What do you know about the dark web? A lot of what people know about the dark web comes from hearsay, police reports, or the news. Like any misunderstood technology, rumors and myths exaggerate the positives, negatives, legenvds, and renown of the dark web. Like most rumors and myths, there’s a hint of truth in the fables.
But what is a dark web myth, and what’s the truth? Here are several dark web myths and the truths behind their tales.
1. “Only Bad People Use the Dark Web”
You only need to use the dark web if you’re looking for nefarious goods and disturbing content, right? Wrong.
There are many uses for the dark web. While there are criminals, there are also privacy advocates, political dissidents, and many other users.
2. “All Cybercrime Takes Place on the Dark Web”
All cybercrime takes place on the dark web too, right? Wrong again.
The vast majority of cybercrime takes place on the clearnet—that’s where most of the internet-connected world congregates (see Dark Web Myth #2 for more information on why). In fairness, the dark web is a handy place for cybercriminals to gather and exchange information. There are underground hacking forums, darknet markets, and other such services.
But the simple fact of the matter is that you are more likely to suffer cybercrime on the clearnet rather than the dark web.
3. “The Dark Web Is Massive”
A common image used to illustrate the dark web is the iceberg. Here’s one I made earlier:
The problem is the relative sizes aren’t correct, let alone the fact that the internet doesn’t work in neat layers, as per the image.
The regular internet, or “clearnet,” comprises billions of websites. The second tier, The Deep Web, is the internet you cannot search using a regular search engine. That is academic databases, banking portals, internal company networks, webmail accounts, and other data that a Google search won’t reveal.
In comparison to the clearnet, the dark web is unfathomably small. Estimates as to the size of the dark web range from around 250,000 to 400,000 sites. On the Tor network, tens of thousands of these sites host ransomware notes and other malware. Many ransomware variants send victims to the dark web to pay their ransom using untraceable cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Monero.
You can read about the most private cryptocurrencies you can use over at Blocks Decoded, MakeUseOf’s sister site.
4. “The Dark Web Is Only for Tech Pros”
Something I read frequently is, “How do I find the dark web?” The perception of the dark web is that it is hidden, secret, and locked away from everyone. Whereas the reality is that you can access the dark web using the Tor Browser, which anyone can download and start using.
The Tor Browser is a modified Mozilla Firefox browser with several additional important security and privacy extensions, as well as the Tor Launcher. It remains one of the easiest and most secure methods of accessing the dark web.
5. “Accessing the Dark Web Is Illegal”
The dark web itself is not illegal.
However, the dark web uses strong encryption to keep sites, services, and users secure. In some countries, using strong encryption is illegal. As you cannot access the dark web without using some form of encryption, you will break the law in those jurisdictions.
For instance, in China, the use of strong encryption is illegal. Therefore, using the Tor Browser and the Tor network is a criminal activity. The Chinese government also bans the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), another form of encryption you can use to boost your privacy. Citizens in Russia, Belarus, Turkey, Iraq, North Korea, and many more face similar issues. (Here’s the MakeUseOf list of the best VPN providers.)
The second part of the answer concerns some of the nefarious content and materials you can find on the dark web. There’s an easy rule of thumb to use on the dark web: if it is illegal where you live, it is still illegal on the dark web. Using encryption to hide activity doesn’t legalize it.
MakeUseOf strongly advises using a VPN to protect your privacy and boost your security. If you need an excellent, trusted VPN provider, you can grab yourself three FREE months of ExpressVPN when you sign up for a year’s subscription.
6. “You Are Completely Secure on the Dark Web”
Another common dark web myth regards your security. The dark web uses encryption and script blocking extensions to significantly increase your security and privacy. But that doesn’t mean you are completely secure, not by a long shot.
Some confusion stems from using the dark web to access regular sites. You can still visit your regular internet haunts using the Tor Browser, though some dark web variants do not have the functionality. Regarding Tor, when you access a regular site, your internet traffic passes through an exit node.
An exit node is like a bridge between the dark web and the clearnet. While the origin of your traffic will remain secure, if you log into a social media account, your social media account will still show your activity.
What’s the Worst Dark Web Myth?
These dark web myths focus on the privacy, security, and operation of the dark web. That’s without delving into the legend surrounding some of the content you can allegedly find. It’s a mixed blessing, but a lot of that content isn’t suitable for MakeUseOf, even if the vast majority is the stuff of legend.
Want to learn more about the dark web? Sign-up for the free MakeUseOf email course that teaches how to safely explore the hidden internet.