What is the Dark Web?

Most of us have heard of it, but other than being a bit afraid, we don’t really know. What is the dark web?

What is the web in general?

First, we need to understand what the Internet is. The Internet is thousands of interconnected networks or computers. Networks are run by service providers, companies, governments, schools and individuals. The computers connected through these networks can access information made available. The network itself if distributed meaning there are multiple paths to the same information, so if one network goes down, most of the information will be accessible through other paths.

Before the web, the information on the Internet was accessible using protocols like FTP (file transfer protocol). The user needed the exact location of the information.

In the early 1990’s, three related technologies were developed. Together they allowed people to access documents more easily and in a linked fashion. HTML is a markup language for for document display. URL specifies the documents’ location. HTTP specifies the protocol for linking between these documents. HTTP has been updated to the more secure HTTPS.

With those three specifications in place, and web browsers which could understand those protocols and display the documents correctly, people could begin to access documents on other’s computers and link between them. Hence the name World Wide Web. This presentation from Tim Berners-Lee at the World Wide Web 10th Anniversary conference gives an overview of the timeline.

Fast forward to today, and what we have is a system of billions of interconnected computers which allow the exchange of all kinds of information. These interconnected computers belong to governments, companies, schools, and individuals. Access to these computers is free for many people.

The Web has usurped nearly all of the other file sharing protocols, and offers uploading and downloading of files, linking articles to each other, and display of all kinds of files, pictures and videos.

What is the deep web?

A portion of the content on the web is not accessible by modern search engines. This is the Deep Web. One example which helps to make this clear, is email. Email is stored on computers connected to the Internet. An individual accesses their own email using a web browser, in a web page format. But no one would expect to be able to do a search for someone else’s emails.

What is the dark web specifically?

A section of the deep web is accessible to people using a specialized browser, and following some different naming and display conventions. The network conventions were called the Tor network. This was intended to provide privacy to the people using it. The browser is called the Tor browser. The URL is replaced by a string of characters that ends in .onion. An example of a page address on the dark web might be http://paavlaytlfstywyv5qyvkg3yqj7hflfg2jdg2fgkza5ruplw4b4vtseeqtvyd .onion/ . Accessing dark web pages involves end to end encryption and rerouting through multiple servers to ensure privacy.

Here is an article about the kind of web sites found on the dark web. While most of the content on the dark web is either illegal or considered nefarious, not all of the sites are of this type. In countries where the web is controlled, the dark web may be the only access to the rest of the world.

We recommend that our clients DO NOT go on the dark web to look around. If you feel that you need to do that, please make sure that you understand the security risks and have covered yourself in that regard. Just curious? There are other articles that explain a bit more about what you might find.

If you would like help with this process, just call or email and we’ll be happy to assist you! Specific questions, or our terminology isn’t clear, please use our contact form to send us a message. Thank you!

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