Have you ever heard about the darknet, but you never understood what is it? In this article you will learn what the darknet is, how you can access it and for what you can use it.

Darknet in a nutshell

The Darknet also known as dark web is a part of the internet, that normal search engines like Google can’t index. To enter the darknet, you need the tor browser, you can use the tor browser for normal web browsing, but you will notice that it’s a lot slower. That’s because the traffic gets routed through 3 different servers, called relays or nodes. This feature should anonymise and improve the privacy of the user. When people talk about the darknet, they often mention that you can find drug markets, where user can by drugs or even guns. While this is true, the darknet isn’t just that, there exist a lot more normal sites on the darknet, even publicly known ones, for example BBC, Facebook, or the FBI.

Darknet vs Deep Web vs Surface Web

  • Surface web: The surface web includes all publicly accessible websites. Which a search engine like Google can index. Examples for the surface web are: Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, or Reddit.
  • Deep web: The deep web includes all websites that aren’t index by search engines. Examples for Deep web are your cloud, email content, or bank details.
  • Darknet: The darknet is a subset of the deep, and it’s known to use encryption, to anonymise the users and their activities.


The concept of the darknet starts in the 1970s when, when computers scientists create a separate network, different from the ARPANET, ARPANET was the predecessor of the internet. The “proper” tor network emerged in the early 2000s, which provided the user anonymity.

Tor network

When a user initiates a connection through the Tor Browser, the browser selects a random path through the network consisting of at least three nodes: an entry node, a middle node, and an exit node. The data which is being sent from the user’s device is wrapped in multiple layers of encryption. Each layer corresponds to a node in the path. The tor network consists of about 8000 nodes/relays which are being run by volunteers around the world.


  • Tor browser: The tor browser is a customized version of Firefox. It allows the user to connect to the darknet.
  • Guard node: Also known as entry node, is the first connection to the tor network. The guard node knows the real user’s IP address, but don’t know the final destination.
  • Middle node: The middle node pass the encrypted data along the network. Each relay only knows its predecessor and successor, but not the entire path or the original sender.
  • Exit node: The exit node is the final relay in the tor circuit, which sends the unencrypted data to its final destination. The exit node can see the traffic leaving the network, but not the user’s IP address. Websites can just see the IP address of the exit node, not the user’s IP address.


Due to the routing of the data through 3 different nodes and multiple layers of encryption, the speed of the tor browser is notorious slow. The IP address of the exit node is being shared with the website and are publicly known. Since website often don’t want to have tor user, many website blocks the IP addresses of exit nodes, so the user can’t connect to the site.

Common misconceptions

  • Illegal by default: A lot of people think that accessing the darknet is already illegal. But it’s not, using tor as an alternative browser to browse the web is totally legal. But of course, if you engage in illegal activities, then it is a different matter.
  • Only for criminals: While the darknet is used by a lot of criminals and bad actors, it’s also a safe place for journalists, activists, privacy advocates and others.
  • Unsafe to use: The darknet contain pages who want to scam users, but with the right precautions and a bit of logical thinking, the darknet is generally safe to browse and use.

Uses of the darknet

  • Legal uses: The darknet has legitimate uses, such as protecting privacy of uses and supports free speech. It’s also a safe place for journalists and activists in oppressive regimes.
  • Illegal activities: Unfortunately, the darknet is also a hub for illegal activities, such as drugs and arms markets, or illegal pornography. Darknet markets uses the darknet, because it’s very difficult to trace the markets down to the owner, additionally markets use cryptocurrencies to make it even harder for the federal criminal police.

Darknet markets

Darknet markets function similar to an online market, but has other goods. On darknet markets, user can buy any drugs and narcotics, guns, malware or stolen identities.

Silk Road

Silk Road was the first major darknet marketplace, it was launched in 2011. It should facilitate the sale of illegal goods. In 2013, the FBI shut down the Silk Road, and its founder, Ross Ulbricht, was arrested and sentenced to life in prison.

New darknet markets

Even if the feds try to shut down all the markets on the darknet, new darknet marketplaces continue to emerge. That’s because to operate a darknet market is very profitable, but also extremely risky.

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