What Is The Dark Net? And How do You Reach It?

Published: Wednesday, November 26, 2014 - 15:00 | By: Miguel Leiva-Gomez

The dark net, also referred to as the "deep web", has been the fascination of both law enforcement and people whose curiosity get the better of them. Many speculations are made about it, including the postulation that it is thousands of times larger than what we know as the "clear net". So, what is the dark net exactly? How does one reach it? And what will you find there? All of these questions will be answered below for people who are curious of this new frontier.

Let's define the Dark Net first!

To understand the dark net (or deep web) you must first know its definition. In essence, anything that isn't indexed by search engines counts as the dark net. Since you can't search it through Google or Yahoo Search, you wouldn't know of the page's existence without either first entering another website or hearing about it from someone. This means that individual Facebook posts, some local newspapers, academic documents, reporter's networks, public records of state institutions, and pages that have been taken down from search results due to DMCA requests can also count as part of the dark net. Of course, this is probably not the part of the web you're curious about. darknet-iceberg   There's one more part of the dark net that has a very nasty reputation but isn't necessarily always a bad place. It's mainly composed of things called "hidden services".

What are hidden services?

  Hidden services are web addresses that cannot be accessed on the normal internet (the TCP/IP layer you're connecting through) without adding an extra layer. You do this by using a protocol known as onion routing. The addresses typically end with ".onion" as opposed to ".com" or ".net" and they're only accessible when your IP address is completely hidden from the public. The entire purpose of hidden services is to have as much anonymity as possible for both the website host and the person connecting to the website. Hidden services have a very nasty reputation, since many of them are sites where illegal things are bought and sold. Other services have very positive uses, such as allowing people in repressive regimes to bypass censorship on the internet. As with the rest of the internet, there's a good, a bad, and an ugly side to the deep web. The difference is that everything is much more amplified.

How are hidden services accessed?

You might want to know more than simply an explanation of how hidden services work. In the case that you want to actually access one of these sites, you might want to start by downloading and installing the Tor Browser, which gives you a modified version of Mozilla Firefox that comes pre-configured with all the essentials you need to browse safely. A good place to start on the web is to search TorSearch using this address: http://kbhpodhnfxl3clb4.onion/. Here are a few other addresses that might interest some of you:
  • Anti-corruption leak central: ymi7h25hgp3bj63v.onion
  • Government transparency activism: jeuhrnvdyr3xyqz3.onion
  • Investigative journalism: 5r4bjnjug3apqdii.onion
  • WikiLeaks: kpvz7ki2v5agwt35.onion
These addresses may change at any point to protect the identity of the website. For the most part, what I have shared with you isn't illegal to access in most countries, but some people living in harsh regimes may not be able to access them as a result of filters set up by their service providers. Just one more thing: I highly discourage you from visiting sites that promote or participate in illegal or immoral activities. Eventually, authorities will be able to correlate your IP address and name to the locations you've accessed and they will find you. This isn't a "do it at your own risk" statement. It's my way of saying "do not do it". The websites I've linked to are totally OK in most developed nations, and I encourage you to use Tor as a platform for promoting transparency and anti-corruption methods. This is, after all, what the protocol was intended for in the first place. If you want to talk more about the dark net, leave a comment below!

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With a reputation for writing suit-and-tie articles, Miguel Leiva-Gomez needed a place to relax and let loose. Aside from deciphering the workings behind the most complex business systems, he also takes time off throughout the day to play some vidya. Ever since the early 90s when he first got his Sega Genesis, Gomez has been pressing himself to win every game he played. It was this virtually lifelong fascination with games that made him become a gaming journalist. Outside of writing, Gomez also specializes in application development using C++, C, LUA, and Python. He's also a fan of the Oxford comma and wants you to deal with it.