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Dark Web Myths vs Facts

The Dark Web is perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts on the Internet. Let’s consider some common Dark Web myths and see where the truth lies.

The Dark Web is perhaps one of the most misunderstood concepts on the Internet. That’s primarily thanks to creative journalists and a few incidents with law enforcement. The result is good intentions morphing into what seems to be a stinking cesspool of depravity.

Like most other networks, the Dark Web is a means to an end. The concept is simple – build a private network that offers more privacy to its users. While the idea is excellent, some have used it for nefarious purposes.

Let’s consider some common Dark Web myths and see where the truth lies.

Myth #1 – You Can Hire an Assassin on the Dark Web

The source of this is a little murky but trying to hire a hitman or assassin seems to have become a “thing.” Numerous cases of individuals trying to do so have emerged online. Some took an intense dislike to a wife, husband, mother-in-law, or someone’s dog and tried to lead them to a sticky end.

Fact: Most Hitment for Hire on the Dark web are Scams

I have no doubt you can hire an assassin on the Dark Web. After all, anything is possible. The problem is that most of these cases have not turned out well. Many instances of punters trying to hire assassins ended up with their arrest.

Either that or they simply lose their “investment.” If you’re unconvinced, here are some examples;

Myth #2 – Browsing the Dark Web is Illegal

CBS News’ coverage on the take down of Silk Road in their “The FBI Declassified” series.

Many equate the Dark Web as synonymous with illegal activities thanks to ample media coverage of significant incidents. For example, the super-hyped FBI takedowns of illegal Dark Web marketplaces like Silk Road

Incidents like these lead many to assume that the Dark Web is a hotbed for illegal activities and that simply being there is against the law.

Fact: The Dark Web is Just a Tool

The Dark Web is an anonymous network slightly harder to access than the Surface Web. Websites are carrying out legal and illegal activities on the Dark Web. These aren’t small companies either. For example, Facebook and ExpressVPN have a presence on the Dark web.

Myth #3 – The Dark Web is the Same as the Deep Web

Surface vs Deep vs Dark Web (source).

Many seem to take the Dark Web and Deep Web as interchangeable terms. When we use the Internet, it all looks the same. After all, there aren’t any inter-web barriers carrying a notice saying, “Thanks for leaving the Surface Web, come again soon!”

Fact: The Dark Web is a Small Part of the Deep Web

The Deep Web refers to any part of the Internet that isn’t readily accessible. Websites on the Deep Web are mainly private and require you special rights to access. For example, a hospital may keep patient records on the Deep Web, behind a portal that’s accessible to only specific staff.

The Dark Web doesn’t need this kind of access authentication, but you often need a specialized browser or particular browser configurations.

Myth #4 – Illegal Content is Easily Accessible on the Dark Web

News headlines often scream about significant arrests associated with the Dark Web. The arrests cover almost all illegal activities, from Bitcoin scams to illegal marketplaces and illicit content. Here are some notable incidents;

  • Drug traffickers on the Dark Web got busted for selling MDMA, counterfeit Xanax, Ketamine, and Cocaine.
  • Peter Scully, an Australian, is serving a life sentence in the Philippines for human trafficking and rape. He created content around his illegal activities and uploaded it to the Dark Web.
  • Researchers found illegal firearms, including “Ghost Guns” and 3D-printed guns, available for sale on the Dark Web.

Fact: There are More Scams that Legitimate Illegal Deals

Because the Dark Web has such a bad reputation, scammers take advantage of Dark Web tourists who visit with crazy ideas. For example, buying a dime of weed or trying to hire a hacker to unlock someone’s Gmail account often doesn’t turn out well.

Lucky punters will simply lose a bit of money. The genuinely unlucky can end up blackmail victims or even find themselves at risk of physical harm.

Myth #5 – Tor is the Only Way to Access the Dark Web

The Invisible Internet Project (I2P) is a fully encrypted private network layer that protects your online activity and location information.

If you Google up ways to access the Dark Web, the most prominent name you’ll come across is The Onion Router, otherwise known as Tor. You can access .onion websites using the Tor browser. Due to this, the domain extension has become synonymous with the Dark Web.

Fact: There Are Multiple Dark Web Networks

Unlike the Surface Web, Dark Web networks are relatively isolated. Think of them as networks within networks. Aside from the Tor network, several other Dark Web networks are available – for example, The Invisible Internet Project and Freenet.

Each of these networks works in different ways. Tor’s web browser, for instance, allows access to the Tor network and Surface Web since it works via a proxy server. Comparatively, the Freenet client only provides access to sites on the Freenet network.

Also read – 13 coolest .onion websites to visit on Tor Network

Myth #6 – The Dark Web is a Threat to Online Security and Privacy

Since most netizens don’t use the Dark Web, much of what you read is hearsay. There’s not much real experience, and government sources prefer to emphasize the amount of work they do to make the world safer.

This situation leads to a scenario where misinformation abounds, and everyone treats the Dark Web as a boogeyman that’s waiting to pounce. 

Fact: You’re Safe Unless You Look for Trouble

Dark Web netizens lurk with their kind, and unless you play tourist in their space, there is little chance they will extend their activities towards you. 

The problem is that digital connectivity of any kind poses a risk, even on the Surface Web. YOu don’t need to be part of the Dark Web to get scammed, hit by data leaks, or download illegal content.

The best way of avoiding trouble is to beef up on security tools and increase your awareness about online privacy. For example;

Myth #7 – All Dark Web Websites Use .onion Domains

Freenet is free software which lets you access the Dark Web and anonymously share files, browse and publish “Freesites” – web sites accessible only through Freenet.

Due to widespread coverage, many see the .onion domain extension as synonymous with the Dark Web. The premise is that you must use the Tor browser to access Dark Web websites, which have .onion addresses.

Fact: Websites with .onion Extensions are Unique to Tor

You can access Dark Net networks differently. Freenet, for example, requires the Freenet client to access the content. Even then, a user can restrict content to specific individuals or groups. 

However, because of the relatively user-friendly way Tor works, it is one of the most easily accessible Dark Web networks.

Myth #8 – Virtual Private Networks Keep You Anonymous on the Dark Web

VPNs are increasingly popular today and much touted for their increased security and privacy. Some state they are a vital tool in the kit of anyone who wants to visit the Dark Web. The reason is that VPNs will keep you anonymous.

Taking this statement at face value can be incredibly dangerous since it is a half-truth.

Fact: VPNs Help, but Proper Awareness is Vital

Although VPNs are extremely powerful, at the end of the day, they are simply tools. They offer you the means of increasing your anonymity, but it won’t help if you don’t co-operate. Take, for example, a car or other vehicle. Manufacturers build them with safety features, but operating them safely also depends on the driver.

VPNs work by allowing you to connect to a secure server before routing your requests to your online destination. This process achieves two main objectives –

  • Data is encrypted, making it useless if someone is trying to eavesdrop on your connection.
  • Your device “adopts” the IP address of the secure server, and that server acts as a firewall preventing you from being tracked.

However, this process can’t stop you from providing identifiable information to websites. For example, if you sign up for access to a website and fill in your name, address, and other details – that’s out of the VPN’s scope of duty.

Choosing the right VPN is also essential. There are many VPN providers, and a large number of them offer “free” services. Unfortunately, many free VPN services end up selling your information to third parties, further eroding your privacy.

Also read – Best VPN solutions for Tor

Final Thoughts

Although I’ve gone into more detail about many Dark Web myths, you shouldn’t take it as a safe place. The entire Internet *(Surface, Deep, or Dark Web) is an increasingly risky area. Scammers hide behind anonymity to operate with impunity.

Keep this risk in mind and adopt the right tools that can help keep you safe online. More importantly, learn about your potential risks and work with those tools to develop a solid protection strategy.

Jerry Low

Jerry Low is the founder of HideandSeek.online and a long time proponent of web technologies. His curiosity of all things connected have led him from field to field, the latest of which is digital privacy and security. This site is where he shares some of his findings.
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