Many people have already found the internet to be a hotbed of not-so-legal activity. It is very easy and commonplace to watch, download and share movies or games within hours of their release, procure entire discographies in minutes and facilitate in committing fraud. Despite this, there are numerous vices that people satisfy by connecting themselves to the “dark web”, a sublevel of the internet that is not directly maintained or monitored by any official source. By connecting via proxies (required for connection and maintaining anonymity), users can get unrestricted access to a multitude of services and information/media hubs that would not last for a day online. This, of course, results in a hotbed of illegal activity, the prime allure of the dark web for many who hear of it.
First off, do not run to your computer expecting to access it through and firing off random Google searches. In order to gain access to this well-hidden hub of online activity, you will have to access it through a special network utilizing a proprietary browser built for surfing the dark web. The most common and popular method is through using Tor, a network hosted with nodes that mask the online activity of its users. There primary reason for maintaining this anonymity less than savory, but necessary. Though the dark web itself is in a gray area regarding the legality of its existence, the activities its users typically engage in are very much illegal.
Despite the vast range of uses and applications the dark web has for it’s users (both prospective and current), it is the go to source for viewing media that is not typically available on the World Wide Web (we’ll leave it to you to imagine what that is) and to acquire items that cannot be purchased on the WWW or in retail outlets, such as firearms and substances. The US government is very aware of this and will not hesitate to monitor and/or eventually apprehend anyone cause using the dark web for this purpose. Many sites even have users go through several warnings to not visit their pages and do so at their own risk entirely.
Another common trope of the dark web are .onion domains. Onion domains are the result of Onion networking, which is low-latency communications methods created as a defense against entities that monitor web traffic or do any type of online surveillance, much to the chagrin of the NSA or any other government entity that wants to see what’s going on in the secret club known as the dark web. While it is not the most fool-proof solution to keeping your activity a secret (simply accessing the dark web can open you up to surveillance), it does mask who is talking to whom. Similar to software use by torrent users to mask their downloading and uploading.
To get an idea of the risks involved with accessing the dark web (even more so when using it to provide a service), take a look at the FBI’s bust of the Silk Road. The Silk Road was the dark webs most active and sought after hub for acquiring illegal drugs and was rather successful at providing wares to customers in the short time they were active (nearly 3 years). The hubs boss, Ross William Ulbricht was eventually tracked down, apprehended for his involvement in the hob and sentenced to life in prison without parole for providing the platform for buyers and sellers to do commerce. Though simply accessing the dark net will not open you to the same legal recourse, it is a big hint that you can never tell when you are being watched by Big Brother.
Surf with caution, especially here.