Demystifying the dark web

As you read on, we’ll explore how the ‘dark web’ works, how big it is (and it is huge) and how most of it is relatively benign, but has gained notoriety because of a few places where illegal goods and services are sold to anyone willing to pay the price – and to take the risk.

What is the ‘dark web’?
Read the term dark web and most people’s minds leap immediately to the stuff of lurid headlines. The media often portrays the dark web as a den of vice and iniquity – a place where you can buy guns and drugs as readily as soap in your supermarket. And sure, there is criminality on the dark web. But this isn’t the whole story by any means.
The dark web also goes by another, much less dramatic name: the deep web. The deep web is probably a more correct term because it conveys the idea that the internet is like an iceberg.

A route to the dark web
The dark web is generally considered to be a group of websites which exist on a special type of network that cannot be seen by the ‘normal web’. They are powered by places like ‘The Onion Router (TOR)’ (torproject.org),’I2P’ (geti2p.net), and ‘Freenet’ (freenetproject.org), all of which offer specialist pieces of software which allow you to access the websites on the dark web.
Once you have one of these pieces of software installed, you can potentially access any of the websites on the dark web which comply with your software’s protocols. It is worth noting though – often the most nefarious and notorious dark web sites also require passwords and access is by invitation only.

How does the dark web work?
Each web address or website on the dark web represents a starting point, or node, which allows the connection to reach the server the website is actually stored on.
These starting points, or nodes, provide access to a network, connected in a way to protect the identity of the person or people who run the websites which make up the dark web. All of these connections are encrypted, and it is almost impossible to block access to these networks.

What can you find on the dark web?
You can find a lot of different things on the dark web, however you can only access a very small percentage of them using the encrypted networks. It is worth noting that many criminals, hackers and undesirable people have made the dark web their home.