Caught in the Dark Web

It’s not a spy movie’s plot, dark web is very much real and very much valid. At a time when hacking and leaking of information is becoming a norm, anonymity is a luxury, which dark web provides on a large scale, a peek into what it entails.

You likely spend plenty of time on the web, scanning the headlines, reading celebrity gossip, checking your bank accounts, and poring over Twitter and Facebook to keep track of your friends’ latest vacations. But did you know there is a whole other world on the web that is mostly hidden from view? There is, and it’s known as the dark web.The dark web gets plenty of headlines. That’s because this part of the web is made up of hidden sites that you can’t find through a conventional search engine. Dark web sites use encryption software to provide anonymity for their users and to hide their locations. It’s why the dark web is home to so much illegal activity. If you tap into the dark web, you’ll find everything from illegal drug and gun sales to pornography and online gambling.

You might confuse the dark web with the deep web. The deep web is also hidden, in a way. But it’s home to benign sites — people’s password-protected email accounts, the intranets run by businesses, the online bank account pages of consumers, government databases, and private sites that require users to type in a log-in name and password.

The deep web, then, is largely innocuous, while the dark web is a small subset of the deep web that has become a haven for illegal activity. But there are legitimate reasons to visit this potentially dangerous region of the web.

For instance, dissidents who fear political prosecution from their governments might use the hidden dark web to communicate with each other. You might visit the dark web to get medical advice that you’d be embarrassed to have exposed. Sometimes journalists use the dark web so they or their sources can remain anonymous.

Want to learn more about this hidden world of the internet? Here’s a guide that will help. Be careful, though: The dark web can be dangerous. And if you want to explore it for illegal activities, you could face prosecution and jail time.

Black Markets and Hidden Services

The dark web might be most notable for providing black markets that visitors can use to buy illicit drugs. Silk Road is a good example. This site was famed for the drugs visitors could find on it. The FBI shut down Silk Road in 2013. A new version of the site came online later that year but was also shut down. The founder of the site, Ross Ulbricht, who went under the false name Dread Pirate Roberts, was arrested in late 2014 and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. AlphaBay was another popular online marketplace filled with illegal products. It was shut down in 2017.

Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

The dark web wouldn’t be nearly as successful if it wasn’t for Bitcoin and other forms of cryptocurrency. Why? This type of virtual currency allows people to make sales or purchase items without knowing each other’s identity. This anonymity makes cryptocurrencies ideal for the dark web.

You might think that it’s safe to buy items from the dark web as long as you’re using a form of online currency that keeps you anonymous. But this isn’t necessarily the case. Remember, the anonymity of the dark web is attractive to scammers and criminals. There’s no guarantee that these thieves won’t scam you, even if you are using a virtual currency. Maybe the items you pay for won’t arrive. Or maybe the scammers will send you something you didn’t order. Many of the sites on the dark web don’t come with much protection.

Other criminal activities

The dark web is known for other criminal activities, most notably pornography — including child pornography — and illegal firearm sales. There are also rumors that you can hire a hitman through the dark web. Our advice? If you do go on the dark web, be mindful about what you click on or who you interact with, so you do not inadvertently view or access questionable or illegal content.

Is it illegal to access the Dark Web?

Surfing the dark web isn’t illegal. Buying illegal drugs or firearms from a site on the dark web or downloading child pornography? That is illegal.

For instance, in the summer of 2018, for example, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Secret Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service teamed up to arrest more than 35 dark web vendors of drugs, weapons, and other illegal products. The agencies also seized $23.6 million in illegal guns, drugs, gold, and Bitcoin.