What Is Dark Web?
Look at the picture below. It can be a clear example of what dark web is.
When you surf on the internet using a search engine like Google, you’re just scratching the surface when it comes to what’s out there. The other 95 percent is what’s called the “deep web.”
Only about 5 percent of the internet is actually indexed by search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing. Think of it as an iceberg; most of it is underwater, hidden behind passwords or search boxes not reachable with search engines.
The “dark web” is a smaller portion of the “deep web” that is intentionally hidden from the average user. It requires special software that encrypts data and keeps the searches anonymous. The dark web is notorious for drugs, weapons, child porn and for selling stolen personal information. It requires special software that encrypts data and keeps the searches anonymous. Also it can be a great resource, providing access to information that you won’t find on the regular internet.
There’s plenty of undesirable content you need to avoid. At best, it can be offensive; at worst, it could be highly illegal. Let’s take a closer look at some of the worst things you might find on the dark web.
Reasons You Should Avoid the Dark Web
Browsing the dark web can be an exciting experience. But it can end up having more troubles. While browsing the dark web can be an exciting, new experience, not doing it properly can land you in some big trouble.
To avoid these problems, here are things to NEVER do while browsing the dark web. Avoid these and stay safe!
1. Crypto Scams
If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that crypto scams are already commonplace across the regular web. The problem even forced Facebook to issue a blanket ban on crypto ads in mid-2018 though the ban has now been partially lifted.
It should probably come as no surprise, therefore, to learn that crypto scams are even more common on the dark web.
The scammers use the same techniques as on the regular web. But the lack of regulation means they are less likely to be shut down by ad networks, forums, and other places where the scams pop up.
2. Using TOR without a VPN
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is essential since TOR has been cracked quite a few times in the recent past. A VPN is arguably as important as the TOR browser, in fact.
Earlier, having a VPN was merely an extra layer of protection, but it has since become a necessity as government agencies as well as third-party Black Hat and White Hat hackers are finding new ways to break the TOR encryption system and reveal users’ true IP addresses.
Using a good VPN can really be life saver while surfing the web.
A good VPN doesn’t have to cost anything, but the paid ones usually have added benefits such as faster premium servers, anti–tracking software, and ad-blockers.
3. Mixing up the “Dark Web” with the “Deep Web”
Now this one may seem weird for some people because several people and online sources assume that the dark web and deep web are the same things.
To those people; you are sadly mistaken.
While the dark web is a PART of the deep web, it has only about 7000 sites at the time of writing this article.
7000 isn’t a lot for government agencies to cover.
To put it into perspective, that’s about 5 people who are employed by the FBI for every single Dark web site.
So thinking it’s no sweat and just jumping onto the dark web without protection and caution, may not be the best idea ever.
The deep web, on the other hand, is comprised of over 90% of the total sites available on the internet as a whole.
4. Exit Scams
Exit scams occur when a seller stops shipping products but continues to take orders and money.
Because the items sold on the dark web are often illegal (guns, drugs, etc.) and payments are made in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, the buyer has no avenues for redress or compensation.
Some of the most famous exit scams on the dark web include Olympus Market and Empire in September 2018, and the Evolution darknet market in 2015.
The owners of the Evolution market reportedly walked away with more than $12 million in Bitcoins that were in escrow.
5. Hoaxes on the Dark Web
The dark web is full of hoaxes. Almost all of which want you to part with your money in exchange for nothing in return.
Understandably, the hoaxes come in many forms; people are creative.
Some of the hoaxes are on the sickening end of the spectrum. Probably the most well-known example is that of “red rooms.” The rooms purport to show live torture of animals and humans, as well as live rape and even murder.
We’re not saying they are all fake. Actually we have no desire to do the required research. But the received wisdom among regular dark web users is that they are at best staged and at worst a money-grabbing scam.
One particular incident in August 2015 promised the torture of seven ISIS prisoners, even claiming that the viewers could direct the action via an interactive chat. There was quite a buzz around the event on Reddit and 4chan.
Then, three minutes before the action was due to begin, the site went down. Half an hour later it was back, thanking people for taking part. When the “source footage” was eventually uploaded, the camera froze every time the torture was about to start.
A suspiciously fake-looking FBI seizure notice popped up a few days later.
Other hoaxes take advantage of people who want to use illegal services like hitmen, often referred to as the Nigerian princes of the dark web and buy illegal products. If you ever try to procure these services and products, you’ll almost always end up out of pocket.
Anti-terrorism authorities have uncovered multiple instances of terrorist groups using the dark web to coordinate their actions.
In early 2015, it was discovered that the Al-Hayat Media Center, which is affiliated with ISIS, launched a new dark web site to disseminate information. Its regular web site even had explicit instructions on how to access the dark web content.
Rawti Shax (an offshoot of the Kurdish jihadist group Ansar al-Islam) was also found to have a dark web presence in October 2015.
After the 2015 Paris attacks, the Anonymous hacktivist group managed to gain control of one such ISIS-sympathizing site and replace it with a Prozac advert.
7. Illegal Pornography
Illegal pornography is rife on the dark web. The biggest issue is arguably that of child pornography and its associated pedophile rings.
In 2015, the FBI famously busted a massive child porn site on the dark web by using malware, exploits in Adobe Flash, and other hacking tricks. The authorities gained control of the North Carolina server and let it run for two weeks before shutting it down.
In the end, the FBI compromised more than 1,000 computers, and it arrested three men.
And child pornography isn’t the only problem. Content that lies in a legal grey area—such as revenge porn—is also a massive problem that the authorities are struggling to grapple with.
8. Phishing Scams
We’re all familiar with how phishing scams work on the regular web. And if you’re semi-computer-literate, you probably back yourself not to get caught out.
On the dark web, it’s much easier to fall victim due to the way web addresses are presented. For instance, take the 2016 example of a DuckDuckGo phishing attempt.
Here’s how the site’s .onion domain should look:
And here’s how the phishing domain looked:
Are you confident that you’d spot the differences while browsing at speed?
Worse still, in some instances, the fake sites aren’t just duplicating their intended targets. They been proven to be proxies for the real sites. In practice, that means they can perform man-in-the-middle attacks and either steal or modify data as it passes through the fake site.
9. Buying things with a Credit/Debit card
Buying things with your credit or debit card is a huge mistake.
None of the payment methods (except for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies) are secure or safe – not to mention that if you’re buying something from the darknet, you probably don’t want the transaction being linked back to you.
If you’re going to buy anything, you should only use a cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin is the most preferred and popular at the moment, as it’s the most secure and stable in terms of exchange value and availability.
10. Buying any type of “Service” or “Item” from a darknet market
Buying things from darknet markets can land you in some deep trouble if you get caught, and it is increasingly more likely that it will happen.
Lot of the users on this darknet e-commerce platforms are law enforcement officers from different countries, fraudsters going through with scams, and you may never even hear from the seller if they don’t have a stellar track record.
Furthermore, nearly all dark web transactions use Bitcoin, so it’s completely untraceable and a refund is usually out of the question.
11. Enabling Macros and Scripts
For example, visiting Youtube on TOR will require you to enable scripts for the website in order for it to play videos; in this case, enabling it will be safe as you’ve probably already used Youtube in the past and it’s a trusted site now owned and run by Google.
On the other hand, if you’re exploring this part of the web, enabling scripts on “.onion” sites can be very dangerous since they can run scripts without your knowledge and automatically download anything from adware to a Trojan horse or other malware.
These can then be used to do things ranging from constantly displaying annoying pop-ups or even controlling your computer remotely as a part of a bot network.
By default, TOR comes with an extension that disables all Macros and Scripts.
12. Making the wrong friends and wrong enemies
The dark web is filled with a variety of users. Some are just regular people that you might be able to afford to mess with. But, mess with an evil hacker and the individual can potentially ruin your life.
Just keeping to yourself is best whenever possible. What’s worse than making enemies here? Making friends, fake friends in particular.
Unless you’re well-known in this underground community like “Dread Pirate Roberts”, there’s usually only one type of person wanting to make your acquaintance. Like people who are trying to prove you’re doing something wrong. In layman’s terms, law enforcement.
With this in mind, trusting someone blindly on ANY website on the dark web is an extremely risky move.
The Dark Web Isn’t All Bad
Look, the dark web has a terrible reputation, both for the things we have discussed in this article and a lot more besides. But there is some good stuff out there if you know where to look. Hopefully, the tips mentioned above can help you stay safe and stay anonymous!