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News Navigator: What are 'dark' websites?

The Mainichi Shimbun answers some common questions readers may have about so-called "dark" websites, which were used to exchange NEM cryptocurrency stolen from Japanese exchange Coincheck in January.

    Question: What's the difference between dark websites and normal websites?

    Answer: The websites that we can search for and view online represent only a small portion of the total number. There are many more sites on the "deep web" which are locked by passwords and which cannot be accessed from outside. These include some Facebook pages and closed internet shopping pages. Further down is the "dark web," which is based on networking technology such as "Tor." This technology encrypts communications and routes them through several computers, obscuring the original sender.

    Q: The level of anonymity when using such technology is high, isn't it?

    A: Originally, the U.S. Navy developed dark websites to maintain the secrecy of communications. Pro-democracy activists in dictatorships use the dark web to contact each other, collect information and send opinions without revealing their identities. It is built on the premise of volunteers offering their personal computers as relay points. WikiLeaks, which exposes internal government documents, uses the dark web to collect information.

    Q: There are negative images associated with the dark web, right?

    A: Some dark websites are used to exchange stolen personal information and illegal drugs. In Japan, a man who tried to sell bank accounts on a dark website was arrested by Aichi Prefectural Police in 2016.

    The Metropolitan Police Department is tracking the NEM cryptocurrency that was stolen in January, but the investigation is expected to be difficult. People can enter the dark web simply by installing a program. However, people should avoid doing so without caution. There are risks that their computers are infected by viruses when downloading data and that they could become involved in crimes without realizing it. (By Reiko Oka, Digital Editorial Group)

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