Darknet and Deep Web - bringing light into the dark via Tor network

The Federal Office for Information Security explains the hidden part of the Internet, which is generally called Darknet.

It is said that the Darknet is a playground for criminal machinations.  And almost everyone has heard stories about drugs, people or even murders being trafficked on the Darknet.

As the name suggests, the Darknet is a dark, i.e. a hidden, network.  It is not separate from the visible Internet - the Clear Web, but is related to it.  Basically, you should know that the entire Internet consists of three essential components:

The Clear Web: This is the area of the Internet where we shop, chat with friends or upload vacation photos.  However, this easily accessible part of the Internet is only a small fragment of the entire network.

The Deep Web: This by far the most extensive area (approx. 90% of the entire Internet) contains company databases, streaming servers and online storage.  In principle, the Deep Web is open to everyone, but much of the content is protected in order to protect company secrets, for example.

The Darknet: This area of the Internet is a comparatively small section of the Deep Web.  It cannot be found in the conventional way, communication is encrypted and the authors of the content and its visitors or consumers want to remain anonymous as possible.

Darknet and Tor Network

Darknet websites cannot be found using the usual search engines or browsers.  Only with the help of anonymization networks like Tor ("The Onion Router") can pages in the Darknet be accessed either directly or via Darknet search engines.  The pages can therefore usually only be accessed directly (peer-to-peer) and if you know the exact URL.

The Tor network is structured like an onion in terms of the name derived and disguises the identity of the users through several encrypted forwardings between the servers up to the exit node or the corresponding page in the Darknet.  The node only knows the previous and the following server.  However, one thing should be said clearly: despite the use of anonymization networks such as the Tor, tracing cannot be ruled out.

Darknet and Deep Web - what are the differences?

The deep web makes up about 90% of the entire world wide web.  Pages of the deep web are not indexed and therefore not accessible via search engines.  The deep web consists of databases, websites and services belonging to companies, government agencies or universities.  This content is usually paid for or, for example, password-protected, but harmless.  For the Darknet, on the other hand, you need special software and its content often has a criminal background.

Is the Darknet a playground for criminals?

On the one hand, yes.  The Darknet is actually a trading center for criminal offenses and illegal goods of all kinds, in which the offers are usually paid for with so-called crypto currencies.  Because of the encrypted communication and the anonymity that goes with it, criminals exploit the network.  This is also where the Darknet's greatest dangers lie: The risk of malware spreading is higher here than on the Clear Web.  Visitors can fall for dubious offers within the Darknet and thus either make themselves liable to prosecution or come into contact with criminal organizations.

On the other hand, the encrypted structure offers journalists, the persecuted or politically opposed people the possibility of accessing regionally blocked content, circumventing censorship or communicating with other people.

The anonymity allows journalistic sources to go undetected in some cases and whistleblowers to share their discoveries with the public.  As in many other cases, the deep web and darknet represent something that can be used for both useful and harmful purposes.

Darknet - what is allowed, when do I make myself a criminal offense?

Moving around in it alone isn't illegal, albeit a security risk.  Due to the many stories that are circulating around the Darknet and the anonymity of the users, the impression can easily arise that the network is per se inadmissible.  You actually become a criminal offense as soon as you consume or download illegal content or acquire illegal goods and services.

The sale of such goods is also a criminal offense.  Here the Darknet hardly differs from the physical world: What is illegal outside of the Internet, remains illegal on the Internet - regardless of whether it is Clear Web or Darknet.

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