eli5 What is the darknet and how does it work?


I am finding a lot of stuff telling me the darkweb is an “overlay network” meaning it is built on top of another network. What? How?

An idiot

In: 3

“Dark” essentially refers to the web servers that are connected to the Internet but are not publicly indexed. Some people further differentiate between the “deep” web and the “dark” web, where the dark part is intentionally anonymize via an intermediary service like proxying through a tor service, and the deep part is publicly viewable but just not indexed (either due to robots.txt permissions or just because it has yet to be indexed).

There’s also the “deep” and “dark” net, which refers to all unindexed Internet traffic, including non-www stuff like email, VoIP, FTP, SFTP, Gopher, BitTorrent, KaZaa, Hotline, and the myriad of other communication and information service technologies that run on top of the globally connected IP network.

Most of the internet is sorted out to be easily searchable and reached (eg domain names being words instead of the ip address; or Google finding it). Then you have the rest, the dark web, that chooses to stay harder to access.

Darknet is mostly the tor network(there are a few other similar versions out there too’9. Highly encrypted anonymous network where you have to connect using the tor software to see whats there. So unless if you have the software you cannot connect to it, and everyone on there are anonymous.

Technically ‘dark’ web is any server page or folder not accessable to the general public or a web search engine crawler. The Google search engine page? Not dark web. Your Google apps data folder? Dark web. The us military network connecting military bases together? Dark web. Video calls, sms text messages, chat rooms, etc are ‘dark’ web since they are not seen by search engines and the general public. Typically the dark web needs a login and password to view it.

If you are talking about “illegal” dark web, there are many ways to hide. Shuting down and changing servers on a regular basis, encrypting data, special viewers, etc. It could also hide in plain sight like password protected files in usenet forums.

OK. First off lets talk about what the internet actually is.

The internet is a network of networks. It’s a series of computer networks, and those networks are themselves all connected together. To accomplish this goal computers send messages much like an old fashioned letter. An old fashioned letter has an address saying where the letter is going to, and a return address saying where the message is from. Both of those addresses are visible to anyone, without them having to open the letter. If you don’t know what an old fashioned letter looks like… I can’t help you.

So back to the internet. If we want a communication to be secret, we can encrypt it. That prevents people from being able to read what’s inside the letter. BUT it does not prevent people from tracking who is sending letters to who, because all that information is written on the outside of the letter. Encrypting who is sending information to who is really complicated because then how would the postal service know how to deliver the letter.

The “dark web” is a way of getting around this problem. Encryption does nothing to prevent someone from seeing who is sending data to who.

So lets say that my friend and I want to be able to send secret letters without anyone knowing who is sending letters to who. What we do is we contact a third party (for example, a UPS store). By friend and I both send letters to the UPS store. The outside of the envelopes contain the address of the UPS store as the destination, and our own address as the return address. So it’s a legal and proper letter that the postal system will handle.

At the UPS store, they receive our envelopes and open them. What they find inside is… another envelope! This second envelope is a properly addressed letter, with the return address being the UPS store itself. The UPS store opens the initial envelope, finds the second envelope then drops it back in the mail.

So to anyone who’s intercepting our mail (but not opening it). It’s impossible to tell that my friend and I are mailing letters to one another through the UPS store. The UPS store knows, but they don’t keep records of every message that passes through. So in any given moment they can tell who’s mailing who, but no one who’s only looking at that days mail can tell.

So, to recap. I write a letter to my friend, put it in an envelope. That envelope has my friends address on it and the UPS store as the return address. I then put that envelope into a second envelope with my return address on it and the UPS store as the destination.

NOW lets add another layer of UPS stores. SO now I send an envelope to the UPS store, inside that envelope is another envelope addressed to a different UPS store. Inside that envelope is another envelope addressed to my friend.

SO now with this double UPS store method we have finally created a system where no one who’s working at the post office can figure out whos sending letters to who.

That’s what the dark web does. It uses the normal internet, just like the example is using the normal postal service. But the nodes (UPS stores) are just forwarding traffic, they can’t see the contents of the letters. The UPS stores can’t even tell who is sending the letters because they always just come from another UPS store.