The Dark Web is an encrypted section of the internet which can only be accessed using specific software.
There are other encrypted networks in operation, but the most famous is Tor, which stands for The Onion Router. The technology was developed by US military researchers to allow information to be exchanged anonymously by intelligence services.
Tor users by connect through a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection to the intended site. This means share information over public networks without compromising their privacy.
The Tor browser can be used to anonymously access normal websites, but sites that are hosted within the Tor network constitute the Dark Web.
It is known for being used for criminal activity, including the sale of weapons and drugs. For example, the dark net website Silk Road was an anonymous black market best known as a platform for selling illegal drugs.
What’s good about the Dark Web?
It is also used by hackers to disseminate information obtained from hacks, or to sell malware. For example, a recent hack of Twitter users has seen information such as passwords and user names appear on the Dark Web.
However, according to the Centre for International Governance Innovation, it is also used by journalists, human rights activists, dissidents and whistleblowers who “use these services to rally against repression, exercise their fundamental rights to free expression and shed light upon corruption.”
The Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web, which refers to pages that are not indexed by standard search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo. These can include web mail, online banking or services that sit behind a pay wall.
Both are distinct from the Surface Web, which is the content which is indexed by search engines and includes all of the sites directly accessed by non-specialists, such as Wikipedia and Reddit.