Darknet: How easy it is to use the Hidden Web and hidden services

In the dark part of the Internet there is a lot of activity. But not everything is illegal, and everyone can move freely in it. We'll show you how to do it and what to look out for.

Content

  1. Darknet: How easy it is to use the Hidden Web
  2. Darknet: Operate your own hidden service

There is a lot of trade in illegal goods and services on the darknet, but at least almost 40 percent of the content is legal.

The coverage of the darknet is usually marked by negative headlines. In fact, it is also teeming with arms dealers, drug dealers, paedophiles and all sorts of other light-shy figures who use the safe exchange of information for their dubious activities. But that is far from all.

Dissidents and cyber activists around the world, for example, are protected from persecution there. Many of the great revelations of recent years are not due to ingenious investigative journalism, but to the information of whistleblowers who can transmit their data on the darknet without leaving traces. In addition, there are many other legal offers, such as forums, social networks and anonymous e-mail services.

The fact that many of the content is problematic does not mean that the darknet itself is illegal. Everyone is allowed to move freely in it. All that is needed for access is the Tor browser package, which is available for all major platforms and in multiple languages. You can find the bundle at

torproject.org.

For Windows there is a setup routine, in Linux the whole thing is unpacked anywhere and then the file Start-Tor-Browser.desktop runs.

The browser can be started directly via a link created in the directory. The installation does not require higher privileges. Tor opens an extended World Wide Web. The most known "bright" part of the Internet is still available. In addition, however, access to pages on the darknet, also known as The Dark Web or Hidden Web, is possible, which are unreachable by conventional means. As a rule, they also do not have readable Internet addresses, but only cryptic number-letter combinations, always ending in .onion. Some offers can be found via search engines, but many can only be found via invitation link.

The Tor Browser is the access to the darknet and also provides anonymous access to the rest of the Internet.

Onion peel protection

The name Tor originated from an acronym (The Onion Router), which refers to the so-called Onion routing, an onion shell principle that obscures the identity of the Internet user. For this purpose, all data is encrypted on its computer in three layers and then routed via three servers located somewhere in the world. An encryption layer is removed at each intermediate station. The user's IP address is obscured in this way. Only the address of the source node is visible for the destination Web page. Back on the same path. This does not allow for direct tracing.

Deceptive security

When pages are accessed on the Hidden Web, they are automatically connected securely. However, if you want to reach a page outside the darknet, be careful. The IP address is still not visible, but the transmitted data is no longer encrypted when it exits the Tor network. If there is a simple Http connection to a website, they are then in plain text. Often, however, authorities or criminals cut the traffic at the exit node. Therefore, it is advisable to prefer Https-encrypted pages, especially when private data or even passwords are transmitted.

The advantages of the Tor network can also be used with the smartphone. On Android, the Orbot app connects to the Tor network. For safe browsing there is the browser Orfox. For iOS, only the Onion Browser is required.

Even safer with the live system

The Tor browser package is the fastest way into the dark web, but not yet the safest. The operating system and software equipment of your PC can still offer many vulnerabilitys. If you attach particular importance to anonymity, Tails is recommended. This is a Linux live system. It routes all traffic across the Tor network and has other tools that can obfuscate your identity and secure your communications.

Surfing is also performed with the Tor Browser. The safest way is to boot the PC with tails directly from the DVD or USB stick. It is also possible to operate the system in a virtual machine, for example with VirtualBox, but this has disadvantages. This allows traces of your session to be left on your local hard drive, eliminating important features such as obfuscating the MAC address of your network interface. In addition, the host system can be compromised and thus pose a danger.

You can find Tails as an iso file under tails.boum.org. If a DVD is burned from it, it can be booted directly from it. However, it is better to install on a USB stick, because the operating system can then be updated and an encrypted memory area can be set up. For this, see Applications/Tails for the Tails Installer. If you don't want to burn a DVD or don't have a drive, you'll need to install a temporary tail on a USB stick using the Universal USB Installer tool. However, this does not offer all functions and is only required for the final installation on another stick. A step-by-step guide can also be found on the project website.

Orientation in the parallel world

To find your way around the darknet, there are special search engines such as Torch (xmh57jrzrnw6insl.onion). However, their results do not have much in common with those of the classic Google search. According to research, only one percent of the Hidden Web is supposed to be accessible in this way. But there is something that is quite rare on the normal Internet: link lists, such as the Hidden Wiki (zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion), in which there are often references to further link lists. In this way, it is possible to hang out through the thicket of openly accessible content.

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