Dark Web: What is it? Here's how to keep personal information off darknet

The dark web operates with a high degree of anonymity. It hosts harmless activities and content, as well as criminal ones.

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The dark web is a part of the internet that is not indexed by search engines. You've no doubt heard talk of the 'dark web' as a hotbed of criminal activity - and it is. The dark web uses the 'Onion Router' hidden service protocol. "Tor" servers - derived from the 'Onion Router' - are undetectable from search engines and offer users complete anonymity while surfing the web.

At the same time, dark web publishers are also anonymous due to special encryptions provided by the protocol.

Deep web vs dark web: What's the difference?

The terms 'deep web' and 'dark web' are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Deep web refers to anything on the internet that is not indexed by and, therefore, accessible via a search engine like Google.

Deep web content includes anything behind a paywall or requires sign-in credentials. It also includes any content that its owners have blocked web crawlers from indexing.

When you access the dark web, you're not surfing the interconnected servers you regularly interact with. Instead, everything stays internal on the Tor network, which provides security and privacy to everyone equally.

It is to be noted that dark web website addresses end with .onion instead of the surface web's .com, .org, or .gov.

That's "a special-use top-level domain suffix designating an anonymous hidden service reachable via the Tor network," according to Wikipedia.

What can you find on the dark web?

The dark web operates with a high degree of anonymity. It hosts harmless activities and content, as well as criminal ones.

Medical records, fee-based content, membership websites, and confidential corporate web pages are just a few examples of what makes up the deep web.

The dark web is better known for things like disturbing and dangerous items and services, illicit substances, and stolen information.

2017 Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) report stated that the purchasing of drugs via the Internet, particularly the darknet and through crypto-currencies like bitcoin have increased in recent years.

Underling the threat, the report had said, there is a "growing use of bitcoins in drug trafficking, especially in online drug trafficking, making it difficult to track the financial component involved in the act." Drug parcels are paid for in bitcoins or similar crypto-currency and are most often delivered via postal services.

Cough syrups (containing Codeine) like Corex, Phensedyl, Recodex and depressants like Alprazolam, Diazepam, Clonazepam, Lorazepam and Benzodiazepine are prominently "abused and trafficked", it had said.

How does personal information get on the dark web?

Even when you are innocently researching, playing, and conducting business on the public web, criminals are lurking.

They use forms, free websites, and data breach opportunities to steal your personal information and sell it on the dark web.

How can you prevent information from getting on the dark web?

There are proactive measures you can take to prevent financial consequences or identity theft:

1. Refrain from entering sensitive information on public computers.

2. Keep passwords safe and change them often.

3. Never email sensitive information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers or bank accounts, and driver's license information.

4. Stay away from unsecured sites such as those without a secure socket layer (SSL) - especially if the site sells products and services, or asks for financial information.

5. You can check if a website uses an SSL Certificate by looking at the URL of the website. If it begins with "https" instead of "http" it means the site is secured using an SSL Certificate (the "s" stands for secure).

6. Do not reply to unsolicited email messages.

7. Ensure you know all recipients when replying to or sending an email message.

8. Use gift cards or other secure payment methods not attached to your bank account.

9. Use computing and browsing devices that have current anti-malware and firewall protection.

10. Refrain from publishing personal information on social networks.

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