In an earlier post, we learned about deep web & how it contrasts with surface web, right? If you didn’t read that, I will suggest you to do so first.
For skippers, here’s a TL;DR. Deep web is that part of the World Wide Web that is not indexed by standard search engines, because either it is unable to indexed or not up to search engines’ guidelines to be indexed. Not many people know about it, but those who do know about it and use it are viewed with suspicion (because deep web is largely a bad place). Talking about surface web, it is the web everyday Joes use. Surface web constitutes of sites like Facebook, Twitter, The New York Times, QuickSprout, Lifehacker, DuckDuckGo and others. Deep web has thrived heavily during the period of Edward Snowden’s reports, who revealed how NSA was spying internet users.
For a detailed explanation and comparison of these two critical portions of WWW, I will suggest you to read this post.
Read? Well, then, now you know what deep web is exactly and where it stands on WWW; how it depicts the true nature of humans in all its forms (good & bad); how it is a heaven for criminality, here is how you can access it. But… “is it safe?”, you ask. Yes, of course, it is completely safe provided you follow the instructions exactly not even NSA will know you accessed deep web. Even if they knew (which is very unlikely), you won’t be troubled unless you did something that goes beyond law and accessing deep web is not beyond the lines. So be at peace.
Why access deep web?
A reasonable question at this point is “why access deep web?” What is there exactly that you may find useful or worth a shot? Let me tell you why. Deep web is 400 or 550 times the volume of surface web, making surface web constitute only 0.004% of WWW. Definitely there’s plenty of stuff there to be found; both good and bad. Bad stuff is norm in deep web, because deep web is anonymous & no site there keeps track of who you’re. Buying and selling of drugs, weapons, hiring hackers, child porn and hiring hitman, etc. is large part of deep web. But that is certainly not all. There’s another side of coin too.
The anonymity that makes all illegal activities possible in deep web also makes purely anonymous digital publishing possible. It was for this anonymity that Edward Snowden showed the true face of NSA, he published confidential documents on the deep web. Many other people do this to release information that may be vulnerable to release while being known. You got something fishy? Deep web is the place to tell world about it without exposing your identity. Deep web is therefore attractive to journalists and researchers.
Another aspect of deep web that makes it worth a try is that you will be in a pure internet. What that means? Well, you know social media sites, Google & most sites track your identity, location, preferences and browsing history. This data is sold to advertisers, because it helps them target their core audience base. Search engines gather this information to show you with results that circle around your interests and region. This may not be a good thing, because it shows you the web not the way it truly is. Whatever ads you see, whatever search results you see are all filtered. Not pure web. Deep web is pure from these sorts of filtrations, so therefore attractive. Moreover, if you’re purely concerned about your privacy, use deep web. Simple.
How to Access Deep Web?
Tor host Standard browsers like Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Edge are unable to access deep web sites. There is a specially designed web browser that intercepts deep web sites. The addresses of these sites look like a random string of characters, meaning mostly nothing and end with .onion pseud0-top-level domain. This browser that is used to access deep web is called TOR, standing for The Onion Router. You will find the browser familiar if you’ve Firefox because it is based upon Firefox architecture. The interfaces overlap.
TOR is a computer program, it keeps you safe on the internet. It is the most popular browser utility used to access deep web. When a TOR user browses web, the browsing experience is completely non-censored & pure. Nobody knows who you’re, where you’re from or what are your browsing interests. So you’re completely anonymous, but so are all the websites built for TOR, called TOR hidden services.
TOR gives you freedom from prying eyes of government agencies, nasty hackers as well as NSA.
How TOR works
TOR keeps your IP address secret by bouncing your http requests over a distributed network of relays run by volunteers across the world. TOR hidden services are kind of equivalent to domains names of surface web. Hidden services are a 16 character long random strings and they always end with onion address (.onion). Nobody can find out the IP addresses of these TOR hidden services, neither can they find out your IP address (client’s), well, because you got TOR.
When you try to connect to a website via TOR, TOR’s virtual tunnels proceed your request to a second machine (relay) called Entry Guard, which then forwards the request to a second machine, second machine to a third and final tunnel called exist node. Eventually you’re returned your request. In this way, nobody can find out your IP address.
Fortunately TOR is a free browser, you can download the Tor Bundle here. Download it, extract it then open “Start Tor Browser.exe” application. You will be connected to the TOR network. When all is configured properly, you will see following page:
That’s not all!
Just downloading & using TOR browser is not all. To browse safely without exposing your identity (IP address) doesn’t equate to using TOR browser. Even TOR agrees with that. You need to change some of your browsing habits to ensure maximum security. Here are a few tips to help you.
- Use Tor browser – Only traffic communicated over TOR browser will be pre-configured to be anonymous and keep you safe. You can’t expect to keep all your internet traffic (via other browsers’ as well) anonymous, while that is not communicated over TOR browser.
- Turn torrent off – It is an official recommendation that you keep torrent downloadings off while TOR network is on. Because torrent has been observed to neglect proxy settings and try to make direct connections even when configured to use TOR. Which eventually leads to exposing your real IP address (which you don’t want).
- Enforce HTTPS – When browsing over TOR network, you must always try to visit sites with HTTPS enabled. Because the encryption of your traffic to your final destination depends upon the website and not on TOR. Which is why TOR comes packaged with HTTPS Everywhere, an add-on that tries to request HTTPS version of websites that support it. Still though, you should occasionally keep an eye over the address bar and make sure it’s HTTPS at all times.
- Don’t install addons – Since TOR browser’s is based upon Firefox’s architecture, it is possible to install Firefox addons. But.. before you do so, a ord of caution is that do not install addons or third-party services, because significant of those have been found to be vulnerable like Flash Player, QuickTime and RealPlayer. Though TOR already blocks the major ones.
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