The anonymity of the dark web has been a topic of discussion over the years, with the same question being asked over and over since the FBI took down the largest dark web market in 2013.
Basically, many people are aware of the anonymity of the dark web. It is widely speculated that once anyone accesses the online black market, he/she becomes untraceable. This article will take into consideration research published in the scientific research publishing journal and a few other experts’ investigations.
Before that, it is worth noting that the dark web’s contents are not indexed by google. They are hidden from the surface web, and requires a special tool to access them. People primarily relies on the TOR browser to access the dark web contents as it also hides their IP addresses.
Image Source: www.metro.co.uk
Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide, volunteer overlay traffic. This consists of over seven thousand relays which hide users location from anyone doing traffic analysis. With the TOR browser, people feel secured and find the dark web a safe haven. Unfortunate, a few investigations have revealed that the TOR browser does not provide complete anonymity. The anonymity of the dark web has been said to have a gap that can easily be taken advantage of.
The research made use of two dark web search engines namely Onion City and Ahimia, representing dark web users as TOR users. It was reported that the number of directory requests by TOR clients was used to know the number of TOR users. From the request, they could categorize IP addresses based on the country code.
The TOR network connections from the continuously updated relay list were identified through the network providers to find all the needed IP addresses. A typical example was referenced from the FBI invasion of the web hosting of freedom hosting in 2013 giving them the ability to identify visitors.
An investigation into the TOR browser, led by Iskander Sanchez-Rola at the University of Deusto, Spain led to the discovery that the anonymity of the dark web is blown out of proportion, and the dark web may not be as dark as it seems. After their investigation, they found a close link between the dark web and the surface web.
The report indicates that the researchers analyzed about 1.5 million dark web pages and realized that over 20% of the analyzed pages imported files such as pictures and documents from the surface web. This is a course for concern because when users load these imported files, the owners can track. This is a major privacy concern and a threat to the anonymity of the dark web. In this way, it is possible for google to monitor about 13% of the domains in the dataset of the study according to the research.
The research revealed that most of the dark web services use the same script as the surface websites which is very dangerous. 27% of the hidden pages they analyzed in their study contained tracking scripts meant to monitor users browsing behaviour. 43% of these pages were originated from Google. The danger in this is that anyone using these can be tracked and even be identified when they visit a less tracking site.
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The study went ahead to reveal that those who use TOR proxies like Tor2web on the surface web and acts as a gateway to the dark web is more at risk. It was stated that the service can already see user IP addresses. However, the link between the surface web and the dark web means third parties can also access this information. From this, it can be said that the TOR browser is much secured when used to access the dark web, and able to protect users against web tracking only if users do not switch on script blocking.
According to Sarah Jamie Lewis, Security Researcher, the study has revealed that there is a link between the dark web and the surface web which makes the anonymity of the dark web questionable. She stated that this research is a wake-up call for hosts to stop relying on third-party trackers and scripts that can put both users and themselves at risk, considering the fact that they have attached less importance in improving security.
The use of the OnionScan tool which can reveal the vulnerabilities in the dark web services has according to the statement found security issues that can go as far as de-anonymizing about 35% of the dark web servers.
The dark web has a track record of shielding users by providing them with anonymity. However, a number of arrests made on the dark web indicate that there is a gap in privacy. Some countries have taken steps to ban the TOR browser instead of going the complex way of monitoring the activities of users to control their operation. The anonymity of the dark web is a concept that exists and gives users the assurance of identity protection. However, it does not measure up to reality entirely.
Source: Digital Information World
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