You may have heard of a little something called the “dark web.” Hearing those two words can raise the hairs on the back of the neck of IT professionals, while for others it might be complete gibberish. Even still, others will get sinister, seedy associations with it. Such is the reputation of this realm of the internet. However, most people may not realize that the dark web has many legitimate and revolutionary uses as well. One thing is for certain that everybody can agree on, you must be cautious on the dark web. Before getting into exactly what the dark web is and how you might find a use for it, it is important to get into some background and statistics to appreciate just how strange a world the dark web is.
What do the Statistics Show Us?
The statistics tell us that the dark web makes up an estimated half of the entire internet. Think about a skyscraper sticking out and piercing the fog, with only its top part visible, like the top-most floors and the spire. This is what we call the surface web, which we all interact with daily. The deep and dark webs, which are two distinct but intertwined areas, make up the rest of that skyscraper below the clouds that remain invisible. The deep and dark webs intertwine in the same way that the world’s oceans are part of a single whole. It is difficult to determine the exact proportions of each, but we can safely deduce that the surface web (clear web) makes up just 10% of the entire internet.
What is certain is that the deep web and dark web differ in that the former mostly consists of background data hiding behind usernames and passwords that websites use, while the dark web (also called darknet) is a completely anonymous, user-created area known to be chock full of illegal and illicit material. So, let’s say that the deep web is like a giant warehouse with random material in it, some of it is unused while the rest makes up the components of the internet itself. The deep web contains all of the information saved in your accounts, which cannot be accessed with search engines like it can on the surface web. On the other hand, the dark web has a, well, dark purpose (most of the time) and is pretty much invisible.
It is estimated that 10% of the listings on the dark web are purely for illicit drugs like cocaine and meth, while a further 7% belong to illegal financing. Similarly, the sale of phishing malware and other malware like viruses and keyloggers, and trojans is abundant on the dark web. Another unrelated yet interesting statistic shows that dark web use is highest per capita in India. Perhaps this is not shocking due to the enormous population of India, and the amount of fraudulent IT practices located there.
The dark web is a place where credit card numbers go for less than $10, buying a pistol is as easy as pie with cryptocurrency, and hiring a hitman is no problem. Perhaps worst of all is that pornography involving children and torture content exists on there. Furthermore, there are over 50,000 confirmed terrorist groups on the dark web. That does sound like something from hell. At the end of the day, it can be safely estimated that the majority of the dark web is a very, very shady, and potentially lethal place.
How Could You Use the Dark Web?
Yes, you can and should use the dark web, if you want true privacy. Individuals, institutions, and organizations do use the dark web. The dark web has a good side, too. Surprised? Well, it is not all doom and gloom indeed, however, almost nobody is aware of this. You can certainly use the dark web to your benefit, and weaponize it for well-intentioned purposes. The positives start with the fact that today we are all in need of a safer, more private internet. The deep and dark webs are perfect for that, especially the dark web, because of the level of encryption involved. To prove that, you can’t even access the dark web with a regular browser or search through it with a regular search engine. This means your internet service provider cannot track you, nor can the government. In fact, it would take an insane amount of time and resources to narrow down a dark web user. Law enforcement has done so, however, with the use of sting operations over long periods.
The anonymous part of the internet can be safely used by; activists, journalists, for private conversations, for private financial transactions, for evading censorship, for private file sharing, and much more. Whenever you use a dark web browser, like Tor (The Onion Browser), you are protected like nothing else because your connection passes through dozens of relays and is garbled in the process. This is exactly why so many illegal websites (thousands of terabytes of them) are (unfortunately) still active. Even more, proof that the dark web works are that law enforcement is at odds on how to catch criminals and terrorist groups most of the time, which requires immense resources and planning. However, for high-profile criminals, there is no haven and that must be stressed.
Yes, the dark web is a formidable weapon, where one can truly hide. Especially when combined with network anonymization software like a VPN, proxy chains, VM machines, and more, it is quite possible to completely disappear in every sense of the word. The hope is that the dark web’s reputation becomes less dark, and more positive, as more and more people start to think about their privacy and security in the days to come. The dark web is slowly becoming a place of community and belonging, which aligns with the trend of the public moving away from the mainstream. For that reason, we could see a rebirth of the dark web soon into something positive and revolutionary.