When breaking down the layers of the internet, we talked about the differences between the surface web, the deep web, and the dark web. As we mentioned in our previous article, a good way to think of these distinct portions is to imagine the internet as an iceberg.


The surface web represents the tip, the deep web refers to the body, and the dark web captures the deepest ends where no light from the surface can touch.


People know that the dark web conceals some of the world’s shadiest dealings and illicit activities, but is it as dangerous as the public perceives? If it is, then is accessing the dark web illegal? All these questions are valid, and we’re here to clarify your understanding of the dark web so you can browse it as safely as possible.


Is It Illegal to Surf the Dark Web?


It’s understandable why people would think that accessing the dark web is illegal since it’s infamous for hiding criminal activities — from drug trading, money laundering, selling stolen credentials to the worst content you can think of, like human trafficking. Despite all the illicit findings, browsing the dark web is entirely legal, but what you do when you get there is a different matter altogether.

What Do Websites Look Like In the Dark Web?


Websites on the dark web look like any other sites you’ll find at first glance, but there are distinct factors that make it different in its own way. You can distinguish content on the dark web by noticing the following:


  • The tell-tale sign includes the naming structure of the URL, which will consist of the “.onion” instead of the usual “.com.”
  • In addition to the different operator such as “.onion,” you’ll also notice random characters in the URL that is hard to read and remember such as http://33y6fjyhs3phsfjj.onion/
  • The URL will also change frequently to guarantee privacy and security for its users.


Is the Dark Web for Illegal Activities Only?


Keep in mind that while the dark web houses plenty of cybercriminals, legitimate organisations also use it for specific purposes such as to aid democracy, offer secure networks, and promote private connections.


For example, journalists often access the dark web to submit stories that are too sensitive to share on a public server. Reputable journalist websites like the Guardian and even the Washington post run a site in the dark web called SecureDrop, where whistleblowers can send anonymous tips.


The Bottom Line: Surfing Every Part of the Internet is Legal, but Beware of the Dangers of Browsing the Dark Web


Anyone can enter the dark web without any illegal ramifications, but while accessing this shady part of the internet won’t put you in trouble with the law, it’s important to remember that it’s still a space where much illegal stuff happens.


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