The internet has been around for a few decades now and it’s brought a serious amount of convenience and ease to our lives. If you’re hungry, just order some food and have it delivered straight to your door. Want to go on holiday but can’t take leave? Just take your laptop with you and work remotely from anywhere in the world. You can even find a movie or TV show in a matter of seconds on Netflix. While all of these factors are great, the internet also has a dark side that you should know about.
The dark web is a section of the internet that has a collection of websites that are hidden from the public eye. Now, it must be said that the dark web has earned a reputation for being a bad place — specifically a hub riddled with cybercriminals, illegal activities, and all kinds of underground black markets. While this is true for a section of the dark web, it’s not true for the dark web as a whole!
The dark web can be dangerous, but the surface web can be too! As long as you know how to stay protected on the dark web and you’re careful about your actions and the sites that you’re visiting, the dark web can be a safe space that you can browse anonymously. If you’ve ever wondered about what the dark web is and how you can stay safe when accessing it, keep reading to find out more about it!
What Is the Dark Web?
The dark web has an interesting origin story that you might not have expected. Many people think that it’s an underground hub on the internet that has been designed by cybercriminals who don’t want to get caught when dealing in their illegal activities. However, this could not be further from the truth!
In the 1990s, the United States Naval Research Laboratory designed and created a program that would allow spies to communicate anonymously without their messages being intercepted by anyone else. This project was known as Tor (The Onion Router).
The project was a success, but eventually, it was repurposed and released to the public as the Tor browser. This anonymous browser allows users to access a collection of websites that have been hidden away from the surface web — and this section of the internet has become known as the dark web.
When it comes to using the dark web, there are three main advantages:
- The anonymity of users
- Websites and services that are untraceable
- Both users and providers are capable of taking illegal actions
Naturally, this would attract cybercriminals and internet users who have malicious and illegal intentions. However, that is not always the case as there are often government agencies, legal parties, and even other people who use the dark web every day. The purpose behind using the dark web is to remain anonymous, which appeals to whistleblowers, censored journalists, abuse and persecution victims, and political dissidents. So, it’s not always a hub for cybercriminals and underground activities!
Is It Dangerous to Access the Dark Web?
The Tor browser allows users to browse the internet anonymously by routing their internet traffic through a random circuit of secure servers known as “nodes”. Your traffic is sent through a random path each time, making it extremely difficult for anyone to trace the activity back to your device. This also prevents your browser and device from keeping track of your internet history.
The Tor browser has an additional layer of security in the form of I2P software (invisible internet project). This software protects website owners, allowing them to remain anonymous on the dark web too. So, the privacy and security of the Tor browser go both ways.
That being said, there is still some risk involved in accessing the dark web, just like there are risks involved in browsing the surface web. It’s always best to be aware of the dangers that you might face when heading onto the dark web, just so you know what you need to keep an eye out for.
Here are the main risks that you would face on the dark web:
- Malicious software – In the same way that some surface-web sites may download viruses, spyware, or ransomware to your system, some dark websites may also do the same. Cybercriminals can potentially steal important data from your device, delete or encrypt important files on your devices, or even monitor your internet traffic by taking advantage of this.
- Government Monitoring – Despite being anonymous on the dark web thanks to the Tor browser, government monitoring remains a possibility. Some sites have been taken over by authorities, and this can allow them to monitor devices that access the website. You could become a government target simply for visiting the wrong website if it has been taken over by government agencies.
- Scams – Users on the dark web can buy products or services from its marketplaces. You need to be extremely careful when dealing with potential scammers on the dark web who never deliver the products or services you have paid for. The anonymity factor makes it much more difficult to locate scammers on the dark web.
How To Stay Safe on the Dark Web
While it is safe to access the dark web, you should still take additional precautions just to be safe. You never know when you might land on the wrong website or if you run into malware that can destroy your device in a matter of seconds. The best way to stay safe is with premium cybersecurity tools.
The first cybersecurity tool you need is a premium VPN. By securing your internet connection and hiding your IP address, a VPN can give you additional security and privacy while you’re browsing the internet, which will keep cybercriminals at bay if you’re surfing the dark web.
You should also invest in premium antivirus software that will constantly keep an eye on your device and scan it for any malware. If any malware has been detected on your device, the antivirus software can act rapidly to remove the malware before it does any further harm to your device.