Tips & Advice

Diving into the darknet

Michal Salát, 27 April 2017

What is the deep web, what is the darknet, and what can be found on them?

The deep web is often confused with the darknet and while the two have similarities, they are not synonymous. There is a very fine line between the deep and dark web.

The difference between the deep web and the dark web, also called darknet

The deep web basically describes all pages, forums, and e-shops that are hidden and inaccessible for search engines, like Google or Bing. They do use the standard HTTP/HTTPS web protocol, so you can find them by using a common browser, like Chrome, Edge, or Firefox.

Like the deep web, the darknet includes all pages, forums, and e-shops that are hidden and are also inaccessible for search engines. Unlike the deep web, you need a specific kind of software, like the Tor browser, to access the darknet.

Both the deep web and the darknet are often abused for illegal activities, for example to distribute illegal goods and services. You can buy drugs, weapons, and malware on the deep web and darknet, and unfortunately, also killer services. The darknet, however, provides more anonymity than the deep web, which is probably why it is more popular among cybercriminals. The darknet is covered by the Tor network with many nodes and encryption, but leaked information indicates that U.S. intelligence agency NSA might have methods to even track Tor users.

Exploring on the darknet

The first impression you get when you visit the darknet for the first time is that it is harder to navigate than the web we are all used to, because it is not indexed, and the addresses are much harder to remember.

On the darknet, you cannot simply type in an address like “google.com“. Instead, you have to remember and type in a much longer and complicated URL to access the site you want to visit. For example, if you want to visit the darknet's "Hidden Wiki" you have to manually type “kpvz7ki2v5agwt35.onion“ to visit the page. If you remember the early days of internet, before pages were indexed, the experience is similar.

You can find several search engines on the darknet that will give you more or less relevant results to what you were looking for, but the results are nothing like what you would get if you search something on Google or Bing. The “HiddenWiki“ service, is helpful in that it categorizes some of the services that are available.

Legal or illegal?

Although you can find many illegal things on the darknet, like guns, porn, pirated software, and drugs, not everything on the darknet is illegal. The idea behind the darknet was to provide access to information while ensuring privacy and to circumvent censorship. You can find legal content, such as art, books, photos, and videos, that are censored or banned for certain people due to government regulations and restrictions. The darknet also provides secure communication for dissidents, whistleblowers and investigative journalists.

When exploring the darknet, it is important to keep in mind that the darknet is a wild place without any regulations. There is no guarantee that what you buy or download is safe or will actually be delivered. The number of scams and fakes is very high. You can also very easily download content or buy goods which could be forbidden in your country and break the law. Malware also lurks around on the darknet, just as it does on the regular internet we all use, but antivirus can protect you from it.

The darknet can be compared to a bad neighborhood in real life, where criminals tend to hang out. There may be good people in the bad neighborhood, but there is a higher chance of you getting involved in dangerous activities when exploring the darknet, so if you decide to dive in, please, be careful.