Like most people, you’re probably curious about the dark web. Perhaps you’re even considering diving into its hidden waters for the first time. If so, you’ll need an idea of some of the risks you may encounter.
Let us say first, not everything on the dark web is bad or illegal. Imagine you’re living in a very oppressive state that sanctions what you can and can’t say. The dark web can serve as a way for people to connect and express themselves and their opinions freely. And plenty of clear websites are making a dark shift. ProPublica, for example, has a .onion address as does Wikipedia. That said, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops.
Here we go over why you need to exercise caution on the dark web and ways to stay safe, but first, how does the dark web differ from the clear web?
The difference between the clear and dark web
The clear or surface web is the web we all know and love. If you’re reading this article on a standard web browser — Firefox, Chrome, Edge (just kidding, no one uses Edge) — you’re using the clear web. It is also known as the surface web. The sites and pages that comprise the clear web are indexed by search engines and are publicly available.
Dark web pages are also publicly available, once you’re connected to the right network. Unlike clear web pages and sites, you need a special browser to find and access dark web content. Most dark web users use the Tor aka Onion browser.
The deep web, the other hidden internet
You may have also heard the term “deep web.” This third version of the web-sphere is neither dark nor clear, it’s a collection of sites and pages that have an administrative task. You can think of it as akin to the inner workings of your refrigerator or television. All the stuff that goes on behind the scenes to keep other stuff running is the deep web. According to experts, the deep web comprises 92 to 96 percent of the web as a whole.
The dangers of connecting to the dark web
Despite the number of useful and positive sites on the dark web, the place can still be dangerous. Here’s are two risks you need to watch out for:
Malicious software is now an industry in its own right. When you think about software as a service (SaaS), you probably think about VPNs or antiviruses. But malware is licensed and sold in a similar fashion, and you can probably guess where all the trading and exchanging of bitcoin happens — on the dark web.
The place is rife with all sorts of digital nasties, so make sure that your device is properly equipped with security software before you connect to Tor. Don’t trust anyone, and do not let any personal details slip.
Malware is one thing, but inadvertently landing on a website that contains child pornography or snuff is quite another. Unfortunately, the dark web is home to plenty of illegal, disturbing, and questionable content.
You should know that while the dark web isn’t illegal per se, engaging with sites that offer illegal services or content is illegal. Rules vary based on your home nation, check before you connect.
Additionally, the Tor network doesn’t come with a privacy guarantee, and you may still be de-anonymized. To mitigate the risk here, a VPN is absolutely essential. Turn your VPN on before you connect to Tor. By the very definition of VPNs, you know it can keep you secure, just make sure you use a high-quality paid subscription.
As more and more people make the shift to anonymized browsing, the dark web will lose a lot of its scary reputation. By all means, take a dark dive, just follow the advice above to keep yourself, your device, and your data secure.