The Dark Web Explained: How to Access, and How to Protect Yourself

The dark web has firmly held on to the stereotype of being the hotbed of illegal activity on the internet, which is undeniable. However, the dark web has many other uses besides the unsavory activities commonly associated with it. After all, it constitutes one of the most extensive sections of the internet, yet only a few ever access it. As a business, IT, or cybersecurity professional, you need a good understanding of the dark web to keep your organization safe from potential threats.

What is the Dark Web?

Anonymity and privacy make the foundation of the dark web. It represents a collection of internet sites meant to be inaccessible via regular browsers. The dark web uses a randomized peer-to-peer network connection, encrypted at every stage to avoid tracking and surveillance.

Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web

Despite running more than 3.5 billion queries every day, popular search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo only index less than 10% of what we know as the internet. The small, indexed section is the surface web, and the vast, hidden part is the deep web.

Not to be confused with the dark web, the deep web is simply information that is not visible to search engines, like private databases and medical records. A typical example of this is when you access your social media account. With a search engine, you can get to the main website of the social media website.

But a search engine will never display the contents of your social media account since these are not indexed. The deep web is not necessarily anonymous. Once you are inside the deep web, say you have logged into your bank account, the information is not entirely private. The system tracks the users logged into the network, for example. On the dark web, there is no record of who you are or what sites you visited.

What the Dark Web Looks Like

The dark web appeals more to users who do not wish to leave a trail of their activities on the internet. The sites on the network are also anonymous, as are the users. By using scrambled URLs, the sites make it harder for search engines to index the pages. Financial transactions can be done with cryptocurrency, making it easier to do business without leaving a money trail. The enhanced anonymity makes it a haven for scammers and sellers of illegal stuff and dangerous goods.

Because it is inaccessible using regular browsers, you will need special tools like the Tor (shortened from The Onion Router project) browser.

Besides illegal activity, other reasons that send people to the dark web would include:

  • To find publications that are not accessible on regular channels.
  • To join free speech movements in politically hostile environments. It is quite like how the Rebel Alliance in the Star Wars Series uses the DarkNet to send anti-imperial messages.
  • Some may visit whistle-blowing networks to leak information. Where countries enforce strict internet censorship, the Tor network provides the only avenue for citizens to connect with the outside.
  • For cybersecurity professionals, it helps them have an extensive view of the current exposure facing the organization.

Will I Go to Jail if I Use the Dark Web?

Using the dark web is not illegal. However, when asked when it’s ever right to use the network, it remains a subjective topic depending on the angle. At the corporate level, an employee found using the Tor Network would have to answer serious questions from security or management. But if you love to stay anonymous when surfing the net, including when surfing regular websites, the dark web is a great place.

Potential Dangers of the Dark Web

The dark web can be a dangerous place. Some of the websites found there could infect your computer with trojans and viruses. Hackers are always lurking in these dark alleys, and you could expose yourself to a potential hack, and you make it easier for them when you use your personal or company email address. Expect to find more phishing sites than you would on the surface web. Webcam jacking is quite common on these networks. There are numerous black markets trading in illegal goods that you would want to avoid.

How to Protect Yourself from the Dark Web

The dark web remains unregulated, and potential cyber attacks lurk everywhere you look. The following are some of the steps you can use to protect yourself and your business:

  • Start by ensuring that you have antivirus software installed on your computer. Consider using a VPN if you are browsing on a public network.
  • Try to avoid using your company email address when browsing the Tor Network, as it exposes your organization to numerous threats.
  • Change your passwords often and avoid using the same password on different websites. In the event of a massive hack where user credentials get stolen, they will likely end up on the dark web.
  • Keep your applications and operating systems software up to date. A huge part of pushing software updates involves adding security features to protect against identified bugs and potential cyber threats.
  • Enforce cyber awareness training for your business so that employees are always aware of the dangers that lurk on the internet.
    Avoid downloading files from the dark web, but if you have to, scan the incoming files with antivirus software.
  • Organizational devices should not have access to the dark web. Where Tor access is needed, enforce strict access rules.

Master the Dark Web and Protect Your Business

Like in the Star Wars Series, the dark web represents a powerful force. If you choose to peek in there, you have to learn how to overcome it, or else it will rain down pain and destruction. In real life, a professional with a deeper understanding of the dark web will be able to disarm the enemy and defend their organization.

At Mathe Inc., we specialize in secure desktop and cloud infrastructure solutions for organizations across the United States. If you are interested in maximizing your protection against the potential dangers of the dark web, contact us today.

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