Myths and misconceptions about the Darknet and Tor

The dark web is shrouded in mystery, and rightly so. The term "dark web", created by the US Navy to provide more anonymity for users than the surface network, is commonly used interchangeably with Tor (the onion router) and has become synonymous with the digital underworld, where everything is sold from guns. , to drugs, to theft of credit card information, writes Chad Anderson, senior security researcher at DomainTools, a platform for intelligence gathering and investigation of cyber threats.

All this, of course, is true. But there are several persistent misconceptions about what the darknet is, how it works, and what threats and trends we should be concerned about. Here is a summary of the most common myths associated with the anonymity network:

  1. Deep web = dark web

The deep web and the dark web are often mistakenly used interchangeably. The deep web is simply a piece of Internet content that, due to the fact that it is not indexed, is not searchable by conventional search engines. This includes intranets, password-protected personal accounts, and controlled access databases. It's much less exciting than the dark web, which is also inaccessible from mainstream search engines but is deliberately hidden as a layer of anonymity on top of the regular internet.

  1. The dark web is for criminal activity only.

Contrary to how it is portrayed in mainstream media, the dark web is not exclusively for criminal or illegal activity. However, there is some ground for the truth: about 50% of .onion websites - the Tor URL suffix for the Tor hidden service - are in some way associated with illegal goods and services.

The idea of ​​a secret network, inaccessible to ordinary users, first emerged in the 1990s to provide US operatives with a secure and untraceable channel of communication. When the project was abandoned, researchers saw the potential for a completely anonymous network to provide free speech and secure communication to political dissidents in oppressive regimes, human rights and privacy activists.

As you know, WikiLeaks has a hidden service called Tor, where informants can send anonymous messages. But even the New York Times, Facebook and the CIA have their own Tor hidden services. Even the BBC recently launched a dark web version that makes the site accessible even in highly censored regions.

  1. The dark web is huge

The dark web is often compared to the bottom of the iceberg, and the surface internet is the pinnacle we all see. This is actually not true, as the number of websites hosted on the dark web is much, much less than the number of websites on the surface web, with less than 200,000 unique .onion addresses as of June 2020. In contrast, the Surface Web contains over a billion sites. However, it is the deep web that is best compared to the bottom of an iceberg. Everything that is online, but not publicly available, is hidden from public view.

  1. The dark web offers complete anonymity.

Although Tor offers great anonymity, there are ways a user can accidentally reveal their identity. Small clues such as the version of the browsers used or browsing habits, malicious javascript revealing their IP address, or even zero-day vulnerabilities introduced by government agencies have all been used to deobfuscate the user. Every bit of metadata from the machine can be used to identify a user, which is why Tor recommends using the Tor Browser Bundle, which comes bundled with a series of plugins that ensure metadata is not leaked and users are not most vulnerable. common deobfuscation techniques.

Tor obfuscates a person's identity by routing encrypted network traffic through a series of other user nodes, such as onion layers, and then through what is called an exit node. In theory, users accessing Tor using a VPN can mask their original IP address when logging into the Tor network, but there are still methods to expose a user's origin, and this should only be seen as an extra layer of anonymity, not a silver bullet. … In addition, Tor suffers from the problem that users can be de-anonymous if a single entity controls a sufficient number of nodes or layers in the network through which users send their traffic. Certain government agencies with sufficient resources can flood the network with their own nodes and theoretically expose users traveling through most of their nodes.

  1. Tor is the only dark web service

Although Tor has become synonymous with the dark web, there are other services that exist as additional layers of anonymous traffic.


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