When you hear the term ”dark web”, what comes to mind? Let us guess: a top-secret browsing platform only accessible to the highest-ranking criminals. Well, there are indeed a lot of criminals on the dark web. However, it’s not as top-secret and inaccessible as you may think.

There are many misconceptions about the dark web related to who can access it, what people mainly use it for, and whether it’s legal. In this article, we’ll give you a brief beginner’s guide to the dark web. You’ll learn what it is, how to access it, and how to stay safe on it. Let’s jump right in!

Deep web vs dark web

There are three layers of the internet: the open web, the deep web, and the dark web. The open web is everything that is publicly accessible through regular search engines like Google. You don’t need a password or any special software to access the open web.

Then there are the deep and dark webs, which are not to be confused with each other. These are two very different layers of the internet. You probably use the deep web every single day.

  • The deep web refers to any data that is not openly accessible via your browser and requires login info. Examples include bank accounts, emails, college databases, etc. Researchers estimate that about 90% of all data on the internet is on the deep web.
  • The dark web, on the other hand, is an encrypted, untraceable, and anonymous layer of the internet where many illegal activities take place.

How does the dark web work?

Everything on the dark web is encrypted and you can only access it through special software, the most common of which is Tor. Tor stands for “The Onion Router”. Essentially, this means that anything you do on Tor is routed through many different encrypted servers, leaving you and your data untraceable.

How can you access it? 

The dark web isn’t accessible through simple browsers like Chrome or Safari. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to be a tech guru, hacker, or criminal to access it. All you need to do is download Tor and you’re good to go. It’s available online for free.

Who uses the dark web?

Criminals aren’t the only ones who use the dark web. However, ever since the invention of bitcoin, illegal dark web activity has grown tremendously. This is because bitcoin finally made it possible to pay for services entirely anonymously. Still, just about 6% of dark web users are there for illegal activities like selling drugs.

The majority of people on the dark web are there to browse anonymously or access content that isn’t available on the open internet. The dark web is also commonly used by whistleblowers or other people who want to give out sensitive information without disclosing their identity. 

Is the dark web legal?

Contrary to popular belief, the dark web itself is perfectly legal. It’s a great way to ensure anonymity online. It becomes illegal once you start selling and buying drugs, weapons, social security numbers, credit card info, assassinations…  Well, you get the picture.

Is it dangerous?

Generally, it’s best to avoid the dark web because of how much crime goes on there. There’s always the risk of stumbling upon some disturbing content or even accidentally getting yourself involved in illegal activity. You may also fall victim to hackers trying to access your passwords or even web camera. So yes, the dark web is dangerous, and you should probably stay off of it. However, we know that this danger factor is precisely why lots of people want to check it out.

If you do end up visiting the dark web, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Only visit websites that you know or have heard about. You wouldn’t want to accidentally stumble upon a forum on chemical weapons;
  • Don’t click on random links as these may contain malware;
  • Use a VPN. Your ISP might flag your activity as suspicious if it sees that you’re on Tor. By using a VPN, you can mask this, and nobody will know you’re on the dark web.

Bottom line

So those are pretty much all of the basics on the dark web. Yes, it’s legal. Yes, you can easily access it if you wanted to. However, please don’t take this article as an invitation to visit it. 

Even though most activities on the dark web are legal, there are plenty of vicious criminals selling disturbing products and services. There are also plenty of hackers spreading malware. It’s best to keep your browsing to the safer open and deep webs. However, if you still decide to visit this darkest layer of the internet, please stay safe and vigilant!