The Dark Web is a term which refers to a collection of websites that exist on an encrypted network and cannot be found by using normal search engines or visited by using normal browsers. It is also a World Wide Web content that exists on darknets, overlay networks which use the Internet but require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. The dark web forms a small part of the deep web, the part of the Web not indexed by search engines, although sometimes the term “deep web” is mistakenly used to refer to the dark web.
Almost all sites on the Dark Web hide their identity using the Tor encryption tool. Tor has ability to hide your identity and activity. You can use Tor to spoof your location so it appears you’re in a different country to where you’re really located. When a website is run through Tor it has much the same effect.
To visit a site on the Dark Web that is using Tor encryption, the web user needs to be using Tor. Just as the end user’s IP address is bounced through several layers of encryption to appear to be at another IP address on the Tor network, so is that of the website. There are several layers of magnitude more secrecy than the already secret act of using Tor to visit a website on the open internet – for both parties. Hence, sites on the Dark Web can be visited by anyone, but it is very difficult to work out who is behind the sites. And it can be dangerous if you slip up and your identity is discovered.
Not all Dark Web sites use Tor. Some use similar services such as I2P and Freenet. But the principle remains the same. The visitor has to use the same encryption tool as the site and know where to find the site, in order to type in the URL and visit. The Tor dark web may be referred as Onionland, a reference to the network’s top level domain suffix, Onion and the traffic anonymization technique of onion routing.
Because of the dark web’s almost total anonymity, it has been the place of choice for groups wanting to stay hidden online from governments and law enforcement agencies. On the one hand there have been people to communicate with journalists, but more frequently it has been used by terrorists and criminals to keep their dealings secret.