There’s a lot of buzz lately about the deep web, and it’s quite easy to get misinformed. From drug markets, hit-men for hire, and lots of creepy stuff, everything linked to the deep web.
That raises the question: why would you want to be involved in the deep web?
Well maybe it’s not all about the horror stories found everywhere and there’s something more to it. So let’s get back to basics by answering some simple questions.
1 – What is the deep web?
Suppose you create a website about kittens. You create the layout, add some pictures and start the webserver on your pc (or publish to a web hosting service) to make it available online. Congratulations, your kittens are on the deep web, because no one can, by regular means (google and such), find it. Until you register the site on some search engines (ie: http://www.google.com/addurl/) or another known site adds a link to it, no one will know about it. That’s the deep web: online content not visible by a search engine. That includes password-protected content (such as your emails).
2 – What is Tor?
So… where are the drugs? Part of the deep web is the dark web (or dark net). That is online content that requires special tools to access. Tor is one of those tools.
3 – Why use Tor?
There are many specific reasons to use Tor or any similar tool, but the main ones are:
- You want to make it more difficult to being spied upon. Tor uses a network of nodes to make it more difficult for a third party to know who accessed what site.
- You want to access .onion sites, which are only accessible through Tor.
4 – How to use Tor?
Just download Tor and run it (https://www.torproject.org/). Another alternative is to use Tails (https://tails.boum.org/). Tails is a live operating system with Tor installed that you can boot on any computer, just to avoid leaving traces on it.
In either case, once running you use it just like any browser (Tor browser is based on Firefox).
5 – Are there risks associated with using Tor?
The only risk associated with using Tor is that you will be added to a NSA list just for downloading it (http://www.cnet.com/news/nsa-likely-targets-anybody-whos-tor-curious/). The same goes for Tails. That sounds scary enough, but imagine everyone downloads it and uses it, then everyone would be “suspicious” to the NSA, which by definition means that no one is suspicious. The more people using it, the better.
Other than that, there is no risk specific to Tor. There may be risks associated with what you want to do. In the same way, there is no risk in buying a chainsaw, but there will be if you go all Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre on someone…
6 – What can I do in the dark web?
There are several scenarios where the dark web can be useful:
- You live in an oppressive country and want to communicate yourself without being eavesdropped on.
- You want to incur on some activity that might not be legal in your country, but is somewhere else, or maybe it’s legality or ethics are not well defined yet (transhumanism for example).
- You want to learn about security. The dark web has a lot of resources about it.
- Or you just want to buy cookies: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/i-bought-adorable-cookies-on-the-deep-web.
The deep web is quite interesting both in terms of the content available there as well as from a technical point of view. Tor might not become your most used app but its evolution (and its alternatives) are an important milestone to bring a higher awareness of information security and to keep your private communications… well, private.
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