What is darknet? What is Tor?

1.What is darknet?

Darknet is a hidden network on the Internet, the connections in which are established only between trusted peers using non-standard ports and unique custom data transfer protocols.

Quite often, the term “darknet” is used interchangeably with “darkweb” (from the English dark web, “dark web”). Darkweb refers to that part of the World Wide Web, access to which can be obtained through overlay networks, that is, the “darknet" itself.

Sometimes darknet (darkveb) confused with the so-called deep web (deep web) - Web pages are not indexable by search engines. Unlike darknet, specific software is not required to gain access to a deep network.

The exact opposite of the darknet is the so-called visible or upper network - the part of the Internet, indexed by search engines and in the public domain.

2.When and how did the darknet appear?

Initially, the term “darknet” refers to computers on the ARPANET network, created in 1969 by the Advanced Research Agency (DARPA) of the US Department of Defense. ARPANET was a prototype of the Internet. Computer networks - “darkets” - were programmed to receive messages from ARPANET, but their addresses were not in the lists of networks and did not respond to external requests, thus remaining “dark”.

The term “darknet” gained fame due to the publication in 2002 of the scientific report “Darknet and the future of information dissemination.” Its authors were Microsoft employees Brian Willman, Marcus Paynadu, Paul England and Peter Biddle. They argued that the presence of darknet was the main obstacle to the development of electronic rights management (DRM) technologies and would inevitably lead to copyright infringement. In the report, darknet was described in a broad sense as any network that requires a specific protocol to gain access and exists “parallel” to the upper or visible network.

The term “darknet” was widely used thanks to the media that associated it with the anonymous trading platform Silk Road, which worked from 2011 to 2013 in the .onion zone of the anonymous Tor network.

3.What are the use cases for darknet?

Darknet is used to bypass network censorship, content filtering systems, and surveillance. It is also suitable for file sharing.

Technology can be used by both political dissidents and criminals.

4.What anonymous networks are used on the darknet?

The total number of anonymous darknet networks is unknown. There are small networks with dozens of users.

5.What is Tor?

Tor (short for The Onion Router) is the most famous and popular anonymous darknet network. This is a system of proxies that support onion routing , a technology for anonymous exchange of information through a computer network. Tor makes it possible to maintain anonymity on the Internet and protects user traffic from analysis.

6.How does Tor work?

Unlike a regular browser, which immediately sends user input to the server, allowing third parties to find out its location, in the Tor browser data is transmitted through a chain of nodes - intermediate nodes scattered around the world. This model greatly complicates tracking.

Tor architecture

Tor network process:

  • After starting, the program forms a network of three random nodes along which the traffic goes.
  • As soon as the request is sent, the data is covered with three layers of encryption (multilayer encryption resembles the structure of the bulb, so the TOR network is called “onion”).
  • The first node, taking traffic, "removes" the upper layer of encryption from it. She learns the address of the previous node and the next, after which it sends data to him.
  • The process repeats, and the data arrives at the last network node - the output node.
  • The output node performs full decryption and sends the request to the addressee.
  • The response to the request is returned in the same way, going through the same steps.

7.Does Tor provide complete anonymity?

Tor does not provide absolute anonymity. The nodes see the real IP address, and it can theoretically be intercepted. Anonymity can be enhanced by combining Tor with special operating systems and a VPN.

8.How did Tor come about?

Tor development began in 1995 at the request of the United States Government at the High-Performance Computing Systems Center of the Navy Research Laboratory as part of the Free Haven project in conjunction with the Department of Defense Advanced Research and Development (DARPA). Source code was distributed as free software.

In the early 2000s, the project was called The Onion Routing (Tor). In October 2002, a router network was deployed, which by the end of 2003 included more than ten network nodes in the United States and one in Germany.

Since 2004, the financial and informational support to the project has been provided by the human rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation .

In 2006, Tor Project , a nonprofit organization, was created to develop the Tor network in the United States .

In 2008, the Tor browser appeared .

9.Who is funding Tor?

The main sponsors of the project are the US Department of State and the National Science Foundation. Another source of funding is the collection of donations, including in cryptocurrencies .

10.How is the Tor project developing?

The project team is engaged in its promotion, encouraging the use of Tor to protect the rights to free access to information and privacy.

The Tor Project administration is opposed to cybercrime: its representatives, together with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Brookings Institution, the Cato Institute, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Trend Micro and the Bitcoin Foundation are part of the cybercrime working group.

Tor is supported by many online security and privacy activists, including former NSA employee Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Under the pretext that the Tor network has numerous sites selling drugs, weapons, pornography, etc., law enforcement agencies of different states are fighting with it. In 2014, the FBI paid $ 1 million to researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in the United States for helping deanonymize Tor users.

In 2017, the Russian Federation passed a law requiring anonymizers, including Tor, to block services and sites and services from the black list of Roskomnadzor, but Tor refused to comply with this requirement.

In July 2019, the hacker group 0v1ru $ hacked the server of the company Saitek, which is supposedly a contractor of Russian special services. The documents received by hackers contain information about a number of secret projects of the Russian authorities aimed, inter alia, at analyzing Tor network traffic.

In October 2019, the Tor administration conducted a large-scale “cleaning” of the network, blocking 13% of the total number of active nodes. They fell under the lock due to the use of outdated software. "Cleaning" was designed to make the network faster and safer.

In November 2019, Tor released a software update that could automatically block access to outdated nodes. Also, abandoned network entry points were blocked, whose IP addresses are not listed in public directories.

In March 2020, the “Main Radio Frequency Center” subordinate to the Russian Roskomnadzor began to study the possibility of restricting mesh networks, IoT networks and anonymous protocols. The Onion Router (TOR), Invisible Internet Project (I2P), Telegram Open Network, Freenet, Zeronet, anoNet, as well as Yggdrasill, cjDNS, Briar, Signal Offline and FireChat mesh networks were included in the list of technologies under study .

The work was entrusted to the Federal Research Center "Informatics and Management" at the Russian Academy of Sciences. 9.2 million rubles were allocated to specialists and a deadline was set for the preparation of the report until June 30, 2020.

Russia is in second place in terms of Tor users after Iran. For 2019, a little more than 330 thousand Russians used the browser daily , which is 17.39% of the total number of users.

11.What other anonymous darknet networks exist?

Freenet is a peer-to-peer network designed for decentralized distributed data storage.

Unlike Tor and I2P, Freenet provides anonymity only within its own network.

There are no servers in Freenet, all data in encrypted form is stored in users' computers, which are combined into a common pool (pooling). Users provide the bandwidth and disk space of their computers for publishing or receiving information. Freenet uses key routing, similar to a distributed hash table, to locate data.

Users can choose the degree of protection: the lower it is, the faster the connection, but data protection suffers in this case.

Even with a low degree of protection, the connection speed remains low: downloading an image takes several minutes, watching a video is not possible, because Freenet does not support the databases and scripts required to display dynamic content. The purpose of the project is to store data without the possibility of censorship, and not performance and ease of use.

Freenet is divided into two parts: Opennet and Darknet. Opennet is a public network segment. You can get to Darknet only at the invitation of another user.

12.What is I2P?

I2P (Invisible Internet Project) - an overlay anonymous network, consisting of two types of nodes:

  • Routers They have intranet and regular IP addresses. Available on the regular Internet and are responsible for the operation of the I2P network.
  • Hidden nodes. Do not have IP addresses.

I2P distinguishes between routers and destinations, hiding data about where the destination is and which router it is connected to. Each user has several addresses: for connecting to sites, for torrents, etc., which complicates tracking and identification.

At the heart of I2P is a model of tunnels — paths through multiple routers. As in the Tor network, multi-layer encryption is used: one router decrypts one layer. Unlike Tor, reverse traffic is transmitted through a separate tunnel.

The user can set the length of the tunnels independently. The longer the tunnel, the lower the chances of detection, but the connection speed is correspondingly lower.

Electronic signatures and strong cryptography make I2P the most secure darknet network to date.

From:On DarkNet – Dark Web News and Analysis
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