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Depths of the internet: The dark web

By Imran Shaikh April 7, 2022


Disclaimer: The Charger Account does not endorse access to or the usage of the dark web. Please do not attempt to find or use any of the sites mentioned in the article.

Jude Tantawy Art

Within the last decade, Google has established itself as the most used search engine, enabling anyone to access billions of web pages. Yet the seemingly infinite number of accessible websites only constitute the “surface web,” which contains about 1% of all existing content. Metaphorically, common search engines only cover the tip of the “iceberg”—the deep web hosts a labyrinth of information only accessible to select groups of people like subscribers or private social media accounts. At the murkiest depths of the deep web lies another level of the internet: the dark web.


Contrary to myth, the dark web is not just some online criminal underworld swarmed by illicit activity—just a part of the deep web only reachable through special softwares.

Contrary to myth, the dark web is not just some online criminal underworld swarmed by illicit activity—just a part of the deep web only reachable through special softwares. Originally developed by two research organizations in the U.S. Department of Defense as an undisclosed passageway for U.S. spies to communicate privately, the dark web was never meant to be discovered by ordinary citizens. But after the project developers split it into two—one site for the military and one for the general public—it became a vessel for using the internet invisibly and sometimes even circumventing government surveillance.


Despite there being tales of cybercriminals on the darknet, accessing it is legal, only requiring one to download a particular type of browser. The most popular is Tor, abbreviated for “The Onion Router,” with website domain names ending in “.onion.” This makes entering the darknet moderately easy, not needing any detailed internet knowledge. After arriving on the dark web, the increase in anonymity that it delivers is limited—people can still be tracked by other co-users. Thus, it is important to use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt web traffic, which prevents other strangers from tracing one’s activity.


Public organizations have begun uploading versions of their websites on the dark web to help users secure more online privacy. For example, Facebook opened a hidden service so that Tor users can sign in without providing a specific identity, role-reversing one of the world’s least anonymous websites into a space of namelessness. Twitter followed suit on March 8 so that people in Russia, where social media websites are currently restricted to thwart the spread of information about the war in Ukraine, can access the site. Official websites often use the dark web so that users can bypass government firewalls, covertly granting access to people from countries where certain websites are blocked due to governments imposing high levels of censorship, like China or Iran.


Aside from allowing those living under oppressive regimes to reach censored information, the dark web serves as a platform for free speech. Journalists exploit the dark web to securely receive information from uncomfortable or uncooperative sources while investigating risky topics like terrorist groups. Specifically, the web tool SecureDrop has become a common device for this purpose, giving journalists the ammunition to uncover the gravest of issues.


“By opening a website on the dark web, these corporations are giving people the assumption that the company is committing questionable activities. However, if backed by good intentions like avoiding censorship, I do not see any reason to stop companies from joining the darknet,” one Senior said.


Public organizations have begun uploading versions of their websites on the dark web to help users secure more online privacy. For example, Facebook opened a hidden service so that Tor users can sign in without providing a specific identity, role-reversing one of the world’s least anonymous websites into a space of namelessness.

Ease of downloading software and account registration does not lessen the importance of proceeding with caution when surfing the deep web. In 2016, researchers from King’s College in London examined 5,205 live dark websites and unearthed digital black markets in over half of them, which sell illegal goods like drugs, firearms and personal identity confidentials. While coming across such marketplaces are not inherently dangerous, once someone starts interacting with them, their information becomes susceptible to being stolen and sold by hackers. Precautions for evading such situations include using a VPN and stopping any needless computer programs from running.


“When I accessed the dark web, I kept myself safe by using an official dark web browser made by the U.S. government and the appropriate VPN. I encountered an uncensored Google where you can search and find anything, as well as the Silk Road, an online black market selling illegal goods,” one Sophomore said.


The dark web has come a long way from its original purpose of a safe haven for spies. Now home to much illicit activity, users must be cautious when accessing it if they want to remain safe—but its trademark dangers do not erase its anonymous and unrestrained benefits.


Editor's note: The people interviewed for this article have been kept anonymous to protect their identity.

 

About the Contributors

Imran Shaikh

Staff Writer


Imran Shaikh is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer for The Charger Account. When he has free time he likes to watch anime, hang out with his friends, and catch up on some much-needed sleep.









Jude Tantawy

Artist


Jude Tantawy is a sophomore at Leland High School. She is an artist for The Charger Account. During her free time she loves to draw, paint, do photography, cook, bake, and listen to music.

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