Estimated reading time: 2 minutes
For quite some time now, I have been playing around with Tor (the anonymous browser) and the dark net and I must admit, it’s been an exciting journey. I have always enjoyed discovering new toys and Tor is one of those toys you just can’t seem to put down. In short, because it gives you free reign to browse the vast amounts of hidden websites lurking around in the dark net and the deep web, anonymously and securely.
As for the long version… Well, that’s going to take some explaining and I’ve compiled a series of videos that will take you from understanding how the surface-internet, the one you’re used to using, works, to how to navigate the dark net and the onion protocol.
1. HOW DOES THE INTERNET WORK?
To understand what the Deep Web is and how it works, you must first understand how the internet of which you’re more familiar, works.
2. WHAT ABOUT SEARCH ENGINES?
Now that you know how the internet actually works, you need to understand how search engines work because once you understand that you’ll be well on your way to figuring out where the term Deep Web comes from (spoiler alert: it’s basically websites that have never been indexed by search engines).
Approximately 90% of the internet is not indexed by search engines, and this void has created what is known as the Deep Web. Most of the content of the Deep Web are websites that do not allow search engines to crawl them for various reasons — some websites just want privacy, some require a login, and some are simply archives for universities or libraries. All these websites are accessible using a regular browser.
But there’s a special subset of Deep Web sites that are also non-indexable by search engines, but for a specific reason: because they use a different kind of protocol than http… the .onion Tor services protocol. These sites form what is called the Dark Net, and require special software in order to be accessed…
Yep. Tor is a version of the popular FireFox browser that focuses on security and anonymity, while also giving you access to dark net .onion sites.
If you’d like to dig in deeper, take a look at this interview with Jacob Appelbaum, lead developer of the Tor Project and one of my personal heroes. It’s a bit more technical but entirely worth it if this is something that interests you.
4. SO WHAT EXACTLY IS THE DARK NET?
As explained earlier, the Dark Net is a subset of non-indexable sites on the Deep Web that require special software to be installed on your computer in order to be accessed. They also have no human-readable domain names, and, because of the onion routing protocol offered by Tor, it’s also nearly impossible to figure out who’s accessing the sites and where the sites are hosted.
Eli the Computer guy has an excellent presentation on what the Dark Net is and what it isn’t, and how Tor fits into the equation.