The Deep or Dark Web is a hidden group of websites accessible only through specialized browsers. They are used to preserve the anonymity and privacy of online activities, both legal and illegal. While some users use these browsers to visit Internet resources blocked by the government, others engage in activities that cannot be called legal.
The Deep Web stretches under the public domain of the Web and includes about 90% of all websites. This part of the iceberg is underwater and is much larger than the public Internet. In fact, this hidden part is so large that it is impossible to determine exactly how many web pages or sites are active in it at any given time.
Returning to our analogy, large search engines are like fishing boats that can only catch websites close to the surface. From scientific journals to closed databases and illegal content, everything else is not available to our anglers. The Deep Web also includes the so-called Dark Web.
The deep Internet content hidden from prying eyes is mostly not prohibited and does not pose a danger. We find resources ranging from draft postings for various blogs and unapproved website layouts to pages dedicated to financial transactions on the deep Web. In addition, such content does not pose a threat to your computer or security in general. Many of these pages are hidden from the public domain to protect user privacy, and the information below:
● Online banking and retirement accounts
● Email and Messenger Accounts
● Private databases of large enterprises
● Confidential information subject to the Health Insurance and Reporting Succession Act (HIPPA), such as medical records
● Legal files
Nevertheless, further immersion in the deep Internet is already fraught with several dangers. Some users use the Deep Web’s power to bypass local restrictions and gain access to TV and movie viewing services that are not available in some regions. In the deep Internet’s darker waters, it is possible to download pirated copies of music files or films that have yet to hit theaters.
And at the very depths, you can find even more dangerous resources and more Greater scope for illegal activities. This part of the deep Internet, or shadow internet, contains websites that require the Tor anonymous browser to be installed.
For ordinary users, the issue of protecting their activity on the Deep Web is more relevant than in the dark one: they can stumble upon dangerous resources quite by accident because access to many areas of the deep Internet is possible through ordinary browsers. Thus, users can turn off familiar online paths and end up on a pirate site, a forum for political radicals, or a page with unacceptably violent content.
The shadow internet includes websites that are not indexed and only accessible through specialized browsers. This part of the deep Internet is even smaller than the public Web which, as we recall, is a small fraction of the World Wide Web. In our ocean and iceberg analogy, the shadow internet would be the bottom point of the iceberg’s underwater.
However, the Dark Web is very well hidden, so only a few can use its resources or even stumble upon them. The deep Internet encompasses all the resources hidden under the visible part of the Web, including the shadow Internet, and access to them is possible through special software.
There are a number of characteristics of the Dark Web that make it an ideal haven for users who want to remain anonymous.
At the same time, the dangers that lie in wait for the user on the deep Internet are markedly different from the dangers of the dark Web. The threat of accidentally encountering cybercriminals (the likelihood of which is not so great) is not as dangerous as if the user was looking for them on purpose. Before getting to know the dangers of the shadow internet in more detail, let’s look at how and why users visit such sites.
How to get on the Dark Web?
The Dark Web was once inhabited exclusively by hackers, law enforcement officials and cybercriminals. Now, with the help of encryption and anonymization technologies like the Tor browser, every curious user can look into the darkest corners of the Internet.
The Tor network browser (the “onion routing” project) allows users to access websites with the .onion domain. This service was originally developed in the late 1990s by the US Naval Research Laboratory.
Given that the nature of the Internet was not originally intended to preserve privacy, an early version of Tor was created to protect communications between intelligence agents. In the end, the purpose of this technology was rethought, resulting in a public browser that everyone is talking about now. And any user can download it for free.
Tor can be thought of as a regular browser like Google Chrome or Firefox. But instead of building the shortest route between your computer and the deep Internet, Tor uses a random path through encrypted servers called nodes. As a result, users can dive into the deep Web without fear of being tracked by someone else.
These sites also use Tor (or similar programs such as I2P – The Invisible Internet Project) to stay anonymous. That is, you will not be able to find out who controls them or where they are located.
The conclusion from the above is this: the legality of ten new Internet depends only on its users’ actions. At the same time, they may deviate slightly from strict adherence to the law, balancing on the brink to protect personal freedom. Someone may resort to illegal measures in a situation where another person’s safety is at risk. Let’s consider the use of the Tor browser and the shadow internet resources in the context of both cases.
Is it legal to use Tor?
As far as the software itself is concerned, the use of Tor and other anonymous browsers is not considered completely illegal. These tools can be used not only to gain access to the darknet. Many users use Tor to browse public sites and select deep internet resources safely.
Tor allows us to keep our privacy online. In our digital age, this opportunity cannot be overemphasized. Today’s corporations and government agencies track users online without a legal basis. Some users just don’t want the government to know what they are doing on the Internet, and some may have no other choice. Residents of countries with strict laws on the use of Internet resources or access to them can only access public sites through Tor clients and virtual private networks (VPNs).
And, despite the fact that the browser itself is not prohibited by law, with its help, you can commit illegal actions and thereby attract law enforcement agencies’ attention. You can use Tor to illegally download copyrighted content on the deep Internet, distribute illegal pornography, or join the cyber-terrorist community. Using a browser permitted by law does not guarantee the lawfulness of your actions.
Is it legal to use and visit Deep Web?
The Deep Web is still a gray area of the network space. A user accessing the shadow internet does not seem to want to flaunt his actions on it.
Political oppositionists and outspoken supporters of ideas hated by the ruling forces can be extremely sensitive to maintaining their online anonymity because otherwise, their safety could be at risk. And victims of violence would hardly want to share with their aggressors the content of personal correspondence in which they talk about the fact of abuse. If your country’s laws prohibit an activity, it will be considered a crime to engage in it.
At the same time, there is a downside to anonymity, since criminals and hackers also prefer to remain in the shadows. For example, cybercriminals and smugglers are aware of the likely consequences of their illegal activities. It is for this reason that they hide in the anonymous expanses of the darknet.
Browsing shadow resources is not inherently illegal, but it can do you a disservice. Yes, these activities are not prohibited by law, but on your journey across the darknet, you can find yourself dangerously close to highly questionable activities. To avoid unnecessary risk, you should be careful or understand such issues at a high enough level.