As law abiding Internet users, we generally stay on the “legal-official” side of the Internet (ClearNet). But, I always believed that knowledge is power, so, knowing a bit about the Dark Side of the Internet is going to benefit you because you will be aware of the traps and dangers and you will be better prepared to avoid them. Ultimately, Darth Vader is just Yoda with a black helmet and a different funny voice!
So, we are aware of the Visible Net or the Surface Net or ClearNet and we are using it every day:
- Search engine like Google, Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, Dogpile, HotBot, Metacrawler, etc.
- Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, You Tube, Blab, hi5, Friendster, Meerkat, MyLife, Periscope, Plaxo, Xing, Flickr, iTunes, MySpace, Vimeo, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit, Scribd, SlideShare, Wikipedia, etc.
- Email services like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail, Zoho Mail, Mail.com, Yandex Mail, Inbox.com, etc.
It is time to introduce the Darknet, the Dark Web and the Deep web (definitions from Wikipedia):
- Darknet is an overlay network, only accessible with specific authorization, configurations and software, generally using non-standard communication protocols and ports.
- Dark web is the content on the Darknet and the overlay networks using the public Internet but require specific authorization, configurations and software for access.
- Deep Web is a part of the World Wide Web with non-indexed content by the search engines.
Figure 1 Darknet access and components
The above diagram is a high level presentation of the Darknet components and some of the access ways.
There are several programs used to get to the Darknet. I will mention two of them: I2p and Tor.
- I2P or ‘The Invisible Internet Project’ is an anonymous peer-to-peer network. It allows users to send data between computers running I2P with end-to-end encryption using unidirectional tunnels and layered encryption. Because the limited number of out proxies to the Internet, I2p is best for peer-to-peer file sharing.
- Tor or ‘The Onion Router’ is an anonymous internet proxy directing traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of thousands of relays. Tor wraps messages in encrypted layers and sends them through a bi-directional circuit of relays through the Tor network. Tor also provides a central directory to manage the view of the network. Because of the issue with the trust of exit nodes, Tor is best for anonymous out proxing to the Internet.
The Darknet Market Places and the Darknet/Clearnet Market Places (several mentioned in the diagram above) are web sites where illicit activities are taking place, trading buying and selling any type of goods and digital items paid with bitcoins or other kind of cryptocurrencies: drugs, guns, information, child pornography, assassins, malware, ransomware, DDoS, security, anti-security code, access to government sites, LinkedIn accounts and passwords, etc. The existence of many of these sites is ephemeral, not because the government agencies are taking them down, but because of competition and the fight between various groups of “dealers”.
It is common sense that accessing the Darknet Market Places is a dangerous thing to do, but one is free to choose this path at his/her own risk.
If one really wants to find this places can start with Reddit, DeepDotWeb, TheHiddenWiki.org or DNstats.net and look for lists of hidden services or .onions.
There are several Darknet search engines. Two popular ones are Torch (http://xmh57jrzrnw6insl.onion/) and Grams (http://grams7enufi7jmdl.onion/) and they will perform Google like functions on the Darknet.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, knowledge is power, it is good to know about the Darknet in order to be able to protect yourself, but please do not be seduced by the Dark Side!
P.S. Below are links to a fantastic blog presenting the Darknet (I used information from their blog in the article) and three Darknet related articles for a more detailed view if interested.