The Darknet is the new wild west of the Internet. Those who dare to access it can enjoy complete and total anonymity.
So long as you remain anonymous, there are no laws. There are no rules. And there are no national borders.
Of course, due to the murky quality of human nature the freedom that total anonymity offers is a double-edged sword.
In many ways, the Darknet is a good thing for society. Darknet can even the odds when an individual fights back against a powerful system. On the other hand, it can also also allow wrongdoers to get away with all kinds of heinous crimes.
Deep Web vs. Darknet
The Darknet is the sketchiest part of what experts call the “Deep Web.” By definition, anything that can’t be accessed by a search engine is a part of the Deep Web. The emails in your inbox are on the Deep Web because you need to log in with a username and password to access them.
Most information on the Deep Web can be traced or monitored. If you go to a computer lab and send someone hate mail or a death threat using a fake email account, experts can determine which computer you used when you pressed send. If you were on the Darknet at the time that you sent the message, however, finding the source is almost impossible.
Who Invented the Darknet?
The United States government created the Darknet in 2002. The alphabet soup agencies (the FBI, CIA, etc.) as well as the military was in need of a totally anonymous network, so the US Naval Research Laboratory developed a completely new type of communication method.
When you use the normal Internet, your computer finds the most direct route to the information you need. On Darknet, however, every bit of information is sent to random places around the world.
Seeing how anonymous communication could potentially help spread democracy, the US government eventually decided to release Darknet into the wild.
Darknet is the bane of fascist governments. It helps people living in countries like North Korea circumvent firewalls that keep out social networks and other information that doesn’t support the views of the state.
In other places, the Internet is authorized but it’s also heavily monitored. In Iran, for example, blogger Soheil Arabi was sentenced to death for insulting Mohammed on Facebook.
Into the Rabbit Hole
Entering the Darknet is actually pretty easy. You don’t have to be a hacker to do it. Anyone who knows how to use the normal Internet can also access the Darknet. All you need is the Tor browser bundle to get started.
“Tor” is an acronym that stands for “the Onion router.” Onionland is like the Google of Darknet. It’s where everyone on the Darknet goes when they’re looking for something.
Welcome to Onionland
Once you’ve logged in to Onionland, you may experience a wave of nostalgia. The Darkweb resembles the Internet of the 1990s in many ways.
Modern plugins don’t work. Browsing speeds are painfully slow. Search is horrible and incomplete, if it works at all. Most people get around by navigating lists of links leading to different sites.
Not Everything Is What It Seems
Creepy sounding websites are common in Onionland, but not all of them are what they claim to be. Some are set up by law enforcement to try to lure criminals into revealing information that could lead to an arrest. Others are straight up scams designed to trick people into paying money for something that they’ll never get.
Here are just a few of the websites you may encounter while surfing the Darkweb:
- Silk Road 2.0 – The original Silk Road– a site that enabled drug dealers to sell drugs to their customers anonymously via the Internet– was shut down by law enforcement back in 2013. It didn’t take long for a site called Silk Road 2.0 to appear. But is it legitimate or is it a trap set up by law enforcement? Only people who have used it know the answer.
- Banker & Co – In need of money laundering services? The good people at Banker & Co. are standing by to assist you.
- PayPal4Free – This site sells hacked PayPal accounts.
- All Purpose Identities – Want to start a brand new life abroad? All Purpose Identities can make your American dream come true. Here you can buy fake IDs from the US and Canada.
- Rent-a-Hacker – The fine folks at Rent-a-Hacker are more than happy to assist you in a multitude of ways. Want to blackmail your ex or set up a DDOS on your former employer? Rent-a-Hacker can help.
- Contract Killer – Supposedly, you can use this site to hire a hitman.
Criminals on the Darkweb
According to a Carnegie Mellon University study, the Darknet drug economy is booming. Drug dealers make 100 million a year on the Darknet.
Weapons vendors are also making quite a bit of bread. One weapons dealer sells a .22 caliber gun that looks like a pen. On other sites, you can even buy uranium.
ISIS uses the Darkweb to coordinate and plan attacks. In November of 2015, Vice uncovered an ISIS propaganda site on the Darkweb that was attracting new recruits.
Additionally, perverts use the Darkweb to exchange illegal porn. Hacker group Anonymous recently took down a Darkweb site called Lolita City.
Vigilantes and Political Dissidents
New Yorker magazine has a Darkweb site called Strongbox. They use it to collect information from anonymous political dissidents.
The hackers that released Ashley Madison account information used Darkweb sites to organize the scheme and distribute the captured files.
The Blue Pill or the Red?
Using Darkweb can be risky. Hackers and professional scam artists target and abuse newbies.
If you live in the United States, the NSA may begin to take interest in you once you log on. A 2014 report from Wired UK suggested that the NSA is collecting a database of Tor users.
If you are determined to log on to Darknet, here are some preventative measures you should take to ensure that you don’t get hacked.
- Don’t allow cookies.
- Beware of scammers.
- Run Darknet from VMWare Fusion, Virtualbox or some other type of virtual machine platform.