The internet, or World Wide Web, has come a long, long way since its heyday when it was known as the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects) in the 60s and 70s -an intelligence/defense project built by academic institutions and government organisations. Since then of course, the internet was instituted for use by the public and started growing on international servers, gaining its famous domain names (like ‘.com’), and with that the world’s reliance on the internet just kept growing exponentially. As speeds increased and technology boomed throughout the 2000s, into the blazing 2010s, little did we know that the internet would be practically essential to our existence.
Today’s internet is a vast universe, so large that it cannot accurately be measured. As well as being one of humanity’s greatest inventions, we’ll see why the internet is also one of humanity’s greatest crutches. Probably one of the most (if not the most) controversial topics out there in cyberspace (yet another name for the internet) is online privacy, or online transparency. Specifically, the question of something called The Dark Web is attracting more and more attention in the public domain. With that, as the need to be anonymous online grows, everyday internet users have gotten wind of this fascinating (but risky) back alley of the internet, and are looking to access The Dark Web as it becomes a bit more commercial nowadays.
What is The Dark Web
It was somewhere at the beginning of the 90s when the idea of staying safe online started trending, as computers became more affordable and mainstream, and getting online became more accessible. It was also in this period when concerns about government espionage on data became a thing, and the data havens trend arose. The Dark Web (which is considered to be in the womb of the much larger Deep Web) is a natural continuation of this need for separate channels of communication on the internet, that are strictly anonymous. Having an anonymous, untraceable web is essentially a very positive and democratic idea, but of course there is a dark side to it. Unfortunately, The Dark Web to this day hosts hordes of criminals, cybercriminals, illegal transactions and just crime in general tends to reside there.
The Dark Web is a series of hidden websites that isn’t part of the ‘regular’ internet. This part of the web is only accessible by a web browser called The Onion Router (Tor), which is strictly anonymous, and uses complex anonymising technology to hide the user’s online presence. In order to gain access to The Dark Web, sometimes you will need a specific password or membership on one of its pages to be able to go further.
We’ll look at whether you are safe while browsing The Dark Web, but first it’s really important to stress that it is not recommended for the majority of people, because it is an unregulated space.
The rise of cryptocurrency and Tor
At the start of the 2010s, something called cryptocurrency emerged. Cryptocurrency would be the financial equivalent of the data haven mentioned earlier; basically a digital, untraceable currency that would allow for quick and simple online transactions without the hand of the government involved. The importance of cryptocurrency is always on the rise, just today it was reported that Elon Musk’s $1.5 billion investment in it spiked its value by %17. Wait, what does this have to do with The Dark Web? Well, The Dark Web relies on cryptocurrency for its markets, and all other transactions, and with the current trend being anonymity, it looks like both Tor, The Dark Web and cryptocurrency are here to stay.
Are you safe on The Dark Web
This is a difficult question, but let’s attempt to deconstruct it. So, accessing The Dark Web is technically legal, but, and this is a big but, it completely depends on what you are searching for, what you are discussing and what you are purchasing. On this part of the web, a simple search on one of the Dark Web search engines can dig up horrifying results; from weapons for sale, stolen credentials, illicit media, drugs, to the ability to hire a personal hitman (yes, really!). Remember that The Dark Web is full of criminals, hackers and viruses (malware). It is not a place intended for the average internet user to casually browse.
It isn’t all doom and gloom as its name suggests, though, as The Dark Web is the only place for purveyors of freedom of speech such as activists, journalists and the free press to speak out. Even still, popular brands such as Facebook and The New Yorker have opened their doors to Tor and have Dark Web pages of their own, as have regular people that want to store their information in a very private place.
Again, the recommendation is to keep off The Dark web, however, it is also natural that people are curious about The Dark Web due to its popularity. One thing is for sure, in the future we are looking at more and more distrust towards governments, and an increasing need for internet privacy and anonymity.
Finally, let’s list some general safety precautions if you do indeed decide to browse The Dark Web;
- Cybercriminals are around, so if you have an account on The Deep Web, make sure that you use long, complex passwords and write those down for safekeeping
- Do not access anything illegal, as law enforcement and intelligence services are constantly monitoring The Dark Web for things such as criminal activity and national threats
- Use a separate email address for Tor, do not upload pictures of yourself, your address or anything related to you, anywhere
- Do not participate in discussions or talk to people you do not know
- Never connect to the internet (especially The Dark Web) without a Virtual Private Network, or VPN provider
- An internet search on several communities can reveal Dark Web sites that are legal to browse