There is a part of the internet that is still unknown and unexplored by most internet users. This is the dark web: the dark part of the 96% of the internet that is inaccessible to most of us. It is probably the most dangerous and controversial part of the Internet. What is the dark web? What can you find there and how to access it? We tell you everything!
What is the dark web?
The dark web is the third level of content on the internet, after the clean web and the deep web.
Here is a small explanation on each level:
The clean web
Still called surface web or clean web, the clean web is the part of the internet that everyone can access simply with an internet connection and a standard browser. This part gives you access to all the web pages indexed (thanks to SEO or natural referencing) by the main search engines. You can access it simply by typing a query on Google with a browser like Chrome or Firefox. The surface web would represent only 4% of the Internet.
The deep web
The deep web is the non-visible part of the internet. In other words, it is the whole content of the internet not indexed (unlike the surface web which uses SEO) by the robots of classic search engines. It includes all kinds of unofficial information, company databases or even parts of banking sites that are not made public. It represents about 96% of the internet and is password protected.
The dark web
It is the dark part of the dark net, a set of networks of websites present on the Internet, but to which the classic search engines and browsers do not give access. A specific software is needed to access it and see its content. The most popular browser to penetrate this network and discover the content of the dark web is the Tor browser. But there are also others such as I2P or Freenet.
What can be found on the dark web?
As mentioned above, the dark web or underground web is a part of the dark net. It contains hidden and most often illicit content that exists only on the darknet. It is the meeting place of criminals, drug traffickers, arms dealers, human traffickers, etc. They use it to conduct their business. They use it to carry out all sorts of illegal activities.
The AlphaBay case and the Ashley Madison case are examples of illicit activities that can be found on the dark web. This is why this part of the internet is often seen as an environment to avoid. While this is partly true, the dark web is not just a place where criminals meet.
It was originally a network created by some US Navy labs to ensure the privacy of their communications. While some people have made it the ideal place for illicit business, the fact remains that the dark web contains very useful information and also promotes many positive and legal activities.
What can we do with the dark web?
Unless you intend to use the dark web for illegal activities, it will allow you to do useful things for yourself and for society. For example, you can find information provided by experts in various fields such as health or internet safety.
For those who like to read, tons of free books and research papers are available. Journalists use it to receive and share anonymous information and to expose corrupt personalities or criminals. Others use anonymity to seek medical advice, get tips or buy cheaper products with bitcoin.
How can I access the dark web?
Before you start surfing the dark web, it is important to be aware of the risks involved. In fact, it exposes you to cyber malware attacks such as DDoS attacks from a wrong address or a corrupted file accidentally uploaded. Likewise, you risk legal action if you are caught on a page dedicated to criminal activity and are reported.
Also be aware that even though darknet browsers promote anonymity, your ISP can still monitor your activities and report you. To avoid falling into these traps, you need to use a VPN to guarantee total anonymity. Also, only surf on safe sources. Here are the steps to access the dark web:
1) Set up a VPN
The use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to hide your IP address and encrypt your data so that your online activity is completely undecryptable. Moreover, some VPN services do not keep any log (trace of your consultations and actions). No one, especially not your ISP, will be able to monitor what you do on the dark web.
You still need to choose a good paid VPN (free VPNs don’t have a great reputation for reliability and true anonymity). ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs available today. But you also have other choices like Nord VPN and CyberGhost.
2) Install the browser
You will also need to download specific software that will allow you to access the dark web pages. Tor is the most widely used browser for this. It allows you to access sites with the .onion extension via its Firefox-like interface. The software is available on the official Tor website for Windows, Mac and Linux. If it makes you feel any better, using Tor is perfectly legal. It’s up to you not to use it illegally.
3) Surfing on the dark web
Once you have the VPN and Tor Browser installed, you have all the tools you need to access the dark web. You’ll need a directory to find sites with domain names ending in .onion or Torlinks. Hidden Wiki is a link library suitable for your start on the dark web. It is a kind of Wikipedia for unindexed links. But unfortunately, these links do not always work.
That’s why Daniel is a good alternative. This site allows you to find web pages by keywords or by category and to check if the links work. Daniel’s site lists 7,000 “.onion” links classified in different categories to simplify navigation. You can also find more links by searching the forums.
The DuckDuckGo search engine has made a name for itself as the browser that best respects your anonymity. As such, you can find links on .onion sites that they reference. It is the only search engine to offer a bridge between the 2 worlds.
For your information, it is not illegal to consult dark web sites. But it is imperative for your security to be equipped with a good antivirus (not a free version) and a VPN.
With time, you will discover many sites that will offer you services from the least to the most dubious. The content may be offensive or illegal. Don’t be fooled by everything that glitters on the dark web. And beware of any exchange of information: you will never really know who is talking to you.