It’s easy to reach websites like Amazon, Facebook, or the news. If you’re looking for something else, you use a search engine. For example, if you go to Google and search for “Naija Tech dark web guide,” you’ll probably wind up on this page.
But there are a wealth of sites that you won’t be able to find in a search engine, no matter what you type in.
This part of the internet is called the Deep Web.
What is the Deep Web?
The Deep Web includes all webpages that can’t be found through a search engine. That means websites that are purposely hidden, but will also include sites that are purely functional. Business intranets, webmail platforms, and databases are all part of the Deep Web.
When you think about it, there are an enormous number of webpages that can’t be accessed by using a search engine. When you check your bank account, the pages that are password protected are on the Deep Web. When you check your email, each message you open is part of the Deep Web. This means that the Deep Web is actually much, much larger than the regular internet. Some people estimate that 90% of internet pages are on the Deep Web.
What is the Dark Web?
One part of the Deep Web is the Dark Web. The Dark Web is comprised of pages on the Deep Web that are on an encrypted network with hidden IP addresses. That means they have several layers of security. Basically, Dark Web pages are made and used by people who want to protect their identity. That’s because anyone can access a page on the Dark Web, but it’s very difficult to figure out who has created that page.
How Do I Get Onto the Dark Web?
You can get onto the Dark Web in three easy steps. Here is a detailed breakdown, with photos, of how to access the Dark Web. For now, we’ll do a quick walk-through.
- Get a VPN.
Getting hooked up with a good VPN service is always an important first step if you value security. A VPN will mask your IP address by routing your connection through one of its own servers.
You want a VPN because you’re about to use a network of servers called the Tor network. Although Dark Web pages themselves are encrypted, ISPs will still be able to see that you’re using the Tor network. That can make them suspicious. Imagine it this way: it’s like you’re carrying a big, black, unlabeled box– ISPs might not be able to see inside the box, but they notice that you’re concealing something. When you use a VPN, anyone watching will only see encrypted VPN traffic. They won’t know you’re on the Tor network.
- Download Tor.
Many sites on the Dark Web can only be accessed using the Tor Browser. First, turn on your VPN. Then, download the Tor Browser from their website. Install it, and then choose “connect.”
The Tor Browser, run by the non-profit Tor Project, isolates each website you visit so third-party advertisers can’t track you. It triple-encrypts your data, and also deletes cookies and your browsing history after you finish a session. That means the browser is generally safe from surveillance.
- Start Browsing .onion Sites.
Most webpages you use probably end in .com. On the Tor network, URLs end in .onion, and are often long and complex so that they’re more difficult to remember (and thus more hidden). You can still go to your regular webpages, like Google, but remember that pages on the Dark Web are hidden from search engines, so you won’t be able to find Dark Web pages that way.
A good place to start is The Hidden Wiki (http://zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion/wiki/Main_Page).
The Hidden Wiki begins with introduction points, including several Tor search engines you can use to find hidden services. It recommends webpages for sales, whistleblowing, torrenting– there’s even a page dedicated to exploring the steam tunnels underneath Virginia Tech!
Be aware, of course, that the Dark Web is also a tool used for people interested in illegal activity, so you should navigate with caution. But with the Dark Web, you can also get around censorship if you live in a country with restricted internet, buy legal goods anonymously, or share sensitive information with journalists.