DarkNet– The Internet’s Anonymous Invisible UnderWorld– Lies Hidden Beneath the Surface: Freedom-Anarchy, Good-Evil…

DarkNet is a concealed-anonymous Internet with all the potential for transgressive behavior… it was originally used as an– anonymous, secure marketplaces for illegal content and transactions, and then much later repurposed as a networks for direct communication only between friends (friends-to-friends), trusted associates…  

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DarkNet is an anonymous private virtual network where users only connect to people they trust and who, typically, are engaged in file-sharing… DarkNet terminology has a certain persuasive power, evoking a subterranean world of illicit activity, a sort of criminal underground of the Internet…

According to Ed Felten; although compelling, the DarkNet  concept is misleading; it’s understood as implying that one can draw a fine line between ‘legitimate’ Internet and ‘illegal’ DarkNet; whereas in practice, the same technologies are used to conceal both legal and illegal activity: You can use a safe box to lock up either criminal plans or business data; You can use encryption to conceal either copyright infringement or love letters…

DarkNet is an anonymizing network where connections are made only between trusted peers– sometimes called ‘friends-to-friends’  (F2F)– using non-standard protocols and ports, and it’s distinct from other distributed P2P networks, since sharing is anonymous (i.e., IP addresses are not publicly shared), users can communicate with little fear of governmental, corporate… interference. For this reason, DarkNet is often associated with dissident political communications, illegal activities… More generally, the term DarkNet is used to describe non-commercial sites, underground web communications and technologies and most common– those associated with illegal activity, legal hidden agendas…

DarkNet was originally coined in 1970s for networks that were isolated from ARPANET (government program which evolved into the Internet) for security purposes; DarkNet was able to receive data from ARPANET but had addresses which did not appear in the network lists and would not answer pings or other inquiries. The term has since been widely adopted and has seen usage in major media sources, including; Rolling Stone, Wired...

Recently DarkNet are often discussed in many fields of network security, largely because users who occupy such areas have gone there for various reasons, for example; some publish on DarkNet for fear of political reprisal, while others publish on DarkNet for criminal gain. One trend is use of DarkNet to share media files that are copyrighted. When used to describe a file sharing network, the term is often used as a synonym for ‘friend-to-friend’– both describing networks where direct connections are only established between trusted friends.

DarkNet is also commonly used in a broader sense to describe any network that offers some level of anonymity and or obscurity. These networks usually make it difficult to uncover a user’s activities, identity… DarkNet requires specific  software to be installed for access; for example– popular DarkNet software include; Freenet, GNUnet…

In the article Uncovering the DarkNet by Jack Phillips writes: The DarkNet is considered the ‘wild west’ of the Internet and for decades has been a haven for both cyber-criminals and those seeking refuge from the prying eyes of authorities. As its nebulous sounding name suggests, the DarkNet is the hidden Internet. Little is typically said about it, but the hacker group ‘Anonymous Operations’ inadvertently brought light on the DarkNet by hacking websites under the DarkNet umbrella.

A common analogy used to describe it compares the Internet to an iceberg– with a small tip visible from the surface and with the bulk of its form looming beneath the water. The tip of the iceberg represents the Internet as we know it– accessible through search engines like Google, containing all well-known websites that can be accessed through top-level-domain URL (e.g., .com, .net, .org…). But, the massive chunk of iceberg beneath the surface is compared to the DarkNet. An image representing the ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ Internet is shown as:

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While it exaggerates the actual size of the DarkNet’s base of users, it does serve as a decent point of reference in understanding it– signifying the clear divide between the visible Internet and the invisible Internet. It’s used by some of the darker elements of society, from small-time criminals to large organized crime rings, and gives an ‘effective tool’ for communication and hosting…

According to a 2010 report titled ‘Beware the DarkNet’ by Bradford Hutson and Michael Miller say; it’s where the majority of spam and phishing attacks originate… it’s also a vast repository of pirated movies, music, and video games… ‘Anonymity’ within such a network plays a key role and is one of the main reasons why people, criminal or otherwise, get involved– it makes them difficult to track by the authorities. The report states there are– more than 50,000 extremist websites and more than 300 terrorist forums on the DarkNet, with nearly 1 million messages posted… and members of extremist groups can communicate with one another on it without being tracked. 

The DarkNet is not physically separated from networks of the known Internet, but is an application and protocol layer embedded within it, according to the report. This includes; private peer-to-peer networks for file sharing and password sharing, password-protected Usenet groups and bulletin boards, and email groups…. According to Michael K. Bergman; vastness of the ‘deep web’–DarkNet– completely took my breath away… the DarkNet is the fastest growing category of new information on the Internet… The value of DarkNet content is immeasurable…

In the article DarkNet: Explained, Then Done Right  by onessa writes: Think of the DarkNet as the ‘wild west’ of the digital hinder lands, the frontier. The DarkNet is a corner of the Internet where the unwary should not wander… It’s a refuge for many types of individuals and organizations both, honest and dishonest, legal and illegal… Most of the public do not even know that this place exists but those that do– know that it’s both powerful and dangerous. The most important thing to know is that the DarkNet is a very secretive place: The ‘first rule’ of the DarkNet is that you ‘do not’ talk about the DarkNet

However, like many things the DarkNet is a tool and like many other tools– it’s how it gets used by the person holding it that makes it good or evil. Let’s be honest, there’s some really bad stuff out there, and a lot of it originates from the DarkNet. It’s very nature makes it a haven for the evils in the world.

This corner of the web supports everything– from ‘private-communications to private-communities looking for the anonymity’ (which is what the Internet used to represent in the early days) to ‘a refuge for a determined file sharing community’. It’s also a home for outright criminals, and the source of many of the web’s most dastardly attacks on the Internet’s public and private infrastructures.

But let’s not be fooled, the DarkNet is a dueling ground– it’s a ‘cat and mouse’ game– with authorities monitoring-tracking, and the anonymous dwellers hiding in dark corners… It’s difficult to monitor, absolutely, but it’s not impossible either. The old axiom; ‘keep friends close and enemies closer’ is exactly what law enforcement community practices where the DarkNet is concerned…

The beauty of the DarkNet is that there are many corners to hide, so that– you can keep out of way of the unknowing public and stay ahead of the authorities. The DarkNet is a compilation of several app components that can be used– together or separate, depending on the users activities… Like the rest of the Internet and global technology base– the DarkNet is an ever-evolving entity: Today’s tools will be tomorrow’s digital floss...

In the article What is DarkNet? by Rogi Kalomni writes: Think of DarkNet as a separate Internet. To access DarkNet you must have access to the ‘regular’ Internet, then connect to the ‘Tor’ network. ‘Tor’ is a network of virtual tunnels that allows people and groups to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. You can use the ‘Tor’ network to surf the ‘regular’ Internet anonymously, which helps if you live under tyranny. You can also surf ‘Internal Tor’ network– also known as ‘DarkNet’ or ‘Onion’. Any ‘Tor’ connected computer can host a website, and make it available to the rest of the network without revealing its location.

Unlike the ‘regular’ Internet, websites do not list their IP address, but list a name not directly linked to them: ‘Tor’ guarantees that both server and client remain anonymous. It also guarantees that what happens between the server and the client is protected from third parties. On the DarkNet; the client never has access to the real address of the server, and the server never has access to the client’s address. Nodes in between the server and the client have no idea who is talking to whom, nor what is being exchanged, the data is encrypted.

DarkNet has many good sites and information available, such as; political advocacy, whistle-blowing, blogs, essays, forums… Because of the protection offered by the ‘Tor’ network and its hidden services, activists in oppressive regimes are free to exchange ideas and organize themselves. However, there are also a lot of bad things, as well; child porn, sex, drugs, and even contract killers market place… Evil doers benefit from the same protection as good sites; DarkNet is like the early Internet…

Information for beginners is hard to find, most everyone starts with the ‘Hidden Wiki’; a crowd sourced directory of links. The ‘Hidden Wiki’ makes an effort to classify the links listed, so you can minimize your exposure to the bad stuff. However, like the real Internet, the experience relies on following links to discover new things but since links are cryptic, before clicking, remember that; ‘what has been seen cannot be unseen’… the ‘deep web’ is anonymous, uncertain, and it can be very ‘dark’– be cautious– welcome to the DarkNet…