Dark Net 101
Freedom or Anarchy? Good or Evil? For the novice we do a quick easy to understand intro into Dark Net, the hidden Internet.
What is Dark Net?
This information is not new to advanced internet users, but many people may not be aware that it exists. This article is addressed to the second crowd who could benefit from a quick introduction. The article does simplify the technology behind Dark Net to make the concept understandable by non technical people.
Dark Net = Tor – well sort of.
Think of Dark Net as a separate internet . To access Dark Net you need to have access to the regular internet and connect to the Tor network. Tor is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet (definition from torproject.org) .
You can use the Tor network to surf the real internet anonymously, which helps if you live under tyranny.
You can also surf the internal Tor network also known as Dark Net or Onion. Any Tor connected computer can host a website, and make it available to the rest of the network without revealing its location. Unlike the real internet, websites do not list their IP address, but list a name not directly linked to them. The name uses the “.onion” extension such as: kpvz7ki2v5agwt35.onion.
Tor guarantees that both server and client remain anonymous. It also guarantees that what happens between the server and the client is protected from third parties. On Dark Net, the client never has access to the real address of the server. The server has never access to the client’s address. Nodes in between the server and the client have no idea who is talking to whom, nor what is being exchanged. Data is encrypted.
What is on Dark Net?
There are lots of good sites and information available such as: Political advocacy, whistle-blowing, blogs, essays, forums, etc. Because of the protection offered by the tor network and its hidden services, activists in oppressive regimes are free to exchange ideas and organize themselves.
There are also a lot of bad things : Child porn, sex, drugs, and even contract killers market place. Evil doers benefit from the same protection as the good sites.
How to navigate Dark Net?
Dark Net is like the early internet. Information for beginners is hard to find. Everyone start with the Hidden Wiki (http://kpvz7ki2v5agwt35.onion), a crowd sourced directory of links. The Hidden Wiki makes an effort to classify the links listed, so you can minimize your exposure to the bad stuff. But like the real internet, the experience relies on following links to discover new things. Because the link are cryptic, Before clicking, remember that: “What has been seen cannot be unseen”.
How anonymous or secure is Dark Net ?
The Tor network is designed and maintained to provide the highest level of security and anonymity. Apparently Tor’s reputation is enough to keep even the FBI at bay. In an official FBI released under a freedom of information act, the Bureau claims that “there is not currently a way to trace the origin of the website. As such no other investigative leads exist.” The website in question was a Dark Net website hosting child pornography.
That last bit makes you wonder how a group of hackers can police Dark Net while the police claims it can’t do a thing about it. Was the release from the FBI meant to dis-inform and lull “pedo-nazis” into complacency? Does it prove that the authorities are turning a blind eye on child pornography? Or does it serve as propaganda against Tor?
Where is Dark Net going?
The future is uncertain. There is mounting pressure from elected officials to do something about it. Document releases like the one cited above increase the public scrutiny. The Tor team pressed to create a backdoor, but so far have resisted. But how long will that last? Will that tool used by oppressed people across the globe be compromised by the legitimate outcry against child pornography? Which is the greater good?
If this article made you want to take a look for yourself, check out our how to Dark Net article where we show you how to get started with Tor and hidden servers.