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What is the dark web? How secure is it and how to access it? Your questions answered

The dark web sounds like a harbinger. Why else should the police in Brazil, Germany and the United States attack dark web eshops, such as the ' Wall Street Market ' (WSM), imposing on operators a long list of messages of crimes with stolen data, drugs and malware? These events take place on the dark web, but they are only part of the story.

The internet is a huge and sometimes disorganized place, almost like a huge flea market or bazaar. With billions of sites and addresses, it is amazing that we can search and find everything.

There are three basic levels within this complex thing that we call the World Wide Web – open, deep and dark. Each has its place – and their drawbacks.

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  • The dark web represents only a fraction of the rest of the internet
  • Nearly 620 million stolen accounts for sale on the dark web

Let's be open about this

The open or surface web is what you have daily access to via Bing or Google. Before you even turn on the device, search engines crawled the web, looking for information, evaluating resources, and displaying options.

Just see this as the general reading room in your local library. The books are there, they are organized precisely according to theme and title, and you are free and able to look at everything. By accessing the normal internet, your device has access to central servers that then display the website. If you have questions, you can browse the map file or talk to a librarian.

Browsers such as Google, Bing, GoDuckGo act as librarians, sort and catalog the materials so that they can be searched easily and also follow your own movements with their trackers. Most business and public sites work hard to ensure that web crawlers can find them easily. Knowing where the materials are located – and who's looking for them – makes it possible for Google to sell ads – An amount that accounts for more than 80 percent of the company's sales. Nevertheless, this open and cataloged content is still estimated at only 5% of the total internet.

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Go deeper into the web

The term ' Deep Web ' does not mean that it is a disgrace, but simply refers to the non-indexed web databases and other content that search engines cannot search and catalog – things such as web forums required by registration or even your Gmail account. It contains the information about you that data brokers such as LocalBlox may store on a public – but not specified – Amazon server.

Think of the deep web as an archive, with an unsorted stack of websites and sources that are largely inaccessible. Deep sites include corporate intranets and government websites (ie, the European Union website) where you can search for special topics or forms. On such pages you can use their own internal search function, not a search engine such as Bing or Yahoo or another external search engine. The deep web also contains most academic content that is handled directly by universities. Consider, for example, the search for a library book using the facilities' own index files. You may need to be in the library to search there. This deep web makes up an estimated 95% of the entire web.

Enter the Dark Web

Despite the media attention, the dark web is a small part of the deep web that can only be accessed via a special TOR network. Tor stands for: The Onion Router "a reference to how it works; sending encrypted traffic through layers of relays around the world, since it hides the content, the sender and their location. It's not only safer, it's also more private because it effectively shuts down online trackers.Although it is not flawless to protect user privacy, it works well enough to offer users much more privacy where they go, the content they visit and hiding their own identity. The multiple relays help to maintain distance and anonymity between the person who visits the website, the website itself and any entity that attempts to monitor the communication between the two.

Tor is both a connection type – with the extensive relays – and a browser. There are other variants out there, including I2P, GNU.net and Freenet. With your device with a TOR browser you can go to TOR-specific sites – with a .onion suffix – or you can also visit the usual sites on the open web.

Yes, there are a number of TOR sites for illegal drugs or materials. It allows surfers to remain anonymous and go to "member only" forums where they can use non-scannable cryptocurrencies for their purchases. But that is not everything. There are also popular services that offer their services here on facebookcorewwwi.onion and the German mail provider Mailbox.org also offers its services.

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Privacy in a nutshell

"With the open, deep and dark web there is a difference in who you can follow," emphasizes Alexander Vukcevic, head of the Avira Protection Labs.

"With a usual open web search, the search engine knows where you are, the number of your device, your IP address and the theme of the search.

"On the deep web you can assume that activities are monitored at the gateway. The biggest difference with the open web is that the system administrator – not the search engine – is able to track your activities.

"For the deep web, while some activities can be monitored, you can hide your personal information before you go in. Although you may want to search anonymously, some sites – NYTimes and even those illegal markets – can let you register so you can be Some open websites block entry with the TOR browser. "

It is small, dark and messy

Searching the dark web can be irritating – visual and operational. Before you find a wealth of foreign substances or private information, you will probably hit some dead ends. According to Internet Live Stats, around 75% of these websites are inactive. Once you've found them, these sites are a bit rough, just like chic from the 90s. Unlike the open web or the web on the surface, these sites don't really worry if they are found by a web crawler. Although there are Google-like equivalents trying to categorize the dark web, their results are spotty. Part of this is the incentive. Those on TOR are not worried about cleaning up their website with the latest SEO tricks to improve their relative ranking in the Google and Bing charts.

Regardless of the media attention, the dark net is small compared to both the open and the deep web, estimated at around 50,000 sites.

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Dark Web

Do I have to visit the Dark Web?

For most of us, the short answer is that there is no reason to: unless you are truly paranoid about your privacy or do something that really needs anonymity, such as reporting repressive regimes or crime syndicates or trying to circumvent censorship by the There is no real reason to visit the Dark Web at all – not least because it slows down your browsing.

There is a fascinating thread on Reddit (not remotely safe for work) where Dark Web users share their stories, and some stories are enough to make your webcam record and turn off your router in case. Think of it as the lurid piece of town where sensible people don't go after dark.

If that just made you more interested, Tor is the key to the Dark Web. You can download it from Torproject.org.

What is Tor

Tor stands for Thin Onion Routing and in 2013 UK MP Julian Smith described it as "the black internet where child pornography, drug trafficking and arms trafficking take place". He is not wrong: Tor is where the now deceased Silk Road drug market can be found, where Black Market Reloaded is traded drugs and weapons, and there the American National Security Agency says that ' very naughty people are hanging around & # 39 ; It is not the only network on the Dark Web – for example, you may have heard of Freenet's anti-censorship network – but it is by far the most popular.

Tor

According to a study by Deep Web watchers Vocativ, European terrorists who wanted to use guns to "tap into a 20-year market that took root and flourished at the end of the Balkan wars. Now with the emergence of the dark net, that market has been digitized and deals on illegal weapons are just a few minutes away. "Many of those deals come from people in the US: Vocativ found 281 listings of weapons and ammunition on the Dark Web, most of which came from America.

It is not that Tor is bad; it's just that the same tools that protect political dissidents are pretty good at protecting criminals. That was not intentional. Tor was originally developed by the US Navy, and its purpose was to protect Internet users from espionage. It does that by bouncing the traffic of users and sites through multiple relays to hide their location. Unlike ' very naughty people & # 39 ;, it is used by political activists and dissidents, journalists, people who do not trust the use of their personal information by websites and the strange member of the tin foil hat brigade.

If Dark Web is so secret, how can anyone find something?

That is a very good question, and for many people Reddit is the answer. Subreddits such as DarkNetMarketsNoobs exist to guide newcomers around the Dark Web, while on the open web certain Wiki's are sort of Yahoo! for destinations on the Tor network – albeit a Yahoo! where many of the links are likely to put you in jail, that's why we don't mention them and there are no links to them.

You will see that the sites have the .onion extension: that means you need a Tor browser to open them. You will also see that most of the sites that you can find are markets, because those sites want to attract as many customers as possible. This means that they are the tip of the Dark Web iceberg, because many sites are secret and are only available to people with the correct login details and / or contacts.

Can I protect my privacy without going to Dark Web?

Yes. Although Tor is a powerful tool for protecting your privacy, it is not the only one. Encrypting files and everything else that is important with an open-source encryption method (so that you know for sure there are no back doors) is one of the strongest privacy protectors, while privacy-based browsers such as Epic and Ice Dragon remove most common functions that become used to track users, such as tracking IP addresses.

Ghostery

If you only want to prevent ad networks from following you, plug-ins such as Ghostery trackers and other potential invaders can block privacy, while secure VPNs can anonymize your browsing. But don't forget the basics: if you use documents that could make you the next Edward Snowden, use an ' air hole ' – that is, a device that is not connected at all to anything else. Your data cannot be intercepted if you are not on the network.

Your data can be anywhere

You, or data about you, could already be on all three levels of the Internet – and this should affect you.

For the open web, type your name in Google and see what is coming. Whether this is a Linkedin profile, Facebook, social media or community involvement – chances are that you are already present on the open internet.

Your data is almost certainly in the deep internet – and you only hope it stays there. This would include doctor's records on the hospital intranet or even school records. Your data is stored and you can only hope that the companies keep it according to the GDPR standards and have not been hacked.

The cloud has also fueled the growth of the deep internet. If a company places its files on an Amazon web server, it has placed you on the deep web. This is not a privacy issue – until they incorrectly configure the account and leave it open to hackers or investigators. Then you hope that you have been informed through the GDPR procedures and that the data has not been copied and added to a database for sale … on the dark web.

Alexander Vukcevic, Director of Protection Labs and QA at Avira

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