What is the Dark Web?

dark web

So exactly what is the Dark Web? The submerged part of the iceberg, the scary part of the Internet — these are just some depictions of the so-called “Dark Web.”

Here’s an exploration what’s behind this part of the Web’s infamous reputation.

You might have heard some news or already read some articles online about the alleged criminal side of the Dark Web. Allegations suggest drug trading and an ongoing black market of illegal products like weapons and services. Gore, pornography, human trafficking – if you can name it the Dark Web probably has it.

But how is it possible with our generation living in the age of Internet?

What is the Dark Web and How Does it Work?

The Dark Web works under the radar of our trusty search engines. The websites in the Dark Web hide themselves in a cloak of anonymity that conceals their IP addresses, making them harder to visit.

But it is possible for any users to access these sites. The most popular way to visit them is by using Tor. It is an anonymity-based Web browser that hides your identity and location. Through Tor’s different layers of encryption websites on the Dark Web can be visited without either browser or website exposing their data to each other.

And that’s the beauty of the Dark Web — anonymity.

While law enforcement may claim this unanimity cloaks criminal activity, this anonymity can work for everyone’s benefit too.

Recently, well-known media outlet ProPublica launched its Dark Web site version running on the Tor network. The company is a non-profit news organization and now the first major online news outlet ever to offer part of its content on the Dark Web. According to Mike Tigas, ProPublica’s developer, the aim is to deliver a service to ProPublica’s more privacy-oriented users.

The outcry for privacy and anonymity for online activities has been persistent these past few years. Without the need for visitors to fill out any forms at all, Web sites can now collect personal information without you knowing it. But by on the Dark Web, users can hide their private data under extra layers of encryption making sure that information remains safe.

What is the Dark Web?

Can Businesses Thrive in this Kind of System?

As explained earlier, the Dark Web can represent dangers. Without the data gathering common today on the Web, malware and other dangers can be difficult to spot. The Dark Web’s inherent anonymity brings with it other inherent dangers. Cyber criminals may also be difficult to spot do to the lack of data available.

On the other hand, a well-established Dark Web site can absolutely serve its purpose to provide security to its users. Visitors can land on your site without sharing their data or running the risk of having that data seen by others.

Exploring the Dark Web

The Dark Web remains a mysterious and controversial part of the internet, often associated with illegal activities and anonymity. Here’s an exploration of what the Dark Web is and how it operates:

  • Hidden Anonymity: The Dark Web operates under the radar of conventional search engines. Websites on the Dark Web employ layers of anonymity to conceal their IP addresses, making them challenging to access and track.
  • Accessing the Dark Web: While it may seem elusive, anyone can access Dark Web sites using tools like Tor. Tor is an anonymity-focused web browser that shields user identity and location. Through multiple layers of encryption, both the browser and the websites on the Dark Web can interact without revealing their data to each other.
  • The Power of Anonymity: Anonymity is at the core of the Dark Web’s appeal. While it has been linked to criminal activities, anonymity can also serve legitimate purposes, such as protecting users’ privacy. ProPublica, a reputable news organization, even offers part of its content on the Dark Web to cater to privacy-conscious readers.
  • Privacy Concerns: In an era where online data collection is widespread, privacy concerns have grown. Many websites collect personal information without users’ knowledge. The Dark Web provides a haven where users can shield their data under additional layers of encryption, ensuring their information remains secure.
  • Business Challenges: The Dark Web poses challenges for businesses. Its inherent anonymity can make it difficult to detect threats like malware, and cybercriminals can operate with relative obscurity. However, for businesses operating on the Dark Web, it offers a unique opportunity to provide enhanced security and privacy to their users.
Hidden AnonymityThe Dark Web conceals itself from conventional search engines and employs multiple layers of anonymity to protect its websites' IP addresses.
Accessing the Dark WebTools like Tor enable anyone to access Dark Web sites while maintaining user anonymity.
The Power of AnonymityAnonymity is a central feature of the Dark Web, serving both lawful and illicit purposes, with some reputable organizations offering content on this platform.
Privacy ConcernsThe Dark Web addresses growing privacy concerns, where data collection often occurs without user consent. Users can protect their data through encryption.
Business ChallengesBusinesses face challenges on the Dark Web, including difficulties in threat detection, but also have opportunities to enhance security and privacy.

What is the Dark Web?

Dark Web Misconceptions

The Dark Web has garnered a notorious reputation, but there are several misconceptions about this hidden corner of the internet. Let’s address some of these misconceptions:

  • Exclusively Criminal Activity: While the Dark Web has been linked to criminal activities, it’s not solely a hub for illegal dealings. Many users visit the Dark Web for legitimate reasons, such as protecting their privacy and engaging in lawful activities.
  • Complete Anonymity: While the Dark Web offers a degree of anonymity, it’s not foolproof. Law enforcement agencies have successfully tracked down criminals operating on the Dark Web. Anonymity is a double-edged sword, offering protection but also posing risks.
  • Easy Access: Accessing the Dark Web isn’t as simple as using a regular web browser. Users must employ specialized tools like Tor and navigate a complex network to reach Dark Web sites. It’s not as easily accessible as the surface web.
  • Everything for Sale: While illegal products and services are available on the Dark Web, it’s not solely a marketplace for criminal transactions. It also hosts forums, communities, and legitimate content catering to privacy-conscious users.
  • Lack of Regulation: The Dark Web operates with a degree of lawlessness, but it’s not entirely devoid of rules. Some sites have their own codes of conduct, and various forums self-regulate to maintain their communities.

What is the Dark Web?

Security Measures on the Dark Web

The Dark Web is not without its own set of security measures. Here are some key aspects of security within this hidden part of the internet:

  • Encryption: The Dark Web relies heavily on encryption technologies to secure communications and transactions. This encryption ensures that data transferred between users and websites remains confidential and protected.
  • Pseudonymity: Users on the Dark Web often operate under pseudonyms, further shielding their identities. While not absolute anonymity, it adds a layer of privacy that makes it challenging to trace individuals.
  • Marketplace Reputation: Many Dark Web marketplaces have developed reputation systems where buyers and sellers can rate each other. This helps users make informed decisions and reduces the risk of scams.
  • Escrow Services: To build trust among users, some marketplaces offer escrow services. These services hold funds until the buyer receives the goods or services, reducing the chances of fraud.
  • Hidden Services: Websites on the Dark Web often use “.onion” domains, which are only accessible through Tor. This adds an extra layer of obscurity, making it challenging for standard web users to stumble upon them accidentally.
  • Secure Communication: Various messaging platforms on the Dark Web employ end-to-end encryption to protect user conversations. This level of security is appealing to those who prioritize privacy.
Security MeasureDescription
EncryptionEncryption technologies are extensively used on the Dark Web to secure communications and transactions, ensuring data confidentiality.
PseudonymityDark Web users commonly operate under pseudonyms, providing an additional layer of privacy that makes tracing their identities challenging.
Marketplace ReputationMany Dark Web marketplaces feature reputation systems, enabling users to rate each other. This helps users make informed decisions and reduces the risk of scams.
Escrow ServicesSome marketplaces on the Dark Web offer escrow services, holding funds until buyers receive goods or services, enhancing trust and reducing fraud risks.
Hidden ServicesDark Web websites often use ".onion" domains, accessible only through Tor, increasing their obscurity and making accidental discovery by standard users unlikely.
Secure CommunicationDark Web messaging platforms employ end-to-end encryption to protect user conversations, appealing to privacy-conscious users.

What is the Dark Web?

Legal and Ethical Implications

The Dark Web raises complex legal and ethical questions that extend beyond its hidden nature. Here are some of the legal and ethical considerations associated with the Dark Web:

  • Legality of Access: While accessing the Dark Web itself is not illegal, engaging in illegal activities within it is a violation of the law. Users must navigate the ethical boundaries of their actions when exploring this realm.
  • Government Surveillance: The use of anonymity tools like Tor has led to debates about government surveillance and user privacy. Balancing national security concerns with individual rights is an ongoing challenge.
  • Online Anonymity: The Dark Web challenges conventional notions of online identity. While anonymity can protect individuals, it can also enable malicious actions. Striking a balance between privacy and accountability is a pressing ethical issue.
  • Content Regulation: Content on the Dark Web ranges from lawful to deeply disturbing. The question of regulating this content poses ethical dilemmas, as freedom of expression clashes with the need to prevent harm.
  • Law Enforcement Challenges: Law enforcement agencies worldwide grapple with tracking and prosecuting criminals operating on the Dark Web. The borderless nature of this realm presents jurisdictional challenges.


The Dark Web remains a mysterious and enigmatic corner of the internet, often associated with secrecy and illicit activities. However, it is essential to recognize that the Dark Web is not solely a hub for criminal endeavors. It serves a diverse range of purposes, from safeguarding privacy to providing a platform for legitimate content and discussions.

While the Dark Web offers anonymity and security benefits, it also raises significant legal and ethical questions. The delicate balance between individual privacy and accountability, as well as the regulation of content, remains ongoing challenges in the digital age.

Understanding the nuances of the Dark Web is crucial for informed discussions and decision-making. It’s a realm that demands a nuanced perspective, acknowledging both its potential for good and its association with unlawful activities. As technology and society continue to evolve, so too will the complexities surrounding the Dark Web.

Background Photo via Shutterstock

Jonha Richman Jonha Richman is a Staff Writer for Small Business Trends covering apps, ecommerce and new business models. Jonha invests through her private investment fund, JJ Richman. The firm's latest investments have been focused on real estate, equities, bonds, commodities, emerging technologies (such as AI, big data) and various other globally diversified assets.