The dark web – Who uses it and what do they use it for?

You’ve heard about the dark web online and in movies. You’re intrigued and you’d love to know what happens on this part of the internet. We understand the appeal. Most people are fascinated by this dangerous, enigmatic side of the web. 

In this post, we’ll go through what the dark web is, who uses it, and what they use it for. 

What is the dark web?

A standard internet user accesses what is known as the surface web. There’s a lot more to the internet than meets the eye though. 

One section of the web is the deep web. This is the part that consists of all the web pages that are not indexed by search engines. Companies might store sensitive information here, and their information is protected by firewalls. Although we don’t hear much about this side of the online world, it’s actually pretty huge. In fact, the deep web is 500 times the size of the surface web.

The dark web is a subsection of the deep web. In order to access the dark web, you’ll need a specialized browser like the TOR browser. 

Is accessing the dark web illegal?

No, it isn’t. 

What you do when you get there, though, could land you in trouble. 

You could, for example, visit a site selling illicit services. If this site is being watched by law enforcement agencies, you could be investigated.

You could also get in trouble if you incite violence or use hate speech.

Who uses the dark web?

If we go by Hollywood’s version of what the dark web is, it’s easy to see it as a den of criminals. While it’s true that there are many illicit transactions concluded in the dark web, there are also many legitimate users.

There are many reasons for people to browse the dark web. Just like with on surface web, you can find blogs, forums, and marketplaces. Let’s go through some of the users and what they use it for.

People wanting privacy

The recent Avast scandal shows just how vulnerable our data is on the surface web. According to the New York Times, Avast has been collecting data on user’s activities online and selling it to marketing companies.

With the dark web, there’s no tracking of your movements. Should you buy something illegal on one of the marketplaces, you might attract the attention of the authorities. Aside from that, though, specialized browsers used to surf the dark web keep your online activities anonymous.

Those who value their privacy might use the dark web in order to protect their own information.

People needing anonymous communication capabilities

A whistleblower, for example, might post tips on a forum on the dark web. They might also use the dark web to facilitate communication with journalists and so on. 

People wanting to circumvent censorship

If you live in a country where access to the surface web is limited due to government interference, the dark web provides a viable alternative. With the dark web people are able to access uncensored information and communicate with other people. 

The dark side of the dark web

Naturally, the very benefits that drive legitimate users to the dark web are the same that drive criminals. You’ll find marketplaces like Dream Market selling a mixture of legitimate and illicit goods. As a criminal, the anonymity of the dark web is a huge drawcard.

Selling illicit products or services

Criminals use the dark web to sell just about anything you can think of. You can buy and access things like:

·         Drugs

·         Pornography

·         Weapons

·         Financial information

Essentially, if there’s a black market for a particular product or service, you’ll be able to find it on the dark web. If you know where to look, you can even take out a murder contract.

The Silk Road was one of the most notorious sites at one stage. Authorities shut it down, but not before an estimated $1 billion worth of transactions were concluded. 

People promoting hate speech or inciting violence

With sites like Facebook and online forums cracking down on what is considered potentially harmful rhetoric, the dark web has become more popular. You can spew whatever hateful nonsense you like there without fear of the site being taken down. 

Final notes

There’s more to the dark web than you ever realized. There are legitimate and illegitimate reasons for surfing this part of the web. Overall, though, just like with the surface web, you must be cautious. Visiting the wrong site could land you in trouble.

Take a scroll through the TOR Infographic for a detailed guide on how to use it and incredible insights on how it works.