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Decoded: What is dark web and is it really such a bad place to be in?

There is a whole lot more to the web not accessible to everyone. People call it the dark web. Curious to know what the dark web is, who uses it, and why it is a maligned space? Let's take a look

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Technology | Dark Web | Decoded

Khalid Anzar  |  New Delhi 

From looking things up on search engines to ordering food, reading news and booking cabs, we use web services every day. But do you know the web as we know it is just a fraction of the actual web space. Yes, and that is why it is called the surface web. It is available for access to anyone and everyone with access to the internet. There is a whole lot more to the web which is not accessible to everyone. People call it the Curious to know what the is, who uses it, and why it is a maligned space? Let’s take a look:

What is the

It is that uncharted part of the web which is not accessible to everyone

The Dark Web is a reality that has existed since the beginning of the internet. While there is a load of information indexed on the web and easily accessible by anyone with internet connectivity, irrespective of geography, there is even more information and data that does not come to your notice because it is hidden and requires special privileges to access. This uncharted part of the web is called the Dark Web.

How is the Dark Web different from the surface web?

Surface web Dark web
Regulated content Yes No
Indexed on search engines Yes No
Accessible To everyone Requires special permissions
Browser support Most Special ones

Information on the dark web is not defined by regulations and content policies. Moreover, web pages serving information on the dark web do not appear on search engine result pages, or SERPs, like those of Google and Bing because they are hidden and not indexed. Therefore, the dark web includes information that is not easily accessible by everyone. Besides, the web pages serving up information on the dark web are marked unsafe by browsers and do not open on regular internet browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari.

Who uses the dark web?

  • Criminals for illegal activities
  • Investigative journalists to acquire info from secret sources
  • Whistleblowers to expose corporate, govt scams

Dark Web is home to all sorts of information but it has gained a bad name because of the prevalence of widespread illegal content, such as illicit pornography, sale of black market drugs, sale of illegal firearms, illegally acquired user databases, etc. The availability of such illegal content makes the dark web a playground for nefarious activities. Among positive use cases, investigative journalists are able to gather information from sources using the dark without risking their identity, and whistleblowers use it to expose corruption at corporations and in governments.

Is the Dark Web illegal?
No, it is not illegal to access, if the purpose falls within legal boundaries

While accessing the Dark Web itself is not illegal, using the dark web for acquiring illegal content or procuring prohibited items is illegal. For example, surfing the dark web is not illegal, but if you procure pirated copies of movies and games there, it would be illegal. Similarly, accessing information would not be illegal, unless the information is classified and can be a potential security risk to a nation. Using the Dark Web to access illicit content like child pornography or to procure prohibited items like drugs and guns would also be illegal.

Can the Dark Web be accessed safely?

  • Yes, through specialised browsers with P2P network support
  • With an anonymous web profile
  • With VPN for another layer of security
  • With real identity withheld
  • Not for financial transaction purposes

To access dark web safely, one needs a specialised software with built-in peer-to-peer networking support, besides other browser features. Currently, software like Tor and I2P support these. These are web browsers with added tools to encrypt web traffic for safety and security. It is possible to access the dark web anonymously through such software. Additionally, virtual private network (VPN) services add another layer of security here. However, it must be noted that these software do not offer fool-proof protection. As a best practice, one should not reveal their real identity on the dark web. Also, one should not use any banking and other financial services through such software.


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First Published: Mon, November 01 2021. 09:00 IST
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