Internet, Technology

Darknet: What, Why and More

Recently a BBC investigation uncovered an ugly story of how Darknet is being used by tens of thousands of paedophiles to exchange images of sexual abuse. Creation and distribution of child pornography is one of the biggest criminal offense in most of the countries around the world. America’s FBI has developed advanced tracking methods to catch these offenders, yet by using this covert part of the Internet, such illegal activities are still very active than one may think.

What is Darknet?

To understand Darknet, one first has to know about Deep Web. The two are often wrongly used interchangeably. The part of the Internet that can be found through search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.) is called the Surface Web, which is believed to be only a fraction of the total Internet. Everything else is Deep Web, the online content that cannot be indexed by search engines and is 400-500 times bigger than the Surface Web.

Darknet is a part of this Deep Web, which is a file sharing network where the anonymity of a user and his/her browser system is maintained. And since it is a subset of the deep web, its contents are not accessible through search engines.

How is anonymity maintained on Darknet?

File sharing on Darknet uses a process called Onion Routing. In this process messages are repeatedly encrypted and are then sent through several network nodes called onion routers. Like someone peeling an onion, each onion router removes a layer of encryption to uncover routing instructions, and sends the message to the next router where this is repeated. This prevents these intermediary nodes from knowing the origin, destination, and contents of the message.

How does one access Darknet?

Even though Darknet hasn’t been in the news for the right reasons, accessing it is very much legal. Accessing it is not a challenge. While tech experts and programmers could come up with several ways of accessing it. Anyone else can access it too, via a special browser, as Surface Web browsers like Chrome, Firefox etc. won’t work.Tor – The Onion Router is the most commonly used Darknet Browser.

One can download Tor bundle from its website and start browsing anonymously. Although certain precautions still need to be taken, which can be found on the browser’s website.

Why was it created?

Although Dark web existed within the Internet. Tor was originally designed, implemented, and deployed as a third-generation onion routing project of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. It was originally developed with the U.S. Navy in mind, for the primary purpose of protecting government communications. It was even used by activists during the Arab Spring to avoid detection.

Who uses Darknet?

Darknet is used by ordinary people who don’t want their browsing activity to be tracked on the Internet by marketers; want to circumvent country-specific censorship on Youtube videos etc; to research sensitive subjects etc.

It is used by businesses to research competition, keep business strategies confidential, and facilitate internal accountability.

It is commonly used by pro-democracy campaigners, whistleblowers and journalists operating under repressive regimes.

And as mentioned on Tor Browser’s website, militaries and law enforcement use it to protect their communications, investigations, and intelligence gathering online.

But besides these, it is also used by criminals, as the Governments around the world haven’t found a way to crack the onion routing mechanism completely.

Check out the infographic by below by WhoIsHostingthis for some facts about Deep Web and Dark Net.


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