This project report aims to educate users of the web on various aspects of the Dark Web. It describes in detail what Dark Web represents, what it is used for, and the implications of using it. It also explains how the Dark Web works, as well as detailed steps on accessing it. This is so that users who have an interest in the Dark Web can learn about the architecture behind the Darknet.
This paper can also be used for educational purposes as part of the teaching exemplar to inform learners about the existence of the Dark Web as well as for learners to dive deep into the technical aspects of the Dark Web’s architecture.
Furthermore, this paper can be used as the material of preference for scholars and students learning about this topic. Lastly, workshops and events related to the Dark Web can benefit from this report by using it to create summaries for introduction initiations before diving deeper into the subject matter.
The web is a space for information that can be accessed through the Internet. This information includes documents, as well as other web resources that are determined using URLs. Web as a whole can be categorized into 3 types; First, there is the Surface Web, which is a web that is visible to everyone and everything on the surface is indexed and easy to find. One example of this category is the websites that can be found through Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.
Next, we have the Deep web, which is a web that is not reachable by search engines.
These are the websites that belong to the government, companies, or organizations. Sometimes, authorization might be required for these types of webs to be accessed.
Finally, there is the Dark web, which is the main focus of this report. The dark web exists on the Darknet, which is part of the Internet. However, it requires specific software and authorization to access. Furthermore, it is also not indexed by web search engines, so searches on Google or other similar search engines will not display links that are connected to the Darknet. Therefore, even with a Dark website’s URL, it cannot be opened by using normal web browsers, such as IE, Chrome, or Firefox.
The biggest selling point of the entire Dark web is anonymity. As a result, many black markets can be found where things like weapons, drugs, fake IDs, or even hitmen are sold. Although some legitimate content like book clubs or social networks can also be found, most of the people who use the Dark web do not use it for those content. There are different groups of people that use the Dark Web, and for completely different purposes, ranging from criminal activities such as illegal goods trading or money laundering, pedophiles sharing child pornography, to journalists using it as a platform to communicate resources, especially when they are in prohibited areas.
Back in the 1970s, when the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network which evolved into the Internet) started growing, other private and isolated networks began to show up, some of which became what we now refer to as the “Darknet”.
In 2002, a paper called “The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution”, written by four Microsoft employees, was published. They described the “Darknet” as any kind of parallel network which requires a specific protocol. This was when the concept of Darknet started to gain popularity.
The launching of the Tor network occurred in 2003 and with a license from MIT, the Tor code was made free to the public. However, questions were raised on the decision to make the Tor code free to all when it will only be used by one entity, that is the U.S. government. Making it free allows not only the government but also the public to take advantage of the idea of anonymity of Tor.
By the end of 2004, the usage of Tor had grown from a dozen to a hundred nodes on three continents. In 2011, an online black market emerged, it was also the first modern market termed under the “Darknet”. It was called The Silk Road. There, users were able to use the hidden services Tor had provided to perform anonymous browsing in a secure state. It was shut down, however, by the FBI in 2013.
Darknet uses the method known as “Onion Routing” to attain the target of being able to communicate anonymously. Within the onion network, messages are encoded by multiple levels of encryption, which are then transferred through a sequence of nodules, known as “Onion Routers”. Within each node, a level of encryption is unwrapped, where the node will send the message to the following node based on the information that is decrypted. This activity proceeds until the final destination is reached. This method was invented by U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in the mid-1990s, and further developed by DARPA.
To generate and transfer an “onion”, the originator selects a set of nodes from a list provided by a ‘directory node’. The message will be transmitted through the chosen nodes that are arranged into a path, called a ‘chain’ or ‘circuit”. To maintain the anonymity of the originator, there is no node can know whether its predecessor is the original sender or just another layer of the “onion”. Only the last node, however, knows the fact that it is the last one in the chain.
Onion routing uses asymmetric key cryptography to encrypt messages and makes sure that only the last node in the chain can decrypt the messages. After the server receives the request, the messages will then be sent back to the originator by the same chain, only this time, the order will be the opposite, and the final node will remove the first layer of encryption. The chain can be very long to make the process more secure, but the performance will drop as the chain gets longer.
Tor is a free open-sourced software, named after the acronym of the project “The Onion Router”, it allows users to access servers that require onion routing. It was launched in September 2002 by Roger Dingledine and Nick Mathewson.
Tor is widely used by hackers, criminal enterprises, and law enforcement agencies. As shown in Figure 4, we can see that the US has the largest number of people using the Darknet. However, in terms of the number of people as a percentage of each country’s population, Italy, Moldova, and Israel hold the highest record of using the anonymous Internet. Perhaps this is the reason why a large amount of Darkweb activities are practiced and provided within the above-mentioned countries.
This chapter is going to talk about more detailed protocol regarding how servers and clients interact in an Onion network. First, an Onion server needs to let other servers know its existence before any client can connect to it. The server is going to choose some nodes randomly and give them the public key to make them the Introduction Points for themselves.
Overall, there are 6 relays for a connection between a client and an onion service to be complete, with the client choosing 3 of them (3rd being the rendezvous point) and the onion service choosing the remaining 3.
Go to https://www.torproject.org/ and click the download Tor button. After you click it, the website will detect the type of your operating system, and serve you with according file. Once you download the installation program, double click and follow the instructions to finish up the installation.
After installation, open the Tor browser, there is a “get started” button at A saferactivitiestop left corner. As shown below, Tor can display how the browser is routed to the destination through multiple nodes to make sure the anonymity of the user.
Next, you can change the security level based on your preference. A safer level is recommended if you are not familiar with all the technical details. After this, you could start exploring the Darknet anonymously.
Based on this report, the Dark Web can be simplified as a network that is built on top of the web, that is designed explicitly for the sake of anonymity. It requires specific tools, software, and various protocol to access. While the idea of being anonymous can bring in many advantages, the Dark Web has been popular amongst criminals as they use the anonymity of the Dark Web to perform illegal activity. However, while the Dark Web has been subject to many infamously nefarious o, it also gives opportunities for the government and other federal agencies to track any form of criminal activity by monitoring the Tor nodes.
While the topic of performing on the Dark Web is still deemed taboo, it is no doubt that the black market that exists within the Dark Web is only going to grow larger despite multiple attempts by the FBI and government to shut it down, as many other Dark Webs have surfaced over the past decade. However, the positive and negative prospects with regardsregardare to the future of the artwork we to Web are still highly dependent on its users and how they decide to make use of it.