The Internet may be a fantastic product of genius minds seeking to provide information to as many people as possible, but there are dark, hidden depths to the World Wide Web. Appropriately named the Dark Web, this walled-off portion of the Internet earned notoriety for harboring fewer cat videos, and more offensive, distasteful content and activity.
Why any decent person would want to visit such a foreboding place on the Net is unfathomable, but human curiosity often gets the best of us. Just so you get the right idea, we will talk a little in-depth of what the Dark Web really is.
Dark by Definition
The Dark Web is a network of heavily encrypted sites not visible to the average internet user. It is a relatively small portion of the internet, with the purpose of conducting activities that in no way would exist on the regular Web.
Sites on the Dark Web are not accessible by normal browsers, as most search engines do not index these pages. It earned its unsavory reputation by being the home to illicit internet activities, made known through government crackdowns in 2014/2015.
Though many activities on the Dark Web are illegal, not all of them are malicious. The anonymity provided by its encryption protocols protects users who highly value their privacy, such as people subject to suppressed free speech by their governments.
It is not illegal to access the Dark Web per se, but rather the dodgy content you are likely to encounter there. Many sites host a veritable trove of objectionable stuff like child pornography and violent footage that regular sites would normally ban.
That said, the Dark Web has hosted its more than fair share of illegal activity. Take the so-called Silk Road, where used Bitcoins and the Dark Web smuggle recreational drugs across countries. Another widely publicized event was the Ashley Madison hack, exposing personal details of people who used the adultery website.
More Trouble than It’s Worth
It is of course inadvisable and dangerous to visit the Dark Web. All kinds of shady transactions like buying and selling illegal stuff will more than likely land you in trouble with the law.
Many hackers populate the Dark Web, and they routinely exploit users who are unlucky enough to stumble into their digital traps. Blackmailing and phishing are commonplace in such highly anonymous and encrypted channels, with law enforcement bound to intercept any association with such activity.
Information Is Protection
If you insist on satisfying your curiosity, at least do extensive research on what to expect from visiting the Dark Web. There are forums discussing experiences regarding Dark sites, which give an idea of what goes on there without actually accessing them.
Google Chrome is not an option. Instead, the Tor Browser is the tool of choice for surfing the Dark waters. Brush up on encryption software as well, using it in combination with Tor to shield incoming connections from your computer. Tor also decrypts content from Dark sites you visit, but make sure that you always use the updated version.
There are multitudes of other security tools available should you wish to explore more of the Dark Web. Just make sure you are reasonably prepared and cautious of engaging with any person hiding behind anonymity, all the time.