In the last few days, unfortunately, the news has been overblown again in the media: Once again, hundreds of millions of access data such as e-mail addresses and passwords have been illegally published on the darknet. But what is actually behind the supposedly dark, hidden pages of the Internet, where crime is commonplace and illegal content is disseminated? We bring light into the dark.
What is the Darknet?
The Darknet (from English for "Dark Net") is a network that exists alongside the Internet, as most people know it and use it daily. Its main features are the anonymity of all users and the opaque structures of the content. The vastness of the darknet is therefore difficult to fathom — unlike on the Internet, where the content is quite clearly defined and can be found .B by search engines such as Google. The Internet is therefore also referred to as the Surface Web. It can be seen as the bare tip of an iceberg under which countless other networks lie hidden, including the darknet.
How do I get to the Darknet?
Most people who have never come into contact with the topic of darknet probably imagine it very complicated to access the network. But actually everyone can get access to the darknet — the process is not much more complex than ordering a pair of shoes online. However, access to the darknet requires special software that paves the way into the dark web.
The best-known way to get there is via the so-called tor darkweb. The name of the network is derived from the name "The Onion Router" or "tor darkweb". And that's exactly how you can imagine this tor darkweb — like a multi-layered onion.
In order to get into the network via the tor darkweb, the so-called client, i.e. the connection program of your terminal device, connects to an average of three different servers. Since the path is not very straight and several layers have to be crossed, the user becomes more anonymous from layer to layer and can obscure his path into the net. However, this complex route also increases loading times — a normal search can take several minutes.
If the client has connected to the servers, the darknet can start browsing. Although the network is visually different from the Internet and is more reminiscent of the 90s, the journey through the dark network is not as dissimilar as the ordinary surfing of the Internet:
Because here, too, there are numerous online shops, the most diverse sites and even special search engines that search the darknet for content. Instead of .de, .com & Co. they all have a specific ending: .onion. These pages can only be accessed within the network. Entered in the address bar of your regular Internet browser, you will not see any content.
What are the contents of the tor darkweb?
In the mass media, the darknet is usually portrayed as a dark, dangerous place where criminal activity and illegal content are the order of the day. Of course, because of its anonymous structures, the darknet is a breeding ground for the business of illegal drugs or weapons. In addition to the choice of goods, services such as hacking or even contract killings are also offered on the darknet. Orders are usually paid for with so-called cryptocurrencies,which also ensure the anonymity of buyers and sellers when paying.
Identities and personal data are also part of the darknet's offering. Credit card information in particular is one of the most popular commodities and is sold online by cybercriminals in large quantities. These may, for example, have fallen into the wrong hands via phishing. One possible consequence may be identity theft – and thus financial or reputational damage. If you want to know if your data is offered for sale on the darknet, you can check your data with an identity protection — and in case of damage, have your credit card blocked immediately.
But besides the dark side, there is also a bright aspect of the darknet. Due to the anonymity with which users travel on the darknet, the network can be used by politically oppressed, opposition activists or journalists for communication and exchange of information. This is often the only platform for anonymous and uncensored communication, especially in countries that suffer from strict censorship (such as .B China or Iran).
For whistleblowers, too, the tor darkweb is an elementary platform for publishing revelations without being personally recognizable. Some major international newspapers, such as the New York Times, have therefore also taken the step into the darknet, offering a way to provide anonymous and protected information.
How dangerous is the Darknet?
Due to these wide range of uses, the darknet cannot be classified as dangerous per se. On the contrary, the network can perhaps be compared to a large city in this respect. In a big city you have all the possibilities to design your day, you can move freely and look at many different places. But in every city there are also places that should be avoided in order to avoid dangerous phenomena such as crime and drug trafficking. The danger in such places is, of course, higher.
The question of whether the use of tor darkweb is illegal also arises frequently. The answer is no, access is not illegal. But, of course, the darknet is not an unpunished space either: anyone who does illegal things, i.e. buys certain goods or distributes prohibited content, of course makes himself a criminal offence. However, as on the Internet, you should still be careful when surfing.