Firstly, don't be put off by the name. The Dark Web is simply a  network of websites which requires basic encryption technologies to access. Most of us will use these technologies everyday to check our  bank accounts and email. Many people will think that it is only the  haunt of drug dealers and those who peddle stolen information. Nothing  could be further from the truth. Many professionals use the Dark Web and  the list includes law enforcement, journalists and cryptologists. It is  also used in countries where free speech is suppressed, giving dissidents an opportunity to express themselves.

The main  difference between the Dark Web and the clearnet is that the former requires security tools to make web traffic as anonymous as possible.  The way to access it is via the Tor security suite and the Tails  operating system. Tails, which is Linux based, is an ideal layer of  additional security being portable and booting from a flash drive.

Nowadays  hackers, leaked information and general carelessness with data security abound, and on the Dark Web is where it will end up. This has become  inevitable due to the user and server anonymity which it provides. Admittedly there is a lot of bad stuff out there on offer, the most  infamous of which having been Silk Road. However, the existence of the  Dark Web allows investigative news organizations such as ProPublica to  communicate securely with sources. Even Facebook is there with over a  million users a month.

There can be some confusion existing  between what constitutes the difference between the Dark Web and the  Deep Web. The latter simply are pages which are not accessible to the  public such as corporate intranet, secure bank pages and private social  media accounts. These pages are non-searchable.

Communication  between Dark Web operators would usually be in PGP email encryption or  encrypted webmail services. If you see a .onion, this indicates that it  is a Dark Web URL and the required security plugins will be required to  access it.

Whilst it hits the headlines quite often for the wrong  reasons, the Dark Web doesn't have that many sites. Hard to estimate but  somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 active ones. Sites come and go as  they are discovered and removed by law enforcement.

Many law  abiding citizens are supportive of the Dark Web as it promotes anonymity and, most importantly, privacy. Rather than a haven for criminals, it can be seen as a force for good.

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