The Dark Web consists of websites that exist behind layers of encryption. This secrecy means you cannot find them using search engines like Google or traditional web browsers like Safari or Chrome.
Sites on the Dark Web hide who they are using an encryption tool called Tor. Tor can conceal your name and your online activity. It can make it appear that you are in a different Country from your actual one.
If you want to visit a site on the Dark Web, you have to use Tor. Your IP address is bounced through many layers of encryption to appear to be at another address. The website you are visiting is also not where it seems to be. You cannot work out who is behind these secret sites very quickly.
There are alternatives to Tor, such as I2P, but all these encrypted browsers use the same principles. The user has to use the same encryption tool as the site they are going to and know where to find it so they can type in the URL.
There are famous examples of Dark Web sites such as The Silk Road and Dream Market. These sites sell drugs and other illegal items like weapons and forged documents. Criminal gangs and child pornographers also use the Dark Web. The Silk Road was set up in 2011 by Ross Ulbricht. Purchasers bought things with Bitcoin so that their online identities could be protected. The FBI caught Ulbricht in 2013, and he is now serving a life sentence in a New York prison.
Some people use the Dark Web more legitimately. Those in totalitarian states can use it to communicate with those outside of their country. Some members of the public want to keep their online activity secret from the government, which may be snooping on them. It is a brilliant way to stay anonymous online. You can have access to cut-price goods like electronics and secret social media platforms.
You may find some users referring to the Deep Web. Often this term means the same thing as the Dark Web. The Deep Web technically means all the websites that search engines cannot find. In addition to Dark Web sites, the Deep Web also includes user databases, webmail pages, registration-required web forums, and pages behind paywalls. Many of these sites are not illegal and used by legitimate companies.
All websites on the Dark Web have randomly created URLs that change all the time. You will see their suffixes all end in .onion rather than .com or .co.uk. The website addresses are hard to remember so that the content is confidential and anonymous.
Surfing the Dark Web is not illegal, but it comes with many risks and can expose you to malware.