) from accessing the Dark Web?
Blocking the Dark Web isn’t easy. Because it’s built on top of the normal Internet it’s difficult to separate out the Dark Web traffic from normal traffic. Additionally, most of the protocols used by the Dark Web were designed to be difficult to trace or block.
At home, the best thing you can do is monitor your children’s Internet use and activities.
For businesses, consult your IT help. Be aware, blocking the Dark Web is well beyond IT-101 and requires a sophisticated approach you’re not likely to find in entry-level IT. Be sure you’re talking with someone with the skills, knowledge, and experience to ensure you’re truly secure.
– Weston Henry
Interesting Facts about the “Dark Web”:
- The US Government actually helped develop the TOR protocol which is what much of the Dark Web uses to encrypt and anonymize the data as a US Naval Intelligence project before it was released into open source
- TOR was originally developed starting in the 1990’s and released to open source in 2004
- URL’s on the TOR Dark Web end with .onion (instead of .com, .net, .org, etc.)
- Anyone can start and run a TOR relay. It’s free and easy
- It’s currently estimated that there are thousands of TOR nodes active today
- A Wikipedia article states there were over 4 million TOR users in 2013 so that number is probably much higher today
- TOR is just one of the protocols that can be used to access Dark Web content. There are many others as well
- Dark Web users often refer to the regular Internet as the Clearnet
Wikipedia: Darknet – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darknet
WestonHenry.com – More info about the dark web on my radio interview
Are you concerned about the Dark Net at home or at your office?
Have you used the Dark Net? What was your experience?