Just the name “Dark Web” hints at some of the dangers that can lurk there. Originally, however, the Dark Web was an Internet network created in the 1990s by the United States government as a way for U.S. spies to communicate secretly. The Dark Web was officially opened to the public in the early 2000s, and in countries where legitimate internet usage is heavily controlled, the Dark Web can still play positive functions. Unfortunately, those same privacy features have created an environment where criminal behavior is prevalent.
The most popular way to access the Dark Web is by way of the TOR Network. The TOR network is short for “The Onion Router”, named such because of its logo. The Dark Web is notorious for online drug trades, conversations between computer hackers, and accessing and sharing child sexual abuse material (CSAM).
As much as 80% of overall Dark Web traffic is used for CSAM, which is then traded or purchased using untraceable cryptocurrency. Some of this material involves trafficked victims, and in the worst instances, perpetrators may pay criminals to produce content to their specifications.
Most children will never venture to the Dark Web, but it’s important for parents to know of its existence. When you inspect your child’s devices, be on the lookout for “TOR,” The Onion Router, with the logo shown on this page. If your child has accessed the Dark Web, it is important to explore their reasons, understand what they have seen, support and educate them, minimize blame, and set effective limits using parental tools.
Learn more about the Dark Web and preventing kids from accessing it.
Each month in our Plugged In section, Internet Safety Specialist Joe Dugan brings you important information from the front lines of web safety. Joe is a retired Detective who now works with the Maryland Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.