In children’s books, the villain is a mystical character with evil intentions and a generally evil outlook. His outfit is most likely made of black and/or red and he has certain dark features about him. The internet coined a similar eponym for a hub of illegal and illicit activities - the dark web.
What is the Dark Web?
The dark web, also known as the darknet, or the deep web, is a mysterious place where questionable activities are run. The dark web, in itself, is several times bigger than the general indexed net that we have known over time. This means that it is not visible when you use search engines like Google and Bing. What you can find using this method is called the surface web.
Who Uses the Dark Web?
The dark web resonates with a large number of people, however, chief among these people are those who use it for illegal trades. In 2014, a study was conducted by the University of Portsmouth and it was discovered that the most solicited content on the dark web was child pornography. Next on the hierarchy was drugs and guns. It was also discovered that people purchase personal information about others on this platform.
Apart from these, the dark web has also housed activities which relate to finance, arms, fraudulent activities, among others. It is not unusual to hear news about money laundering or related activities on the darknet.
Is the dark web only devoted to dark activities? It isn’t. WikiLeaks, for example, is a platform devoted to whistleblowing and it allows individuals upload classified information incognito to the appropriate agencies. In addition to this, the dark web has also helped people in China access certain sites which are otherwise inaccessible.
Encryption and Anonymity on the Dark Web
Most users on the dark web make use of sophisticated encryption technologies. One example is the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) which keep the activities on the internet safe and private. The conventional routing of the VPN is prone to traffic analysis and this can reveal the origin of this traffic, information about the transmission, and the destination.
Tor networks use virtual tunnels, however, these tunnels do not connect the client directly to the servers. What happens is that a relay point in the Tor network is created and this is able to circumnavigate the traffic analysis. It is achievable thanks to three distinct properties.
- The relay point is not privy to the entire path of the circuit
- The encryption of each relay is unique
- The connections are terminated after a while to preclude long-term observation
In view of these, a system which offers similar or even superior advantages have been proposed- the blockchain technology.
The Blockchain Technology and the Dark Web
A blockchain is a decentralized public ledger which keeps immutable records of the transactions on the network. This record is stored across several users (decentralization) and this adds to the level of security and reliability.
One real importance of the blockchain technology as it pertains to the dark web is the finance. Research was carried out on six different drug markets and the daily volume of transaction was found to be about $650,000. On the average, it recorded a daily transaction between $300,000 and $500,000.
When we compare this to the amount of transactions handled by Bitpay, a payment processor which facilitates the conversion of Bitcoin into fiat currency, the difference is clear. The largest merchant of Bitpay struggles to bring in $500,000 in a day.
We can then safely conclude that cryptocurrencies are important to the burgeoning of the dark web. Below, we discuss some of the best currencies to be used on the dark web.
For about 3 years now, Monero has enjoyed unprecedented growth and usage among the dark web community. It is touted as the only true and anonymous cryptocurrency. This is based on advanced concepts of cryptography which guarantee privacy and security. Monero morphed from Bytecoin, one of the early entrants into the cryptocurrency sphere and it has gained a level of popularity, especially among crypto users.
There are several unique features such as the one-time ring signature and the CryptoNote protocol which encrypts the details of the sender, the recipient, and the transaction history. A Ring Confidential Transaction system is also imminent and this will give users the opportunity to hide the amount of currency they are transferring. In addition to this, the transactions are not traceable.
A really recondite means of encryption known as the zk-SNARK is being used in the Zcash sphere. It not only conceals the details of the transactions being done. It protects the users online and shields them from cybercriminals. This feature makes it difficult to access the network from just any location.
Litecoin is the brainchild of Charlie Lee and for a while now, this cryptocurrency has found usefulness in the dark community. It is very synonymous to Bitcoin in structure although the technology boasts several improvements to the existing Bitcoin technology.
Even though complete anonymity is not assured using this currency, Litecoin has enjoyed immense use. At one time, it was recorded that 15% of the total transactions on the West’s side of the dark web was executed with Litecoin while in the East, the figure rose to 35%. One advantage is the relative speed and ease of transaction.
Formerly known as Darkcoin, this used to be the perfect coin for a hub such as the dark web. It employs the coinjoin technique which mixes the transactions of different users together in a bid to mask the actual transaction.
The first is always the best and in this case of the dark web, bitcoin was the early facilitator of transactions on the system. In fact, it accounted for about 47% of transactions at a time and this, in return, caused Bitcoin to become global. A recent increase in transaction fees, the declining rate of completion of transactions, and level of anonymity are gradually causing a decline in the use of Bitcoin on the dark web.
The dark web has been plagued by several disturbing developments in recent times. With the arrest of the brain behind Silk Road, Ross William Ulbricht, the plethora of uncovered data provided by LeakedSource, and the government’s incessant intrusion, the dark web might appear to be all but forgotten.
However, the burgeoning of cryptocurrency has birthed life once again into the marketplace and the extra level of security and anonymity offered makes all the difference. With currencies like Monero and Zcash and their sophisticated techniques, we can expect more from blockchain technology in the nearest future.
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