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dark web (darknet)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

The dark web, also referred to as the darknet, is an encrypted portion of the internet that is not indexed by search engines. The dark web is a subsection of the deep web. Neither dark nor deep web pages can be found on search engine results pages (SERP), but deep web pages can be accessed by anyone with a browser who knows the URL. Dark web pages, in contrast, requires special software with the correct decryption key, as well as access rights and knowledge of where to find the content. 

Although the dark web is sometimes portrayed as a domain frequented by criminal elements, it is also created and used by people who require privacy for entirely legal reasons, such as the exchange of propriatary business information. In such a case, information may be exchanged through an encrypted peer-to-peer (P2P) network connection or by using an overlay network, such as Tor.

The anonymity that Tor and other overlay networks provide has led to the dark web's reputation for illegal activity. In July, 2017, law enforcement agencies in six countries, plus Europol, coordinated the shut down of two of the largest dark web black markets and gathered communications on vendors and users, which experts said could lead to more prosecutions. 

This was last updated in July 2017

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