Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Darknet: Mystery and Free Speech

I am constantly looking for anonymity on the internet. So when I read about TOR (The Onion Router) I was intrigued.
TOR, which can be downloaded online, operates like a browser — albeit slower because it is bouncing packets of data across several continents to protect anonymity. Journalists, whistleblowers, domestic abuse victims and dissidents living under repressive regimes use Tor to bypass government censors and prevent their online movements from being tracked. The U.S. State Department provides funding to the Tor Project to promote Internet freedom in other countries.
But the anonymizing software has also been used by whistleblowers to leak sensitive U.S. government secrets. Though it’s unclear whether Snowden used Tor to disclose details about NSA surveillance to reporters, Wikileaks has reportedly used the software to protect whistleblowers.
Tor masks people’s online activity by routing traffic through layers of servers, or “nodes,” around the world. Its creators likened the encryption method to layers of an onion, giving the software its original name: “The Onion Router.” About 500,000 people use TOR every day, according to the Tor Network, which consists of a global network of more than 3,000 volunteers who host servers and promote freedom of speech and online privacy.
Once you’re on a directory, one thing becomes overwhelmingly obvious: A lot of dirty, downright illegal stuff happens in TOR. You’ll quickly find links to credit-card scammers, forged documents and currency, weapons dealers, gambling sites, marketplaces for every vice imaginable, hacker havens, the types of illegal and disgusting porn that get chased off the Surface Web, and even the notorious Silk Road, the illegal drug trading post.
But wait! Don’t close your browser in disgust quite yet. Do be smart about your browsing, and above all else, remember Onionland’s anarchistic nature.
Remember you don’t have to click anything you don’t want to. You aren’t likely to stumble across questionable stuff unless you specifically seek it out.
Also remember that thanks to the TOR technology, this Darknet is truly anonymous. If something for sale on the Darknet catches your eye, ask yourself: Are the services listed in this major Onionland wiki legit, or are they fronts for people looking to separate fools from their Bitcoins? Many of the scarier listings in directories are flat-out scams.
But the same anonymity that makes TOR a haven for weapons dealers and perverts also makes it a bastion of a more noble cause: free speech.
Many countries lack the equivalent of the United States’ First Amendment. Darknets grant everyone the power to speak freely without fear of censorship or persecution. According to the TOR Project, anonymizing hidden services have been a refuge for dissidents in Lebanon, Mauritania, and Arab Spring nations; hosted blogs in countries where the exchange of ideas is frowned upon; and served as mirrors for websites that attract governmental or corporate angst, such as GlobalLeaks, Indymedia, and Wikileaks.
The New Yorker’s Strongbox, which allows whistleblowers to securely and anonymously communicate with the magazine, is a Tor Hidden Service. The Tor Project says that authorities offer similarly secure tip lines, and that some militaries even use Hidden Services to create online secure command and control centers.
Ultimately, you’re going to find reasons to love and hate the underbelly of the web.
By way of definition let’s define the Darknet.
There are three “layers” to the internet. But four terms.

Surface Web
Deep Web
Dark Web (aka Darknet)

The Surface Web
The surface web is what you probably spend about 85% of your time on. This will depend on your specific habits, but it’s a good estimate. The surface web is defined as anything that can be indexed by a search engine. This website is considered surface web because you can find LDS Gunsite on a search engine like Google or Bing.
YouTube, Google, the New York Times, etc. are all surface web sites (for the most part). You can find them and browse them by simply following the links in their navigation.
The Deep Web
This term is often confused with the Darknet. They are simply not the same thing.
The Deep Web is any part of the web that is accessed through your normal browsing but not indexable by search engines. Do you have to log in to access your bank account details? Are your friends the only ones that can see your posts on Facebook? Do you watch videos via Netflix? These are all examples of the Deep Web. You can access them through your normal browser, but only if you are logged in.
The Clearnet
Clearnet is a term used to describe either the Surface Web or the Deep Web. Essentially, it is any site that you can access through a normal browsing experience. This term may not be familiar to you. But once you move into the darkest bowels of the Internet, you will see it.
The Darknet
This is a part of the Internet that is intentionally hidden. This can include anything from direct communications to a company’s private network to the TOR hidden services. If people are trying to hide it, it’s in this category.
About a 2 years ago, a developer friend started asking some questions about the Dark Net. I knew she was a very religious lady. I thought this was odd. It turned out that, through her church group, she had made some connections with a Christian church in the Middle East. She wanted to help them develop a hidden church site where they could communicate without risking Muslim attacks.

As already mentioned, there are additional risks when accessing the Darknet. Just keep in mind that you might not like what you see. If you are offended by profanity, offensive topics, crime, or pretty much anything, you should probably stay away. A lot of it is just teenagers being rude, but they can really push the limits.
I’m going to share only one site with you. Here you can test out the browser and ask for more information. It is friendly to new users in that people will give responses, but do not go in here thinking it will be PG-13. I also want to make one final warning that you do not click any external links until you are comfortable and ready to accept responsibility for your actions on the Darknet.
Note: This will not open unless you are using the TOR browser.
Remember, there is a level of security in the Clear Net. My IP address is on this page and you can figure out who I am. There’s no such thing as accountability on the hidden web.
Semper Paratus
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