DarkNet or DeepNet: What is it and How to access it?

A search, using a search engine like Google or Bing, generally returns some millions of pages for every keyword typed. You can try to estimate Internet’s size by thinking of how many websites would be there, if people are using ‘n’ number of keywords to search for information. This part of Internet is just what is visible. But there exists, within the countless websites, an Internet that is beyond the scope of search engines and general browsing. This is the Darknet, Deepnet, Deep Web, Invisible Web or Hidden Internet. This article explains this and shows you how to access it and precautions to take.

What is Deepnet or Darknet

What is Deepnet or Darknet

As such, the websites inaccessible to normal search engines form the Deepnet. This includes websites whose robots.txt is set to prevent Google and other search engines from indexing them on the Internet, in order to exclude them from the search. They could be private personal websites, Intranets, etc.

However, Darknet (the term is often used interchangeably with Deepnet), is much more than just prevention of indexing by search engines. The websites on Darknet are anonymous, i.e., you cannot tell who the website are, owners when visiting such Darknet websites. Non-indexed website owners can still be traced out looking at who purchased the domain name etc. Websites in Darknet are sites that are using the Tor (The Onion Router) network. The basis of Tor network is to include so many nodes that the origin cannot trace where the data is going or where it is coming from.

Normal browsers cannot open the Darknet websites whose top level domains are .onion because they are not normal domain names, but a string of random characters followed with .onion. These domain names are created by Onion when you host your anonymous websites using the Onion or Tor network. Thus, the DNS servers do not have a clue of what they are and you will get a site not found error if you try to access one of the websites in the Darknet. Only the Onion servers know how to resolve these domain names.

The Darknet is a part of Internet that hosts anonymous websites that may or not be offering legal content.

You will need Tor browser in order to view these websites. Read our review of the TOR browser to know more about The Onion Router and how it works.

Who uses Darknet or Deepnet? Is it Dangerous?

It could be as simple as a group of friends who do are discussing serious issues, or it could be something as dangerous as an assassin offering his services. It could be journalists who want to work without the possibility of getting jailed for speaking truth, or it could be people selling banned drugs and weed. There are whistle-blowers who let out information without the fear of getting caught – and there there are websites that show child porn.

Most of the Darknet is misused by the criminal types. This is because it offers almost full anonymity. They are there to sell services such as pay-to-kill (assassin services), porn of all types, prostitutes, banned-drug sellers, weed-sellers etc. That is why Darknet is considered to be dangerous.

And often there are links that do not tell you where they are leading, unless you access them from reliable Darknet directories. The possibility exists that you click on a link to some discussion and land up on a page of assassins-for-hire. And if anything goes wrong, the police would be knocking on your doors.

Why can’t the authorities ban Darknet?

TOR network was initially created by the US military base to communicate anonymously. They still dump government files – not open to the general public – on the Darknet. There are anonymous Intranets where they store these files and people who have passwords can access these files. Since the federal and other governments are themselves using the Darknet, they do not consider it feasible to order TOR to shut it down.

That gives criminals, journalists, whistle-blowers and the likes, a free hand. They can create and host anonymous websites offering just about anything but is not searchable from the surface web (or the normal web – because the websites were never indexed) nor can the mainstream browsers open such sites as they are not dependent on conventional DNS servers. All the Darknet/Deepnet has .onion domains that can be accessed only via TOR browser and a few more projects that are able to utilize TOR networks. But the easiest way to get into the Darknet is the TOR browser.

Read: What is Decentralized Internet

How to access Darknet and Deepnet?

You will need two things to access the Darknet:

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  1. A browser that can resolve .onion websites;
  2. A URL or directory that contains URLs to different websites or class of websites so that you know what to type in into the browsers’ address bar.

There are several dump sites that can be called Darknet directories. Not all of them are classified properly can frustrate you by sending you to wrong places (websites) when you click on the links. You need to be very careful before clicking the links as they may land you up on unintended pages such as a criminal selling weed, some porn site and things like that. Darknet is not a safe place. You have to stay anonymous while browsing else it would be easy for authorities to know what you have been visiting. Your ISP knows what you have been doing on the Internet; it keeps logs and it can share the logs with police and other authorities if required. That creates a strong need to go anonymous. And for anonymous browsing, nothing is better than the TOR browser. There are few more precautions you should take in order to stay safe. We will talk about it in the following sections.

To being with, the Onion Directory of Darknet is the safest bet. It has checked the URLs to see where they lead and has classified them accordingly. You can get to the Onion directory of Darknet at http://am4wuhz3zifexz5u.onion/.

Remember that you can open the link using TOR only. If you use ordinary browser, they cannot resolve the address, as .onion is not a real domain and the DNS servers would fail to retrieve its location.

The TOR Directory or Library contains links classified by language and by categories of what the links represent. For example, Mail/SMS, Forums, Discussion Boards, etc. These are comparatively safer to what other directories present, but you cannot fully trust the other dumps.

One such dump is www.thehiddenwiki.org. Now, the main site can be opened by any browser, but the links shown in the directory end with .onion, meaning you have to copy paste the URLs into the TOR browser. This dump is rather small and contains a few links to get you started.

Few other links to get you started:

  • Onion.link
  • tor2web.org
  • vlib.org
  • icerocket.com
  • hss3uro2hsxfogfq.onion.to
  • lookahead.surfwax.com
  • DARPA Memex
  • freebase.com

Darknet Search Engines

Normal search engines cannot help you with retrieving website URLs for what you are seeking. You can use The Tor Search Engine called Torch or the Duck Duck Go’s .onion version to search for websites. Remember that these search results cannot be depended upon, as the websites’ description might show something that is way different than what the website actually is. You have to be careful in clicking the links.

The Duck Duck Go’s Darknet version is accessible using TOR at http://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion. It will give you whatever you want. Again, links can be misleading so be careful before clicking your way into the deeper realms of Darknet.

The Tor Library, mentioned above, also has a list of search engines that can search within .onion domains to return results that could be of use to you. If you are new to the Darknet, the best way to get started is to use The Tor Library for browsing as the links there have been checked for inconsistency and will keep you off dangerous sites and dirty sites.

How to stay safe on Darknet or Deepnet?

There are some precautions I will list here to stay safe on the Darknet. Remember that while you are browsing the Darknet, police authorities too are browsing with an aim to figure out who is hosting websites and who all are using visiting criminal websites. Among the main things to keep in mind are:

  1. Use TOR for anonymity (That’s a must);
  2. Though TOR is already a little slow, as there are n number of nodes to traverse, use a VPN for further anonymity;
  3. Turn off running scripts in the TOR options (click the button just before the address bar). This is because most of the sites in Darknet are criminal in nature. If you land on one, they might want to trace you down. And scripts created using JavaScript can be dangerous if they manage to store something on your computer.
  4. Think twice before you click any link from directory dumps as the links may or may not be what they are categorized as. The safest Darknet directory is the TOR Library so it is better to start from there.
  5. DO NOT DOWNLOAD ANYTHING TO YOUR COMPUTER. No BitTorrents and no downloads as they may give away your actual IP when storing things to your computer. That could spell trouble.

I have tried to explain what is Darknet and Deepnet and how to access it. The article is not comprehensive. For more knowledge, you may visit www.hiddenwiki.org (without ‘the’). The www.hiddenwiki.org is just an e-book that gives you a more knowledge (a little hyped to make it look sensational) about the Darknet/Deepnet.

Stay safe!

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Arun Kumar is a Microsoft MVP alumnus, obsessed with technology, especially the Internet. He deals with the multimedia content needs of training and corporate houses. Follow him on Twitter @PowercutIN