Terrorism, pornography, drug selling, blackmailing – the Dark Web is a hub and marketplace of all dark activities. The former British Prime Minister David Cameron introduced an intelligence agency in the country especially to monitor dark web activities. He declared that the dark web is a place for predators and pedophiles, and doesn’t involve the part of the internet we generally use.
However, David Cameron wasn’t the only one to opinionate about the dark web. Mark Stockley, an independent web consultant, stated that the dark web “attracts people who want to engage in things like robbery, sex trafficking, arms trafficking, terrorism and distributing child pornography”.
Many other writers and analysts mentioned the dark web in their pieces. David J. Hickton called the dark web “Wild West of the Internet”. Others confirmed that drugs, contract killers, child pornography, guns, fake passports, IDs, hackers for hire, and much more are readily available on the Dark Web.
Furthermore, IBM’s Managed Security Services Threat Research confirmed that the dark web is not your friendly neighborhood but a place where “anything else a criminal entrepreneur might need or want to sell”.
All this information was confirmed on Ross Ulbright’s arrest in 2013, who was the founder of a dark website, Silk Road. Silk Road got exposed as a website that one couldn’t find on ordinary web browsers like Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Safari. While it mainly consisted of dealing with drugs, it led to the success of other dark websites like Black Market Reloaded.
Understanding the Dark Web
As mentioned above, Dark Web is a place users desiring to involve themselves in illegal activities visit. The most attractive thing about this web is that it is completely encrypted, thereby letting users remain anonymous on it. Similarly, all the websites on the dark web are encrypted, mostly through the Tor encryption tool or I2P. This absolute anonymity attracts users to indulge in drugging, pornography, cybercrimes, hacking, terrorism, and exchanging counterfeit goods.
However, the dark web isn’t an ordinary place you just visit anytime, nor does it offer a search engine like Google where you can look up websites or services. It requires the exact URL to get redirected to any website on the Dark Web as a search engine can leave a trail for investigation agencies present only to arrest dark web users.
The dark web processes and involves all payments through Bitcoin, making users more attracted to the anonymity it offers. This ensures that the dark web is a well-thought product, instead of a lousy joke where mistakes and errors can take place.
Types of Dark Web Crimes
The thing about the dark web is that any crime involving money, drugs, or danger to human beings can be committed over it in complete anonymity. Here are a few types of crimes that users are usually involved in over the dark web:
1. Illicit drug selling: This is one of the easiest crimes to commit over the dark web. While there are multiple websites for it, Silk Road is one famous example to sell drugs on the dark web.
2. Terrorism: The dark web is one place that easily allows terrorist groups to plan terrorist attacks while staying completely unidentified and anonymous. Recruiting terrorists for an attack is also pretty simple, thanks to the dark web.
3. Hiring for Murder: Recruiting terrorists was one thing, but the dark web also has multiple hitmen available that can be hired for murders anytime. A popular site to look for contract killers is Besa Mafia.
4. Blackmailing: This is a fairly common scam on the dark web that involves blackmailing people with their explicit images and asking for payments through Bitcoin.
5. Illicit selling of arms: Guns worth hundreds of thousands are sold over the dark web, according to multiple estimates with no traces of transaction or investigation.
6. Sex trafficking: This illegal and inhuman activity has become common since the dark web has arrived. While a leader of human trafficking was caught and arrested in 2015, there are many more present on the dark web that has made this activity their business.
7. Child pornography: Multiple child exploitation websites have been taken down previously on the Dark Web, but many more still exist over the internet. The US investigation agency took down the largest child abuse site in 2019 and is on a hunt for more.
Dark Web Users and Blackmailers
The benefits of using the dark web got immediately popular among those who had been searching for a platform like this for a long time. While its users commonly involve drug abusers, criminals, and terrorists, here are a few additional users that are commonly found on the Dark Web:
1. Whistleblowers victims of retaliation:
According to Wired, a popular website Strongbox is a popular option for whistleblowers who want to leave their messages and documents at a secure network and for them to get released in case the whistleblower gets injured or dies. In case the user does not log into the website at a predetermined interval, the information, messages, and all documents immediately get released to the set email addresses mentioned by the user.
2. Government and organizations:
Yes, the Dark Web is also used by the government and organizations including law enforcement agencies that require saving sensitive information and to limit access to it, including any hacks. They further use it to create baits and staying anonymous over the internet.
3. Freedom fighters whose speeches are suppressed:
This might sound shocking to you, but the dark web is often used by countries with strict surveillance over the internet, like China, Russia, and Brazil that continuously block offshore websites and suppress the freedom of speech. A professor of Queen Mary University, London, Dr. Ian Watson declared that “Your terrorists are our freedom fighters”.
4. Victims of discrimination and abuse:
Since the dark web guarantees complete anonymity, it is widely used by victims of sexual abuse, oppressed minorities, and trans, who want to share their experiences and stories without being identified or exposed by anyone. This also plays a role in consoling a fellow oppressed or victim across the world.
It has also been noted that many users over the dark web are only present there to stay away from being monitored by any agency or authority. However, a report by Intelliagg and DARKSUM, its US counterpart published in 2016 stated that the dark web is way smaller than its thought to be, containing an estimation of 30,000 websites with most content being legal in the UK and US.
While there is an entire range of illegal activities including illegal drug selling, human trafficking, and terrorism taking place over the internet, the number of users still remains undetermined due to the anonymity of the web.
Cautions in Accessing the Dark Web
Even though the dark web is a completely encrypted network, one can never be safe over it. Accessing it without any precautions is like walking out unmasked during Covid-19, without the worry of getting exposed. While hitmen, drugs, fake IDs, hackers, and weapons, etc. are openly advertised on the dark web, not every website is authentic.
Many websites on the dark web are created by intelligence and law enforcement agencies to identify, track, and arrest vulnerable victims and potential criminals involved in these activities. Even with 100% anonymity, users over the dark web are still required to be extremely vigilant while using it.
How to Access Dark Web Websites Safely?
Here are a few ways to access the Dark Web. However, we strongly advise you not to do this as the activities that take place over this web are extremely illegal.
1. Download a Tor browser on your device:
Tor browser is actually a version of Firefox, but much safer. Tor browsers let users access the web anonymously. However, it advises users not to indulge in activities that might reveal their identity to someone.
While it was once designed to help safeguard the online communication of US intelligence, it is now a way to access the dark web.
2. Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network):
While Tor browsers ensure your anonymity, some entities can still track you.
An effective way to ensure complete anonymity while visiting the Dark Web is using a VPN service in combination with Tor. VPNs offer thousands of server locations across the world. Using any of these servers, you can alter your IP address and location so you don’t get tracked by any agency on the lookout and can access the dark web safely.
However, not every VPN service is capable of keeping you secure. You need a reliable VPN service for this. While it might cost you a few bucks, it would ensure encryption on your network so you don’t get into trouble. It’s your privacy over a minimal cost after all.
According to us, ExpressVPN is a great choice for this, offering 3000+ servers globally, backed up with effective security features like DNS leak protection, kill switch, AES 256-bit encryption, split tunnelling, and many more. Check more VPN recommended by VPNRanks.
3. Trusting a more private search engine like DuckDuckGo:
Trusting Google to access the dark web would be the worst thing you could do to yourself. Google is known to track you over the internet. However, a much private browser like DuckDuckGo isn’t. DuckDuckGo is known to acknowledge user privacy and does not collect any user logs or leak your activity.
4. Getting a secure email ID:
Once you’ve ensured your protection through all the steps above, you need to set up an email address that doesn’t get traced. Gmail would be a privacy nightmare, therefore, a few options that would be more suitable are ProtonMail, RiseUp, TORBox, Bitmessage, etc. These options would be great to register for .onion websites. Don’t forget that the options we listed come with their own .onion domains which can be used to access the TOR browser.
5. Visiting the Dark Web:
While .onion websites seem like regular domains, they cannot be accessed without a Tor browser to access the dark web. A few .onion addresses you can check out are DuckDuckGo Search Engine, ExpressVPN, and Hidden Wiki (Note that these .onion would not open in a normal browser).
Please keep in mind that you need to be extremely careful while accessing the dark web as it is the hub of highly illegal activities and can get you in trouble. Also, be extremely careful on anything you download or click over the dark web.
In the end, protect yourself from dark web hackers and blackmailers
The last thing to emphasize when it comes to the dark web is protecting all your data from dark web hackers. You might be vigilant, but they would always be a few steps ahead of you. Cybercrimes are a big threat in today’s era. You can even check out some cybersecurity facts for its updates. However, here are a few ways to protect yourself while browsing the dark web:
1. Keeping malware away through antivirus:
Along with blackmailers and hitmen, there are many hackers waiting to unleash a virus on your connection or device anytime. Phishing links and mails are also extremely common that are meant to exploit you. It’s all because the dark web is one big bad wolf of the internet. Tools like keyloggers can easily be used to gather all your data and infect your system.
The only way around it is using antivirus software. However, while you’ll be connected to a VPN to access the dark web anyway, it would be significantly better to get an antivirus with a VPN for a privacy-packed connection.
2. Monitoring identity theft:
With hackers and blackmailers lurking over the internet at all times, it’s better to monitor your personal information from being misused. Any of your private details including your name, password, credit card details, home addresses, and social security numbers can be stolen anytime.
Therefore, you need to keep it all monitored and protected while on the dark web. A VPN would be an efficient way for this too as it would keep all your data encrypted and away from all hackers’ reach.
The dark web can bring you freedom but it can also invite you into activities that are highly illegal and only get you in trouble. It can also invite hackers, blackmailers, or an investigative agency to come after you.
We have jotted down a complete guide to the dark web for you. While you enjoy its complete freedom, keep in mind that you can get caught. Therefore, it’s better to ensure that you take all the preventive measures that keep you from being tracked. One of them includes the usage of a VPN.