An Introduction to the Dark Web

Sometimes, what you see isn’t all you get. And that’s especially true when it comes to the internet. For instance, casual internet users may not suspect that it hosts plenty of illegal activity. But cyber-crime became a rather popular subject in 2015, when the founder of The Silk Road, an online black market, was sentenced to life in prison.

The average internet user did not have access to this website or many others, because it was on the dark web. So, here’s a short introduction to the dark web and how to access it.

The Layers of the Internet

The internet consists of three layers, so to say. Firstly, we have the surface web. This layer contains the sites that you can access through regular search engines like Google.

The next layer, below the surface, is the deep web. It’s the part of the internet that isn’t accessible with your average browser. But most importantly, it’s anonymous. And underneath it lies the dark web. The dark web is a part of the deep web that also hides your identity and location. Out of all three layers, it offers the highest degree of anonymity.

Accessing the Dark Web

Although its name may give the impression that it’s almost inaccessible, a dark web market is not the hardest place to reach. Nowadays, all it takes to access these encrypted networks is a specialized browser. Tor is, perhaps, one of the most popular examples of such browsers.

The U.S. Navy developed Tor (The Onion Routing Project) in the 1990’s, but it only reached the general public in 2004. In the present day, it’s the go-to anonymous dark web browser.

The Hidden Mechanisms of Tor

What makes Tor different from other browsers is the way it connects you to websites. Normally, your connection request goes directly from you to the website you access. Therefore, your IP address and location are visible.

With Tor, however, your connection request goes through a longer route before it reaches its destination. Tor takes your connection through at least three randomized “detours,” all of which are located in different parts of the world. That way, it’s a much more difficult task to trace a connection back to its source.

These detours are also called relays. People from all over the word practically donate their computers to the Tor network in order to create over 7,000 relays.

The Dark Web Summarized

It’s especially important to know what kind of content lies beneath the surface web. Most purchases are made with cryptocurrency, but that doesn’t guarantee that the transactions are always anonymous, as evidenced by a recent case where teenagers were arrested after they paid crypto to watch a murder live. Whistleblowers, for instance, use the dark web to drop anonymous hints to the press, which is pretty harmless. However, most of its users engage in illegal activity while shielded by anonymity.

Obviously, because these networks are encrypted, law enforcement bodies have trouble putting a stop to cyber-crime. But the same thing that hinders them also helps them. With everyone being anonymous on the dark web, it’s never certain who you’re really talking to.