BY: VAIBHAVI MENON
The dark web is the hidden collective of internet sites only accessible by a specialized web browser. It is used for keeping internet activity anonymous and private, which can be helpful in both legal and illegal applications. While some use it to evade government censorship, it has also been known to be utilized for highly illegal activity. The dark web refers to sites that are not indexed and only accessible via specialized web browsers. Significantly smaller than the tiny surface web, the dark web is considered a part of the deep web. Using our ocean and iceberg visual, the dark web would be the bottom tip of the submerged iceberg. The dark web, however, is a very concealed portion of the deep web that few will ever interact with or even see. In other words, the deep web covers everything under the surface that’s still accessible with the right software, including the dark web. It is not illegal to access the dark web. In fact, some uses are perfectly legal and support the value of the “dark web.” On the dark web, users can seek out three clear benefits from its use. User anonymity, Virtually untraceable services and site, Ability to take illegal actions for both users and providers As such, the dark web has attracted many parties who would otherwise be endangered by revealing their identities online. Abuse and persecution victims, whistleblowers, and political dissidents have been frequent users of these hidden sites. But of course, these benefits can be easily extended to those that want to act outside of the constraints of laws in other explicitly illegal ways.
When viewed through this lens, the dark web’s legality is based on how you as a user engage with it. You might fall to the wayside of legal lines for many reasons that are important for the protection of freedom. Others may act in ways that are illegal for the protection and safety of others. On the network end, the dark web is a bit more of a grey area. The use of the dark web usually means that you are attempting to engage in activity that you could not otherwise carry out in the public eye. For government critics and other outspoken advocates, they may fear backlash if their real identities were discovered. For those who have endured harm at the hands of others, they may not want their attackers to discover their conversations about the event. If an activity is deemed illegal by the governing bodies you fall under, then it would be illegal. That said, anonymity comes with a dark side since criminals and malicious hackers also prefer to operate in the shadows. For example, cyberattacks and trafficking are activities that the participants know will be incriminating. They take these actions to the dark web to hide for this reason. The Tor network makes it easier to hide your identity and allows people to anonymously create and host onion services. As a result, criminals often use the dark web to buy and sell illicit goods and services. Darknet marketplaces can be surprisingly similar to sites you find on the surface web—complete with limited-time sales, customer reviews and advertisements for organic products. However, criminals use these marketplaces to sell illegal products and services, including drugs, weapons and hacking software. Many identity thieves and hacking groups make money selling the information they steal on the dark web. The value of the information can vary greatly depending on what’s being sold.
While there’s no way to ensure all your information stays private, putting protective measures in place can help. Knowing if and when your information is compromised can also help you respond quickly—before too much damage is done.