The dark web is a portion of the internet that is both totally anonymous and very hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It is part of the overall “deep web,” which is comprised of websites not indexed by any major search engine. Many people use the dark web for nefarious activities- primarily as a sort of online black market. All sorts of illegal things can be purchased on the dark web, from drugs and guns to hitmen and hackers. It’s also used for leaking classified information and has been utilized by terror groups to communicate privately and securely.

How Does the Dark Web Work?

Just like regular websites (which are referred to as part of the “clearnet”), dark websites must be hosted on a physical server. What’s different about these servers is that they have no IP address or any other identifying information; special hardware and software is used to hide them so that they’re impossible to track down… they’re essentially operating “in the dark,” hence the name. Because of the nature of the content on the dark web, almost all of these servers are private, so in order to host a hidden website, you’d have to foot the bill for the server yourself.

Accessing the Dark Web

Accessing the dark web is only possible if you know the URL of the site you want to visit. In order to keep your own computer and IP address hidden, software like Tor is the best tool for the job. Tor works by transferring your information through a number of different relays or nodes so that the information is then impossible to track to its origin- it can only be tracked to the last node that it emerged from before connecting with the website. When connecting to a site hosted using Tor, the connection is kept completely invisible from anyone trying to see or track you. This makes it possible for illicit exchanges to take place without anyone (other than the parties involved) knowing about it.

The Dangers of the Dark Web

If you get caught surfing the dark web, the penalties in real life can be severe. Even stumbling onto a dark web site by accident can land you in trouble, so it’s important to tread very carefully on these corners of the Internet. The dark web is a lawless place where it’s very easy for your computer to become infected with malware or for you to have your information hacked if you’re not careful. With that being said, many residents of the dark web take certain problems and issues into their own hands- for instance, child pornography sites are often shut down by vigilante hackers, so it seems that there is a sort of “honor among thieves.”

All in all, don’t let your curiosity get the better of you- staying away from the dark web is the best way to protect yourself from its dangers… just like you wouldn’t go down a suspicious looking alleyway at night, you’ll be safer by not accessing the dark web at all.