The Dark Web: Should You Access It?

Since the Edward Snowden revelations about the NSA Surveillance Program , in 2013, many are concerned about their anonymity online. As a result, the Dark Web has become a major part of the mainstream. Even Bitcoin, a popular online crypto= currency, has been used in Dark Web.  Exactly what is the dark web, how to access it, and what are the pros/cons of accessing the Dark Web?

What is the Dark Web?

The Dark Web is a “collection of websites that are publicly visible, yet hide the IP addresses of the servers that run them. That means anyone can visit a Dark Web site, but it can be very difficult to figure out where they’re hosted—or by whom.”(Greenberg).  The Dark Web, which is legal, is not accessible or indexed by popular search engines such as Google or Mozilla Firefox.  The Dark Web is a part of the Deep Web, where you can access certain information, such as scientific reports, in various levels (see fig. 1).

dark

Fig. 1. Katzman, Darcy. Deep Web for Enterprisers-What you can learn about competitors and customers (and vice versa). 16 Sept. 2015. Deep Web Technologies. Digital Image. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Accessing the Dark Web: The Tor Browser

The Tor browser, known as the Onion Router, was initially “a worldwide network of servers developed with the U.S. Navy that enabled people to browse the internet anonymously. Now, it’s a non-profit organization whose main purpose is the research and development of online privacy tools.”(Thorsin). The Tor network “disguises your identity by moving your traffic across different Tor servers, and encrypting that traffic so it isn’t traced back to you. Anyone who tries would see traffic coming from random nodes on the Tor network, rather than your computer.”(Thorsin). In other words, you will be able to surf the Dark Web privately and anonymously.

 Pros and Cons of the Dark Web

The obvious advantage is that you will have anonymity and privacy-no advertisements. But there are drawbacks.  The Dark Web is a “censorship-free world visited by anonymous users…you will find whistle-blower sites, The New Yorker. You will find political activism blogs. You will find libraries of pirated books. But you’ll also find the drugs markets, illegal pornography, commercial hacking services, and much more besides.”(Bartlett).

Also, the U.S. government is increasingly expanding ways to access who is on and who isn’t on the Deep Web. The U.S. government is “increasing their capability to monitor the hidden network, mainly trying to infiltrating them with spying services… several U.S. cyber units totally dedicated to the monitoring of the Deep Web.” (Paganini). As a result, there is a small possibility that the government can monitor people who use the Dark Web in the future.

Conclusion

You must determine for yourself how important anonymity and privacy is to you in your life and then decide whether or not to surf the Dark Web knowing the risks and rewards involved. Regardless, the Dark Web is in the present and will be a relevant part of the future of the internet.

Sources

Bartlett, Jamie. “How the Mysterious Dark Net is Going Mainstream.” TED.Sept.2015. Lecture.

Greenberg, Andy. “Hacker Lexicon: What is the Dark Web? Wired. Wired., 19 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Klasowski, Thorsin.  “What is Tor and Should You Use It?”.Lifehacker.  Lifehacker., 21 Feb. 2014. Web. 13 Nov.2015.

Paganini, Pierluigi. “The Good and the Bad of the Deep Web.” Security Affairs. Security Affairs., 17 Sept. 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

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6 thoughts on “The Dark Web: Should You Access It?

  1. A fairly brief, but interesting, article that goes great with your piece on end-to-end encryption; as brought up by countless others, online privacy is a very serious (but also very complicated) matter of discussion and argumentation these days. While I won’t confirm or deny any involvement with “shadier” areas of the web, I’ll say that I’m quite aware that there’s so many sites and resources that go unnoticed by most people (though some aren’t hidden very well).

    I also appreciate your emphasis that anonymity and privacy hinge on how much we consider the risks involved: as you pointed out with the increasing range of the government’s monitoring of online activity, anonymous/private usage is getting harder and harder. It’s easy to assume that a lack of direct action from whoever’s watching us equates to a continuing sense of “security” in regards to what we do on the internet, which might lead to greater carelessness.

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  2. Like Matthew, I love how you talked about the wide scope of uses the dark web offers. There is political activism and people can avoid tracking by the government or private companies, but allowing anonymity comes at a price.There are real concerns with national security threats, theft, fraud, and more with the dark web. The question for me is: How do we decide how much is too much surveillance of our activities? In today’s world, how can we determine when enough is enough? It’s a tough question, and I think that finding our answer is going to be one of the big issues we face in the upcoming years.

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  3. Like everyone else, I find the Internet to be a blessing with a great big curse rent right down the middle of it. I sometimes feel resentful of a perceived foisting onto me the need to do everything I do in an increasingly gossipy and fake, monitored, manipulated, ad-infested Surface environment. I have often considered using the Dark Web because I feel gradually more unable to breathe around the obnoxious nonsense and encouragement/reward of those that practice information harvesting, vapidity, and deception–in-plain-sight on the Surface. (I feel much the same claustrophobia and disinterest, and for the same reasons, as I felt when I officially gave up on television and mainstream radio.)

    Yes, I have heard about the Dark Web’s Silk Road of human trafficking and drugs (for example) and that is unfortunate, but I look at it all with that old adage in mind: it’s six of one, ½ a dozen of another. In other words, I personally can’t see much of a difference from the Surface Web with its graphics and gore, untruths, abuse, and money-grubbing. Yet, also similar to the Surface, I know that there is a balance of sites and activities with “evil” intentions and sites that have “neutral” or “good” intentions.

    Even though I recoil from the more disturbing things that unfettered free speech encourages or protects, I am one that puts censorship very high on the no-no list. The Surface is entitled to those sentiments, too, but thank goodness I (we?) can walk away, live-and-let-live style. I like that the Dark Web feels the same about privacy and freedom as I do and I hope it will remain forever outside the mainstream.

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  4. I’ve never heard of the “Dark Web,” but now, my interest is definitely piqued, and I’m going to check it out once I figure out how to do that. It’s fascinating that one can find so much on the internet, and yet, some of us have only perused a very small portion of it.

    I’d love to see what types of books are there. The advocacy work looks interesting, too. I think it’s pretty funny that the Navy helped develop these servers, and I think it’s highly unlikely the G-Men haven’t figured out how to crack the anonymity of the servers and users, etc.

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  5. No, just hearing the words “dark web” scares me! From the picture of the ice berg, I see that I am only a part of the social media percent (90%). I have no interest going to find information from the dark web. From recent stories, I don’t want to be part of any of those negative distinctions and be spied on by NSA Survey Program. I’d only want to take those people down!

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  6. I typically use the internet for business, shopping, or general search through “google”. I’ve only seen the internet used in the way you have described in movies, etc. and always wondered if all that stuff was “real”- now, I know! It is.
    I’m still unsure of exactly how to access it though and if there are risks involved- like, do I risk the safety of my PC (viruses, etc.).
    Interesting article, and very informative. Though the internet definitely has its perks, it sure makes me wonder about its drawbacks- there’s so much wrong/danger/hurt that can be done with the machine when put into the wrong hands! And since so many people have access to it, some use it for good but there are always those who use it for bad and hurt everyone else, making the internet dangerous, unsafe, and unpredictable.

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