For a few years now, people have written about or talked about the ‘dark web’ in hushed tones. It has become something of a modern horror story, its very name painting an image of wild frontier of crime, corruption and nefarious activity.
Whilst all of the above may be true, we cannot escape the fact that it is only by exposing and opening up a dialogue about this covert network that the issues that surround it can be addressed.
In this short article, we will attempt to shine a light on the dark web to understand how and why it works the way it does, and how it will transform in the future.
The term ‘darknet’ has been around for as long as the internet, in its earliest form, has been in existence. Back in the 1970s, it referred to networks that were not part of the ARPNET.
It was developed originally by the US military as a secure, anonymous network where military, government and law enforcement could share information without the prying eyes of early IT professionals.
“Government and military organizations are still among the main users of the Dark Web,” says Andrew Wilkinson, a regular contributor to Draftbeyond and Writinity. “The anonymity it provides allows personnel to encrypt their location, the information they provide and other factors that may pose a security risk.”
It has also become an important resource for journalists and political bloggers, not only to receive sensitive information but also to work under oppressive censorship regimes without compromising their position.
Unlike the Deep Web, with which it is often confused, the dark web is browsable through the TOR network browser. This browser can be used for both anonymous surface web browsing or to trawl sites on the dark web.
It stands for The Onion Router, the analogy being that using its browser is utilizing layers, like those of an onion, to provide anonymity.
“This anonymity makes it very useful for those who feel like their freedom of speech, and in turn freedom of information, has somehow been restrained,” writes John Cawston, an author at Researchpapersuk and LastMinuteWriting. ”It means that the dark web is a hotbed of political discourse of all kinds. This can lead to some conflict within the dark web itself, as subversive radical ideologies find an opportunity to clash with one another without the interference of government.”
Crime and Corruption
Though of course there is a more tame side to the dark web, where people can exchange cooking recipes, ebooks, and humanitarian causes, there is also the widely published capacity for criminal activity.
In some areas, this can seem like inane conversation – remember that China has stringent censorship laws – but in other areas, it can be downright scary.
Many sites are by invitation only, and you need only consult the limits of your imagination to consider why. There are places to review drugs, exchange child pornography or buy weaponry.
This means that in browsing the dark web, you should be very careful in what you search for. We take it for granted, for instance, that looking for news on terrorist attacks on the surface web will yield actual news sources, rather than the website of the terrorists themselves.
Future of the Dark Web
However, though you should always exercise the utmost of caution in accessing the dark web, you should know that there are some less nefarious retailers who have taken advantage of the dark web.
Blockchain technology owes its rise in some part to the dark web, and cryptocurrency is wholly accepted as an alternative to national currency. There now also some projects which seek to utilize the technology behind the dark web to build their own private networks.