4 Things You Didn’t Know About the Dark Web

The “dark web” is part of the World Wide Web that requires special software to access.  Once inside, web sites and other services can be accessed through a browser in much the same way as the normal web.

Although over half of the dark web is associated with illegal activity, it is also used as an anti-censorship tool for journalists and dissidents living in countries where censorship is an issue. Even mainstream companies like Facebook have launched their own sites on the dark web.

1. Deep web and dark web are not the same thing.

As the same suggests, the deep web is what is beneath the surface, or surface web.  It includes password protected sites and non-permanent URLs, in addition to raw data used by the government and scientists, among others.

Surprisingly, most people use the deep web every day. In fact, a lot of content that is online is part of the deep web.  When employees and employers log onto their email accounts or sift through bank statements on a bank account, they are on the deep web.  Forget search engine indexing.  Basically, the deep web is anything that can’t automatically be found through Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other search engine for that matter. 

Where is becomes confusing is that the dark web is a part of the deep web; it is not something that is accessible by search engines (surface web) nor can it be accessed on your standard web browser.  Websites on the dark web exist on an encrypted network and cannot be found by using traditional search engines or visited by using traditional browsers.  Users have to actually download the tools before proceeding to the dark web.

The deep web is the overarching umbrella that includes the dark web – along with your email account, bank account, private social media messages, etc.

2. It is an efficient communication method.

You can access black market deals on the dark web, murder for hire, drugs, contraband, pornography, terrorist sites and fake IDs.  However, not all dark web offers illegal products and services.  Objectors and journalists residing in authoritarian countries use the dark web to bypass the strict censorship their countries institute.

In other words, it is a way for individuals to learn about the outside world without being under surveillance.  People living in less censored countries still use the dark web to express their opinions.  Some feel that the dark web is a place where free exchange of ideas can take place.

3. 57% of sites on the dark web browser, TOR, are associated with crime.

Several studies show that 57% of sites have to do with illegal activity (i.e. drugs, finance, illicit and illegal porn, cyber-crime).  In order to collect information about the dark web, a crawler bot scraped TOR sites.

Out of the 5,205 live sites it scraped, 2,723 of those were classified.  After more categorization and classification, it was found that 1,547 TOR sites had illicit and illegal material on them.

This shows that while not everything on TOR is illegal, a larger percentage is.  This means that if individuals do not know how to use the dark web, it is best to not use it at all.

It is appealing due to its total anonymity.  Thanks to advance encryption, no one knows who hosts websites on the dark web or where they live.  This is what makes it attractive but makes it extremely dangerous.

4. Mainstream companies use the dark web.

As previously mentioned, Facebook has a site on TOR. News company, ProPublica, is another.  In fact, the news site became the first major news organization to launch its own site on the dark web.

Why are companies doing this?

It may seem odd that major companies, like Facebook and ProPublica, are on the dark web, especially given that the dark web is home to several criminal sites.

According to ProPublica, they made the decision to go on TOR because they believe in censorship protection; people should have the right to read uncensored information.  Secondly, the news site made a conscious choice to give users the option to note be surveilled, whether that is from marketing ads or the government.

Facebook, the first Silicon Valley Company to launch on the dark web, decided to make the move based on similar reasons as ProPublica.  While users who log onto Facebook via the dark web cannot normal use a pseudonym, it still adds a layer of security and protection.


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