The Dark Web is a reality that has existed since the beginning of the internet. While there is a load of information indexed on the web, easily accessible by anyone with internet connectivity irrespective of geography, there is even more information and data that do not come to notice because it is hidden and requires special privileges to access. This unchartered portion of the web is called Dark Web.
Information on the dark web is not defined by regulations and content policies. Moreover, web pages serving information on the dark web do not appear on search engines result pages (SERP) like those from Google and Bing because they are hidden and not indexed. Therefore, the dark web includes information that is not easily accessible by everyone. Besides, the web pages serving information on the dark web are marked unsafe by browsers and do not open on Chrome, Firefox, Opera, etc.
Dark Web is home to all sorts of information but it has gained bad reputation because of prevalence of widespread illegal content such as illicit pornography, sale of black market drugs, sale of illegal firearms, illegally acquired users’ database, etc. The availability of such content of illegal nature makes the dark web a suitable place for criminals. However, it is not just for criminals; journalists can use it to gather information from sources without risking their identity, whistleblowers can use it to expose corporate and government corruption, etc.
While accessing the Dark Web is not illegal, its use to acquire illegal content and procure prohibited items is. For example, surfing the dark web is legal but procuring pirated copies of movies and games is illegal. Similarly, accessing information is not illegal unless the information is classified and crucial to the nation's security. Using Dark Web to access illicit content like child pornography, and procure prohibited items like drugs and guns is also illegal.
To access dark web, one needs a specialised software with peer-to-peer networking support built-in besides other browser features. Currently, there are two software that support these – Tor and I2P. These are web browsers with added tools to encrypt web traffic for safety and security. It is possible to access the dark web anonymously through these software. Moreover, virtual private network (VPN) service adds another layer of security here. However, these software offer no fool-proof protection and one must be careful accessing dark web. As best practice, it is evoked not to reveal real identity on the dark web. Moreover, one should not use banking and other financial services through these software.