What is the Dark web?

To learn how to use the Tor browser to access the dark web you can watch this video.

The deep and dark web are two different terms often misconception-ally interpreted as the same thing . Below is an image that can help you conceptualize the difference between the surface, deep and dark webs:

The Surface web refers to any website that can be indexed by search engines like Google, Yahoo, etc. So those are publicly available websites for anyone to visit (excluding country restrictions), such as the website hosting this page. It is fairly easy to trace geographical location and identity of a surface web user unless they are using some kind of protection on their own such as VPN, which makes it harder but not impossible.

  • YouTube
  • Facebook
  • SelSecurity.org
  • Blogs

The Deep web on the other hand, refers to any website that cannot be indexed by search engines and therefore are private. Deep web is not necessary anything illegal or bad and does not need a special browser such as Tor to access. In fact most of our internet today is made up of deep web forming about 95% of our whole web. Those pages can also be accessed using a regular browser, however they are hidden behind other pages or protected by a password. There are many examples for the usage of the deep web and most of them we use on a daily basis.

  • Online banking
  • Governmental resources
  • Health records
  • Email.

Those web pages cannot be indexed by search engines or else anyone can go google your name and get all your banking info for example. The only way to access those pages is if you have some sort of subscription with the site where they give you access using a unique password. Same goes here as the surface web in terms of tracing back geographical location and identity, in fact technically speaking it is much easier to do so on deep web pages once you have been given access.

Dark Web:

The Dark web is a collection of websites that are also not indexed by regular search engines It also makes it very hard to trace to a geographic location or intercept, because it uses sophisticated way to add multiple layers of encryption making it impossible to trace or intercept. That is why most illegal activities such as gun or drug selling goes on there, but it is not just for that reason. To access such websites you need a special browser that understands the protocol used in the dark web, which typically is represented by onion sites.

Why can’t a regular browser access the ‘Dark’ web pages?

In order to understand why our regular browsers cannot access the dark web, we must first understand how our regular (surface) web works.

This is a very simple diagram to demonstrate how surface web works for the purpose of understanding the dark web. In the first step, the user requests to go to a certain domain i.e www.google.com, so the browser talks to the Domain Name System (DNS). In the second step the DNS returns the location of the requested domain by returning the domain name IP address. After this your browser will know where to go hence requesting the page directly from that IP address in the third step.

Without the DNS your browser will not know where to go when given a domain name. Unless you specify the exact IP address of the website you want to visit. If you try to visit an onion site on your regular browser, it won’t know where to go and tell you that the website is not found. However if you use a specialized browser to connect to a dark web network such as Tor, it will search the domain in the Tor Servers and be able to redirect your request through the encrypted tunnel.

To learn how to use the Tor browser to access the dark web you can watch this video.

How does Tor hide your identity?

Tor re-directs your request through multiple switches over the network, which makes it hard to trace original IP. Switches can be routers or actual devices sharing their network.

The diagram above demonstrates how your packets travel through the Tor network. We can see that if we want to visit Site A, Tor will relay our request through multiple servers before it reaches destination (green lines), then the message gets decrypted for the client to receive it.

Now if we decide to visit another site at a later time, Tor will choose a different path to reach that Site B than the one it took to reach Site A. And that is how Tor provides anonymousity. If you were not on a Tor network and we just strictly speaking identity and tractability, your request will look like this:

There are other replacements for Tor to access the dark web, however Tor is very dominant, widely used and most user friendly for non-technical users.

To learn how to use the Tor browser to access the dark web you can watch this video.