You have certainly already heard of the "dark web", this set of sites inaccessible since the classic Web, and which feed a lot of fantasies - in particular that of a vast bazaar, reserved for insiders, dangerous and unhealthy, somewhere between the Mr Robot series, mafia networks and drug traffickers. But the reality is quite far removed from this negative image conveyed by many media.
Sites in ".onion"
At the origin of the dark web, we find internet users tired of the classic Web, on which it is impossible to surf and express themselves anonymously (as was the case 25 years ago), and who want to hide their IP addresses. Hence the creation of alternative and anonymous networks, such as I2P (Invisible Internet Project), Freenet and Tor. These three networks work in much the same way: the information passes through several nodes, successive encrypted layers, which make the internet user impossible to trace. I2P and Freenet are just as old as Tor (all three were originally created in 2002-2003), but the latter network is the best known of the three, and also probably the most used, because it is easy to use - which is why it seems to be customary (rightly or wrongly) to talk only about sites accessible by Tor to talk about the famous "dark web".
Designed to protect the privacy of its users, Tor allows you to surf anonymously on the classic Web, hiding your IP address, but also, therefore, to access sites in".onion"(a reserved top-level domain, whose name refers to the structure of the network, reminiscent of the bulb of the onion).
To access "Onion Land" and its hidden services, you will have to use something other than a classic browser: you will have to use a version of Firefox set for Tor, called"Tor Browser"- available for Mac OS, Windows or GNU/Linux. You can also opt for Tails,a free and secure OS, developed by hacktivists, which can be launched in "live" from a DVD or a USB key, on which it has been previously installed, instead of a hard disk, and which integrates among its many free software and tools intended to communicate securely, the Tor network and the Tor Browser.
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The Tor browser allows you to browse the web securely while hiding your identity. It is an accessible and feature-rich option. However, due to its dependence on the Tor network, it can sometimes seem a bit slow.
•Release date : 07/05/2021
•Author: The Tor Project
•License: open source software
•Operating system: Android - Linux - Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 - macOS
"Rent a hacker"
Now, the hardest part: knowing where to go. Since ".onion" sites are "hidden", the easiest way to navigate the "invisible web" is simply to go through "hidden wikis", which reference links (whose addresses change regularly) - such as Torlinks, The Hidden Wiki or through search engines such as TORCH and Tor Search.
Now, what do we find on this famous "dark web", or "Onion Land", which has caused so much ink to flow? First, necessarily, Tor being only a tool (and can therefore be misused), things not very Catholic. The site "Rent-A-Hacker" offers you for example to hire the services of a hacker. "Hire a hacker for everything you dream of, from a DDOS attack to destroying the reputation of an individual or company," it reads. Note that the services of our hacker friend range from 250 euros (payment in Bitcoins) for a "small job" (hacking of emails and Facebook accounts, installation of a Trojan horse, "small" DDOS) to 900 euros for a "large job" that takes several days of work (very elaborate DDOS, against well-secured sites). For 500 euros, you can also, quite simply, ask him to "ruin people", or to hack a website. Of course, it is impossible for you to know, before you have paid, whether it is a scam (a "scam", in the jargon) or a very real service, but know that the "dark web" is like the classic Web, which is like the real world: there are scammers like real "pros"...
Among the other "services" listed on The Hidden Wiki and Torlinks, you will also find "USA Citizenship" and "UK Passports", which will in principle allow you, for a large amount of money, to pay you FOR US or British passports (again, not sure if it is not a scam, but always try). The pompom being "Hitman Network", which will put you in touch... with hitmen. Yes, yes, as in the movies. Of course, as on the classic web, you will also find on "Onion Land" many porn sites, but in more unhealthy version, and more than shady. You can also visit sites that publish short guides to make homemade bombs, or that offer you to order drugs online - from cannabis to cocaine to ecstasy - counterfeit medicines or firearms.
Here again, it seems obvious that there is a great risk of coming across a scam, or a trap set by "infiltrated" police officers. But some of these sites in ".onion" actually sell what they present,as could the now famous Silk Road,the online "drug supermarket" closed by the FBI in 2014. Hacked Netflix accounts are also on sale to the highest bidders, as well as hacking databases. Finally, it is also possible to download (at your own risk, since they may be infected files) ebooks and other multimedia files.
A refuge for hacktivists
But the "dark web" is not always as "dark" as that. Fortunately, it retains a significant amount of light. Originally launched by the U.S. Navy (in 2002) to protect U.S. government communications during intelligence operations, Tor is a project supported by universities, NGOs, Google, and even the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), for its usefulness in terms of privacy and freedom of expression.
Its ".onion" sites thus allow, for example, whistleblowers to publish documents anonymously (in particular in "secure drop" made available by newspapers such as The New Yorker or The Wall Street Journal), Chinese or Iranian hacktivists to hold blogs against their respective regimes despite censorship, or ethical hackers (the "white hats") to meet on forums to carry out actions together for the common good.
Note that you can also find, on the "We fight censorship" site of Reporters without Borders, censored articles. You will also be able to visit personal blogs and sites of activists (anarchists, feminists, antiracists ...). You will also be able to frequent forums - to learn programming, but also to discuss aliens, esotericism, paranormal, gardening, politics, and more generally, everything and nothing.
Unfortunately, the appeal of the positive "dark web" ends there, if you are neither a hacktivist, nor an activist, nor a journalist, nor an activist, nor a whistleblower, nor a programmer, nor someone interested in these kinds of topics...
As for figures, let us note that according to the site"Tor Metrics",which gathers all the statistics of the Tor project, between 2 and 3 million people currently use this network, and that there are about 40,000 sites in ".onion" to visit. But also keep in mind that many sites close or change addresses regularly, and are therefore often inaccessible. You will probably have to explore "Onion Land" for several days, or even weeks, before you can find (maybe) your happiness.
But again, if you're not coming for something that has something to do with freedom of expression or the fight against censorship, but to listen to music, watch movies, or do loads of things that can only be done on classic web platforms (no social networks on Tor yet, even though Facebook has strangely invited itselfto it), the "dark web" will probably be of little interest to you, as it's still relatively small – as small, in fact, as the web was in the mid-1990s. Patience, therefore, before seeing the real development of a real alternative Web... Until then, you can always walk around the sites in ".onion", looking for ever more original subjects.