In recent years, the dark web has become mainly associated with illegality and vice like contract killings, firearms acquisitions and pornography. While there is no denying that it is a popular means of transaction for today’s most heinous crimes, it is only a small part of the dark web. Common folk like you and I can surf and enjoy the much larger ‘treasure trove’ of a database for our own pleasures.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is basically everything you will not be able to find through a Google search. This is either because they have been categorised by Google as irrelevant or are sites that have banned Google from indexing them. They consist mostly of tons of data, usually dated. This is exactly the reason why we are often forewarned about how what gets on the internet, stays on the internet.
Let’s look at three big reasons for why you might surf the Dark web.
1. You are curious
With so much commotion in popular culture surrounding this topic, it is undoubtable that most people have taken to the dark web out of plain curiosity. Discussions on popular forums like Youtube and Reddit offer many of their personal experiences, only expanding on the hype even more. The boost in popularity bitcoin received in 2017 also sparked even more conversation on the possibilities of commerce on the dark web. A chance to explore the deep webs on your own seems almost like an impassable opportunity nowadays. But, do look out for our safety tips before you do so!
2. You are an advocate for freedom of the individual
The dark web is mainly accessed by Tor, an anonymous browser that renders your IP address untraceable. Such a feature is still valuable in authoritarian countries where the access to the internet is restricted and citizens’ internet activity is monitored. Tor allows users in restrictive countries to exercise their freedom and enjoy discussions that may be seen as threatening to their home governments. For example, KavKaz Centre is a Russian local news site that reports on the government and its activities which would have otherwise been unheard of because of Putin’s strict surveillance state.
The dark web is also the preferred way for whistleblowers and government server hackers to securely communicate their findings. For example, The New Yorker’s SecureDrop allows whistleblowers to anonymously transfer files to mainstream journalists about the secret businesses of our government officials. It is hence one of the most important tools today where more and more people grow aware of keeping an eye on the government as much as they wish to keep an eye on us.
For the privacy-conscious, the dark web can also offer many encrypted services for your day-to-day activities too. You could find yourself some encrypted email services, instant messaging networks and perhaps even e-commerce stores for products of the more explicit nature.
3. You want to watch a free movie or play free games
Finding pirated movies and games through a google search has become increasingly harder in recent years. This is because of the harder crackdown on pirated content that law enforcements all over the world have seem to commit themselves to. People could be charged fines in the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the US for streaming their favorite TV shows.
If you know your way around, the dark web could be an easier way to torrent or bittorent your favorite movies and download games for free.
How do I exactly access the dark web?
There are no complicated processes in accessing the deep webs. All you need is the Tor Browser. It's really simple.
To get started, be sure to download the Tor browser from their official site here, lest you fall prey to malware, virus or phishing sites. Then, run the downloaded file, choose an extraction location, and open the file to start the Tor Browser.
Take note that webpages on the dark web are appended with the .onion instead of the .com in their URLs.
You might want to research for possible links and sites that are recommended by other dark web surfers, especially if you’re still a beginner in your exploration. You’d have better chances protecting yourself going to relatively secured and popularly endorsed links as compared to jumping into this foreign world all on your own.
Practical steps you can take to protect yourself when visiting the Dark Web
As the dark web becomes more mainstream, law enforcement agencies have also cultivated their own means of finding their way there to keep close to the ground. You need to become extra cautious
1. Download and utilize VPN
Virtual Private Network (VPN) services could help you surf the net extra securely by encrypting your data even before your Internet Service Provider receives it. In fact, many frequenters of the deep webs are no stranger to the method and highly emphasise the need to use Tor over VPN. With this method, all of your data will first go to the VPN server and then to surf through Tor. Your ISP hence is sealed securely as it is encrypted as VPN traffic and will not record you to have been surfing on Tor.
The VPN Vault is recommended as an add-on while you surf the deeper webs. It is important to keep yourself untraceable, especially from official bodies when you’re advocating against the government as a freedom activist or are simply trying to watch a movie. In worst case scenarios, you might even stumble into the darker sides of the Internet and you do not want to take the chance being caught for that. Remember, while surfing on Tor might help keep you anonymous, a VPN is truly what will keep you untraceable.
2. Don’t give out anything that could help identify the real you
This is arguably the biggest rookie mistake you could make. Using your real name as your user name in websites and forums, providing your email address at websites and forums or even opening your Google Chrome browser alongside your Tor browser could have anyone there track your IP address. Soon, the authorities might not be the only ones tracking you down either.
3. Use Tor carefully
Be aware that Tor, no matter how much it is spoken of as a secured browser that promises anonymity, it it still very much traceable back to you. In fact, the FBI in US has been known to keep a tag on those who have spent a considerable time on the Tor browser.
Boot the Tor browser to a read-only medium like a DVD or USD so that cookies or other trackers on these sites cannot track you from your behaviors too.
4. Prevent Webcam Hijacking
Yes, we are talking about that picture of Mark Zuckerberg with his laptop webcam covered by tape and what NSA has become infamous for. If Zuckerberg has reasons himself to protect himself from the prying eyes of the government, all the more reason you should to when you could fall victim to hackers, and possibly even blackmailers on the dark net.
A wrong click to a dummy site that could have you accidentally download their RAT on your software could jeopardise your privacy. Cover your webcam with a piece of tape as a precautionary measure.
Final thoughts on the dark web
While exploring the dark web could be fun and rewarding, it is important to remember its like walking through a dangerous neighbourhood. One wrong turn could lend you in serious trouble. You could be a click away from engaging in illegal activities and transactions.
Please note that we are not endorsing any sort of illegal activity on the dark webs. Surfing the dark web is up to your own discretion and we take no responsibility for encouraging such behavior. We are, however, large advocates of internet privacy and believe everyone has a right to their freedoms, especially when done in a safe and secure way.