The Dark Web
In the recent past, a game called ‘Blue Whale’ became the major topic of discussion as well as matter of concern for all of us. In connection with the game, another term called ‘Dark Web’ was also heard for the first time by many among us, and the IT security professionals went hoarse saying that the conspirators behind this life-threatening game were using ‘Dark Web’ to hide their identity.
But what is this ‘Dark Web’ all about? Is it the extended version of the Internet we use on a daily basis, or something else?
The ‘Dark Web’, also termed as ‘Dark Net’, can be referred to as encrypted online resources that are not indexed on traditional search engines, a subset of deep web part which is a vast collection of web content that doesn’t appear through regular net browsing. A specialised browser (e.g. Tor), is required to access the resources of the Dark Web. This part of the web contains anonymous message boards, online markets for drugs, exchanges for stolen financial and private data, and much more. Bitcoins are often used in this domain for transaction purpose and physical goods are transported in a way that both the buyer and seller’s identity are hidden from law enforcement agencies.
The internet we use is comprised of servers, computers, and other device that is connected together in a network of networks throughout the world. It can be divided into two parts namely the ‘Surface Web’ and the ‘Deep Web’. The ‘Surface Web’ is what the common people think of as ‘the Internet’. It is a collection of websites indexed by search engines that can be easily accessed through normal web browsers and internet protocols. This may seem like a vast quantity of information, but the ‘Surface Web’ is just the small portion of the whole Internet.
The ‘Dark Web’ or ‘Dark Net’ is very often confused with the ‘Deep Web’, but there is difference. The ‘Dark Web’ is a specific portion of the ‘Deep Web’ and there are a few specific attributes that a site must meet to be considered a Dark website. The site must only be able to be accessed anonymously through a specialized browser such as Tor, and cannot be accessed through the Surface Web. The site must also require a user to input its unique Tor address. Some Dark Web sites have an additional layer of security and may also require users to input a password. In most of the cases, Deep Web is not considered part of the Dark Web is because it can be accessed through Surface Web applications.
But how does Dark Web operate? It is already mentioned that specialized browser like TOR is required to access Dark Web. One of the major objectives of using TOR service is that it allows users to access ‘.onion’ pages, which are purposefully encrypted for maximum privacy. TOR also allows web users connect to normal websites anonymously so that their ISPs cannot tell what they’re browsing. Similarly, the websites will not be able to track the location of the users accessing their pages.
On the TOR browser, the connection requests are re-routed number of times before reaching their destination. For example, if an user in Brussels is trying to connect to a website in Copenhagen, that request on a TOR browser could be routed from Brussels to Moscow to Kuala Lumpur to Mumbai to, finally, Copenhagen. So, in a nutshell we can say that ‘Dark Web’ is an area in the Internet where users’ activities remain ‘dark’ from the outside world.
After going through this article so far, you may think that ‘Dark Web’ is the virtual territory for cyber attackers/criminals. But that is not the case! ‘Dark Web’ is also vastly used by individuals and/or organizations that are in favor of online privacy and secrecy. It provides a ‘space’ for ‘freedom of expression’ for journalists, social activists, change-seekers, freedom fighters and open-minded bloggers.
With the rapid penetration of internet usage, a large number of web users are trying to gain access to ‘Dark Web’ every day. Some users are searching something particular that simply can’t be accessed on the surface web; others are doing so for curiosity. The ‘Dark Web’ is gaining popularity day by day due to its secretive characteristics. It is human nature to be captivated by that which we don’t have easy access.
Like many other things in this world, Dark Web also has positive side as well as negative side. We would take the advantage of positive side as well as learn from the negative side to counter threats in more effective way. At the end, it can be concluded that the cyber world should give its users an environment which is free, unbiased and secure.
Mr. Debmalya Banerjee
Liked this article? Read more about the other side of Internet in our blog post – Significance of Net Neutrality