Tech Advisor - - FEATURE -

Matt Egan re­veals ev­ery­thing you need to know about the hid­den in­ter­net Al­most all sites on the Dark Web hide their iden­tity us­ing the Tor en­cryp­tion tool, which can be used to hide your iden­tity and spoof your lo­ca­tion

The UK gov­ern­ment has launched a ded­i­cated cy­ber­crime unit to tackle the Dark Web, but what is it? Here we ex­plore the in­ter­net’s hid­den re­cesses.

What is the Dark Web?

The Dark Web is a term that refers to a col­lec­tion of web­sites that are pub­licly vis­i­ble, but hide the IP ad­dresses of the servers that run them. Thus they can be vis­ited by any web user, but it is very dif­fi­cult to work out who is be­hind the sites. And you can­not find th­ese sites us­ing search en­gines.

Al­most all sites on the Dark Web hide their iden­tity us­ing the Tor en­cryp­tion tool, which can be used to hide your iden­tity and spoof your lo­ca­tion. When a web­site is run through Tor it has much the same ef­fect.

In­deed, it mul­ti­plies the ef­fect. To visit a site on the Dark Web that is us­ing Tor en­cryp­tion, the web user needs to be us­ing Tor. Just as the end user’s IP is bounced through sev­eral lay­ers of en­cryp­tion to ap­pear to be at an­other IP ad­dress on the Tor net­work, so is that of the web­site. So there are sev­eral lay­ers of mag­ni­tude more se­crecy than the al­ready se­cret act of us­ing Tor to visit a web­site on the open in­ter­net – for both par­ties.

Not all Dark Web sites use Tor. Some use sim­i­lar ser­vices such as I2P – in­deed, the all new Silk Road Reloaded uses this ser­vice. But the prin­ci­ple re­mains the same. The vis­i­tor has to use the same en­cryp­tion tool as the site and know where to find the site, in or­der to type in the URL and visit.

In­fa­mous ex­am­ples of Dark Web sites in­clude the Silk Road and its off­spring. The Silk Road was (and maybe still is) a web­site for the buy­ing and sell­ing of recre­ational drugs. But there are le­git­i­mate uses for the Dark Web. Peo­ple op­er­at­ing within closed, to­tal­i­tar­ian so­ci­eties can use the it to com­mu­ni­cate with the out­side world. And given re­cent rev­e­la­tions about USand UK gov­ern­ment snoop­ing on web use, you may feel it is sen­si­ble to take your com­mu­ni­ca­tion on to the Dark Web.

Dark Web or Deep Web

Al­though all of th­ese terms tend to be used in­ter­change­ably, they don’t re­fer to ex­actly the same thing. An el­e­ment of nu­ance is re­quired. The ‘Deep Web’ refers to all web pages that search en­gines can­not find. Thus the ‘Deep Web’ in­cludes the ‘Dark Web’, but also in­cludes all user data­bases, web­mail pages, reg­is­tra­tion-re­quired web fo­rums, and pages be­hind pay walls. There are huge num­bers of such pages, and most ex­ist for mun­dane rea­sons.

We at PC Ad­vi­sor, for ex­am­ple, have a stag­ing version of our web­site that is blocked from be­ing in­dexed by search en­gines, so we can check sto­ries be­fore we set them live. Thus for ev­ery page pub­licly avail­able on this web­site (and there are lit­er­ally mil­lions), there is an­other on the Deep Web. The con­tent man­age­ment sys­tem into which this ar­ti­cle is be­ing typed is on the Deep Web. So that is an­other page for ev­ery page that is on the live site. Mean­while our work in­tranet is hid­den from search en­gines, and re­quires

a pass­word. It has been live for nearly 20 years, so there are plenty of pages there.

Use an on­line bank ac­count? The pass­word-pro­tected bits are on the Deep Web. And when you con­sider how many pages just one Gmail ac­count will cre­ate, you understand the sheer size of the Deep Web.

This scale is why news­pa­pers and main­stream news out­lets reg­u­larly trot out scare sto­ries about ‘90 per­cent of the in­ter­net’ con­sist­ing of the Dark Web. They are con­fus­ing the gen­er­ally dodgy Dark Web with the much big­ger and gen­er­ally more be­nign Deep Web. Mix­ing up the act of de­lib­er­ately hid­ing things, with that of keep­ing pages away from search en­gines for rea­sons of se­cu­rity or user ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Dark In­ter­net

Con­fus­ingly, ‘Dark In­ter­net’ is also a term that’s some­times used to de­scribe fur­ther ex­am­ples of net­works, data­bases or even web­sites that can­not be reached over the in­ter­net. In this case, ei­ther for tech­ni­cal rea­sons, or be­cause the prop­er­ties con­tain niche in­for­ma­tion that few peo­ple will want, or in some cases be­cause the data is pri­vate.

A ba­sic rule of thumb is that the phrases ‘Dark Web’ or ‘Deep Web’ are typ­i­cally used by tabloid news­pa­pers to re­fer to dan­ger­ous se­cret on­line worlds, the ‘Dark In­ter­net’ is a bor­ing place where sci­en­tists store raw data for re­search. The Deep Web is a catch-all term for all web pages that are not in­dexed for search, the oth­ers re­fer to spe­cific things.

How to ac­cess the Dark Web

Tech­ni­cally, this is not a dif­fi­cult process. You sim­ply need to in­stall and use Tor. Go to tor­pro­ject.org and down­load the Tor Browser Bun­dle, which con­tains all the re­quired tools. Run the down­loaded file, choose an ex­trac­tion lo­ca­tion, then open the folder and click Start Tor Browser. That’s it. The Vi­dalia Con­trol Panel will au­to­mat­i­cally han­dle the ran­domised net­work setup and, when Tor is ready, the browser will open; just close it again to dis­con­nect from the net­work.

De­pend­ing on what you in­tend to do on the Dark Web, some users rec­om­mend plac­ing tape over your lap­top’s we­b­cam to pre­vent pry­ing eyes watch­ing you. A tin­foil hat is also an op­tion.

The dif­fi­cult thing is know­ing where to look. There, reader, we leave you to your own de­vices and wish you good luck and safe surf­ing. And a warn­ing be­fore you go any fur­ther. Once you get into the Dark Web, you will be able to ac­cess those sites to which the tabloids re­fer. This means that you could be a click away from sites sell­ing drugs and guns, and – frankly – even worse things.

Ag­gre­ga­tion sites such as Red­dit of­fer lists of links, as do sev­eral Wikis, in­clud­ing the­hid­den­wiki.org – a list that of­fers ac­cess to some very bad places. Have a quick look by all means, but please don’t take our link­ing to it as an en­dorse­ment.

And do heed our warn­ing: this ar­ti­cle is in­tended as a guide to what is the Dark Web – not an en­dorse­ment or en­cour­age­ment for you to start be­hav­ing in il­le­gal or im­moral be­hav­iour.

The phrases ‘Dark Web’ or ‘Deep Web’ are used by tabloid news­pa­pers to re­fer to dan­ger­ous se­cret on­line worlds, the ‘Dark In­ter­net’ is where sci­en­tists store raw data for re­search

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.