Today, many users have heard about the so-called dark side of the net, however, most of them have little idea about what such a network exactly is.
What is Darknet?
DarkNet, or dark network, is any overlay network that can only be accessed using special software, configurations, or authorization, often using non-standard protocols and communication ports.
There are two types of DarkNet: the “friend-to-friend” networks (commonly used for sharing files with a peer-to-peer connection) and privacy networks, such as Tor.
Sorry, you can’t go there with your browser…!
DarkNet is a part of the Internet that is outside of the usual web browser and is home to a surprisingly large amount of criminal trafficking.
Users access this part of the Internet through special programs, such as TOR (The Onion Router), which disguises their identity by routing traffic through a complex network of servers. Although not everything that happens on this network is criminal in nature, and the number of users on the dark side of the Internet is constantly growing.
The term DarkNet is sometimes confused with Deep Web (“deep web”), a phenomenon that refers to all areas of the Internet that cannot be indexed by search engines, which cannot be found through Google, Bing, Yahoo and other popular search engines. Experts believe that Deep Web is hundreds of times larger than the surface network (that is, the Internet, which can be accessed through standard browsers and search engines).
I would say, you can call a “dark web” a “deep web” but not vice versa.
In fact, most of the deep web does not contain anything criminal or frightening. It includes large databases, libraries and websites with limited access, that is, inaccessible to the general public. Basically, the Deep Web consists of academic resources supported by universities. If you have ever used a computer catalog in a public library, you touched its surface. Deep Web uses alternative search engines to access, such as Ahmia.fi, Deep Web Technologies, TorSearch, and Freenet.
DarkNet, in turn, is a small part of the Deep Web. Its content is also not available through search engines, but, unlike the deep web, DarkNet is an anonymous segment of the Internet.
You shouldn’t go there…! It is dangerous.
But if you really want to know everything on the internet you can take the risk. Fortunately, the browser which will help you to get into the “Dark Side Of The Internet”, Tor, is now available on Android.
Inside it, both parties, both users and website owners, are completely anonymous. Currently, some large government institutions are theoretically able to track some people in this anonymous space, however, it is very difficult, requires huge resources and still does not guarantee success.
Anonymity in DarkNet
Anonymity in DarkNet is usually achieved using Onion routing. As a rule, when accessing the Internet, your computer directly accesses the server hosting the website you are visiting. In the onion network, this direct link is broken, and the data instead bounces off several intermediaries to achieve the goal. Communication is registered on the network, but the transport medium does not know who does it. Tor (The Onion Router) makes a popular onion router, which is convenient enough for anonymous communication and is available for most operating systems.
This is one of the largest and most popular sections of DarkNet. Although tech-savvy users can find many different ways to configure and use Tor, its installation and operation can be as simple as any other browser. Literally two clicks from the Tor site, and everything is ready – you get access to DarkNet. The browser itself is built on top of the open source code of the Firefox browser, so anyone who has ever used Firefox will find the Tor browser familiar and easy to use.
In addition to the fact that the Tor browser can be used to anonymously browse the website, it provides the user with additional protection from virtually everything from hackers to government, tracking corporate data collections. It also allows you to browse websites anonymously published on DarkNet, that is, inaccessible to people who do not use Tor.
Tor sites are not like regular URLs. They consist of random strings of characters followed by “.onion”. An example would be the following website address: http://dppmfxaacucguzpc.onion/ . This link will take you to the DarkNet website directory if you have Tor installed. Otherwise, this link remains completely inaccessible to you. Using Tor, you can find catalogs, encyclopedias and free links to help you find everything you are looking for. #In addition to the Tor browser, there are other specialized software.
One of them is Freenet, which offers similar functionality, but also allows you to create private networks, which means that resources located on this machine can only be accessed by people who have been manually placed on a “friend list”.
Another is I2P privacy network (“Invisible Internet Project”), which is becoming increasingly popular. Although Tor users are still the majority, there has recently been a shift towards I2P, because it offers a number of improvements, such as built-in secure e-mail, file storage and plug-ins for sharing files, as well as integrated social features such as blogs and chat.
Many Tor users also want to add an extra layer of security by connecting to Tor using a virtual private network or VPN. Although no one can see what you are doing online when using onion routing, the objects of observation can see that you are using Tor to do something. In 2014, Wired UK magazine reported on popular assumptions that the NSA marks Tor users as extremists or people of interest. Although this is most likely very exaggerated information. In any case, using a VPN to connect to Tor means that no one can see that you are using it, and therefore is considered a good solution to this problem.
Who uses DarkNet?
The architecture of DarkNet was originally developed by the military, more precisely the US Navy. Military, government and law enforcement organizations are still the main users of the hidden Internet.
DarkNet is also popular with journalists and political bloggers, especially those who live in countries where stiff censorship and imprisonment as a punishment for violating it is common. Internet anonymity allows these people, as well as informants and hackers, to communicate with sources and freely publish information without fear of punishment. The same anonymity can be used by news readers to access information on the surface network, which is usually blocked by national firewalls. The idea that information should be free and accessible to everyone seems to be very dear to users of the dark side of the Internet, as well as the idea that governments and big business threaten it.
Activists and revolutionaries also use DarkNet to organize themselves, without fear of opening their stance to the government they oppose. Of course, this means that for the same reasons, DarkNet is used by terrorists, extremists and other undesirable organizations and groups.
In conclusion, it can be said that anyone can access the hidden segment of the Internet very easily, but if you decide to use it, be very careful. There are many questionable materials, as well as a large number of criminals. Do not click on links without thinking about where you may be, what you can see or whom you can meet. On the other hand, the same anonymity that makes DarkNet a convenient platform for illegal activities also makes it a stronghold of a more noble cause: freedom of speech.