You’ve heard about it, you know the scary stories from the urban legends to the YouTube clickbait. The problem is, there is a lot of bad information out there, a lot of misinformation. As I am writing this article, the very first result given on Google about the dark web is full of wrong information.
So the question is, what really is the dark web? It is a collection of websites that are not indexed by any mainstream search engines or accessible by a normal web browser. It is not to be confused with the “deep web” that is something a little different which I will explain in another post.
Usually when you hear talk of the dark web, most people are talking about TOR, as it is the most popular. There are other “dark nets” but the Tor Network is the most used. It is also known as the Onion Network and Tor Hidden Services. When you download the Tor browser bundle you will get a specially modified version of a Firefox browser. It is configured to direct all your traffic through the Tor network.
How Does Tor Work?
Imagine that you are doing a normal Google search on the clearnet. You type your search into Google, you get your result and click through to the web page. Your computer is essentially connected directly to the server hosting the web page you are looking at.
With Tor, you do the same thing BUT instead your computer is now routed through multiple relays but unlike a proxy, the information passed between your computer and the website you are interacting with is also encrypted. You can search the regular web with a Tor browser, but due to the fact that your are routed through so many relays all over the world, you can end up with some interesting results. For instance you can end up on a site you have visited before that is now in a completely different language because the site thinks you are coming from the country that language is spoken in!
What Makes Dark Web Sites Different?
Dark web addresses on the other hand have special domain extensions. You are used to the usual ones; .com / .net / .org…Tor Hidden Services on the other hand are appended with the “.onion” extension. They can only be accessed with the Tor browser and comprise the “dark web” that everyone talks about. You can find .onion addresses searching on Google with your normal browser but you wont be able to click them, for that you need the Tor browser.
Onion sites are fully contained within the Tor network as well. As I said before they cannot be accessed outside of the network giving the site owners and users almost complete anonymity.
So to recap, the dark web is a collection of special websites, with special domain extensions, that you need a special browser to access. I probably could have just said that to begin with but what kind of blog would this be if every article I wrote was only a sentence.