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18 November 2021
Hyperoptic Team

What is the dark web?

We’re sure you’ve heard the term “the dark web” flying around, whether it’s your friends talking about it over WhatsApp, or you’ve seen a recent news article discussing it. But you may well have heard about it without knowing what it is, or what it entails.

So, read on to find out more, as we’ll be answering your questions on “what is the dark web?”, “is the dark web illegal?” and “how big is the dark web?” to help you understand it in full. You’ll be amazed by how different this platform is to the browser you use each day…

So, what is the dark web?

The dark web belongs to a portion of the internet that is hard to access unless you have the specialised software and authorisation required. It’s a subsection of the deep web, and shares similarities to this platform. The dark web presents search engines that don’t index information, which is the appeal for many cybercriminals intending to perform a phishing attack or even for cyberbullies.

It originates from the mid-1990s, when the U.S. government asked military researchers to create a platform that let spies exchange information anonymously. As a result, they created Tor (The Onion Router), which was then released to the public for everyone across the globe to access.

How does the dark web work?

As mentioned earlier, people access the dark web using Tor. This technology makes your IP address completely untraceable by directing your web page requests and using several proxy servers to do so.

It’s actually operated by thousands of volunteers across the world and, because of the sinister nature of this platform, it’s very unpredictable and has very slow load times, which renders many issues.

What does a dark web browser entail?

The different layers of encryption that a dark web browser uses means that once you’ve got access, it’s quite hard to navigate your way around it. Although, it’s designed to be a secretive platform, so this is clearly done on purpose by those who have set it up, to steer others away from using it.

It’s important to note that the dark web doesn’t apply to an individual website or page. It’s a type of network instead – called a darknet. However, if you are wondering how to access the dark web safely, you could set up a darknet with your closest friends, to enjoy a secure and private network. It’s only when the wrong people get access to this platform that trouble ensues.

What is the dark web used for?

Many people will be regularly accessing the dark web to sell prohibited items, goods and services that would usually be flagged and banned on the internet. Scammers often use this platform to purchase credit and debit card numbers, and even subscription service details like your Amazon or Netflix logins.

People’s incentives for using this platform are often dangerous and illegal. In fact, it is here where people can hire hackers to damage your computer with malware and other malicious practices.

The key point about those who use the dark web is that they want to browse or post online with as much anonymity as possible. Basically, users want to be online without leaving a coded trail behind them.

Is the dark web illegal?

You might be surprised to hear that accessing the dark web isn’t illegal and accessing a dark web browser like Tor is not unlawful. Essentially, it’s just another way to access the internet – but with anonymity.

However, many people using this platform are carrying out illegal activity. They could use it to share illicit content, such as illegal pornography, terrorist propaganda or to sell illegal products like drugs, or harmful weapons.

How to access the dark web safely

There may be a lot of negative associations with the dark web, but it can be used safely to join an online gaming realm, like a chess club or even a private social media network. It’s easy when you know how. But if you do use it, keep the dangers of this platform in mind to surf the dark web as safely as possible.

What steps do I take to use a dark web browser safely?

First, we’d recommend using a safe and trustworthy VPN provider, which is crucial when you’re using a platform like Tor to browse online.

For safe dark web monitoring, simply:

  1. Subscribe to a trustworthy VPN
  2. Download the accompanying app across the devices you intend to access the dark web from
  3. Once you’ve done this, choose a VPN server in the country you’re in and, more importantly, one that doesn’t block the Tor browser
  4. Open the Tor browser on your device and begin using the dark web as safely as you can

Then, follow these simple steps to browse the dark web as safely as possible:

  1. Download the Tor browser from their official website; don’t use a fake alternative from a Google search, go direct
  2. Turn on your secure VPN for added security and open the installed Tor browser
  3. Ensure that the Tor browser doesn’t permit any scripts to run
  4. Change the browser’s security level by clicking the “most secure” option
  5. Visit the dark web website(s) you’re interested in visiting and browse with caution

One thing to note is that you’ll never be 100% safe on the dark web; getting access to a secure VPN will definitely help, but it won’t guarantee your safety.

Use this knowledge as power…

As safe as the internet can be, it’s important to learn about the dangerous practices on the dark web. Because understanding more about this situation means you’re more aware of it and less prone to cyber-attacks.

For more insightful articles like this one, head to our blog and read up on everything from the security of password managers to the top tips for spotting and reporting scam emails. And if you’re not already a customer of ours, swap over to a hyperfast broadband provider that always puts your safety first.

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