The best way to describe the darknet is to first change its name. For two reasons. First, there is only one internet. Almost every time someone refers to the darknet, it’s perceived as its own separate thing. This is not true. There is only one internet and just two ways that information travels: the clearnet, the sites the usual search engines find, and the other way, the cyphernet (darknet/darkweb). I wish I could take credit for this term, but I cannot. I first heard it from a talk (pdf, video) given by a gent named Adrian Crenshaw of irongeek.com. The second is the way the information travels. It’s encrypted by nature as opposed to unencrypted. Hence, the term cyphernet.
Who lives in the cyphernet? Is it trolls, drug dealers, criminals, spies, and the like? Yes, but they exist on the clearnet as well and I would argue that they exist there in greater numbers. On the cyphernet are also people who by sheer chance live in a nation with a repressive government. Also on the cyphernet are people who plan to attack a corporation or a person for a laugh or for a cause they believe is noble and just. It holds markets where stolen goods are sold and the most intimate of details of a person’s life can be bought. But all these goods and services are available on the clearnet and are more easily found.
A common misconception of the cyphernet is that you can only go to “special” pages. Not true. For the most part you can go to any page that Google can go to with the exception of a few sites that don’t allow you to get to them from the cyphernet. After all, it does have a bad reputation. Fortunately, the list isn’t as long as you’d think.
The cyphernet, as it stands now, is a strange place. It will most likely stay a strange place for a little while longer, but the basic principle of sending all traffic encrypted and anonymously is a great one. From a security perspective, it’s a win-win situation. Just the first part, encrypted information, is enough to make a person smile. Add to it the ability to send traffic anonymously, it’s the beginning of a dream come true.
No matter what anyone says, the internet is still in its infancy and we have only begin to see and feel the effects. Discoveries and new horizons are constantly being crossed. At the heart of it all is the ability to keep it safe, and ensure the parts that should not be changed are not. The cyphernet is just one piece of a much larger picture, one that shouldn’t be shunned but integrated as a whole. It will only make us all safer.