After reading a brief article titled “Inside Silk Road” in the 20 year anniversary issue of Wired, I was inspired to see what Tor and the “deep web” (frequently referred to as Darknet) is all about.
Getting started was surprisingly easy. All it took was a visit to TorProject.org and download the Tor Browser Bundle. After a simple installation I was ready to go exploring. The exploring part is more difficult.
You see, Tor allows you access to the deep web while simultaneously keeping your identity anonymous through a rely network of volunteer computers. Once you’re on using Tor though, you need to find the right link to the site you want. The problem: there isn’t a search engine for sites on Darknet. Instead you must find direct links on known sites.
The easiest way to access sites on Darknet I was able to find is:
- Visit the “How to Access the Hidden Wiki” on HiddenWiki.org.
- Follow the instructions there to install Tor (if you haven’t already done so)
- Scroll down towards the bottom of the page to access the Tor Library
- Look for the “Hidden Wiki” link towards the bottom of the page
- From the Hidden Wiki you can click through to the many SUPER sketchy sites of the deep web
There are many “bad” sites full of illegal activity on Darknet. One of the most well-known is Silk Road, where people buy and sell everything from erotica, to drugs and various forged items/documents (pictured below).
You may notice in the image that the prices are not stated in dollars. Instead, the deep web relies on bitcoins as a medium of exchange since it can be untraceable.
[Learn more about bitcoins here: What is bitcoin?]
The deep web is not only about illegal activity, of course. The deep web has been used extensively in uprisings against oppressive governments as well. Basically any time an anonymous identify is required, the deep web is there. Most darknet sites do appear to be in poor taste or promote illegal products and services, though.
My experience with darknet was a frustrating one overall. Since the anonymous network relies on several layers of relays, connecting to sites often takes 30 seconds or more. Worse, sometimes they never load at all.
Needless to say, my foray was brief — partially because of my impatience and partially because the darknet is just too dark a place to hang around for long.