The Tower Pulse

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How bad is the dark net?

A Tor browser is needed to access the dark net. Photo from Creative Commons.

A Tor browser is needed to access the dark net. Photo from Creative Commons.

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Do your parents ever warn you not to go to dangerous parts of Detroit or to hang out with shady people? This is comparable to what the darknet supposedly is– the dark side of the internet. And once you are on it, this seems to be confirmed by offers to buy illegal drugs, weapons and get hacker services that pop up immediately. Assertions that the black market for weapons on the dark web enabled terrorist attacks on Paris and Brussels haven’t helped its reputation. According to WIRED, 72 percent of Americans think the dark net should be shut down. But is it really as bad as most people think it is?

Let’s go back to where it started. In the late 1960s, the US military found the arpanet, an early form of the internet, as a new way to connect and communicate. Since military operations are very delicate, isolated safety networks were created that only a few experts had access to, also called dark net.

In 2002, the arpanet was now called internet and used by millions of people. Hidden and encoded networks became more popular as well. The US military and US security services then developed Tor (The Onion Router) networks. In the regular internet that most of us use regularly, all data is retrieved from one server. This makes it easy to retrace where which person gets their data from. In the Tor networks, there is no central server which makes it completely anonymous. It is impossible to retrace where which person gets their data from. Most importantly, people use the darknet with an encoded IP address.

The reason for US security services to develop and use such a system is so they can carry out missions secretly, including in countries like China and Iran where the data traffic is strictly controlled.

In countries like this, the darknet is very popular under the civilians, especially the opposition. The anonymity of the darknet can be a big advantage because it gives people the opportunity to communicate without the government watching them. This is why it is widely used by journalists. Whistleblowing, and as a more specific, example what Edward Snowden did, was made possible through the dark net.

To have access to the darknet, you need to download a Tor browser. This is not illegal and neither is using the darknet as long as no crimes are committed such as selling or ordering illegal drugs or even killers. People should also pay attention not to get hacked.

Something else that results from the anonymity and the fact that it is not controlled is that you can never be sure if the offers in the darknet are real. Would you go to the police to report that a killer you ordered didn’t do his job? Probably not. This is why there are many defrauders in the darknet.

How do you buy things illegally in the darknet? Doesn’t it break off when you pay? The darknet uses a currency called bitcoins that only exists digitally and virtually. It is not and can’t be controlled by any country. This makes anonymous paying possible.

Although the darknet does have troubling and negative usage and can be a curse in free countries, the anonymity and privacy protections can be a blessing to citizens of controlled countries. Condemning the darknet only by its illegal activities is not fair and suitable, there are quite some advantages that should be considered as well.

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How bad is the dark net?