What is an algorithm?

Mashable’s sequence Algorithms explores the mysterious strains of code that increasingly control our life — and our futures.

“The Algorithm” is impenetrable. It is mysterious, it is all-recognizing, it’s omnipotent. Other than that it’s not. 

An algorithm is a very simple principle that, right now, has several sophisticated manifestations. Algorithms’ central and opaque place at the heart of social networks trigger some to watch algorithms in basic with a sort of mystical reverence. Algorithms have turn out to be synonymous with some thing hugely complex and hard to have an understanding of, that is both an arbiter of aim fact, or, on the other close of the spectrum, anything wholly untrustworthy.

But when men and women refer to “the algorithm” — no matter if Facebook’s or another tech company’s suggestion algorithm, or just “algorithms” in general — do they really know what it usually means? Judging by the time period is applied and misused, most likely not. As Mashable embarks on our exploration of algorithms, we preferred to get some thing straight ideal off the bat: What is an algorithm, in any case?

Mashable spoke with Pedro Domingos, a personal computer science professor at the College of Washington who has also published about the ever-growing part algorithms participate in in our lives. Right before you go becoming alternatively amazed by or distrusting of the up coming computer system algorithm you encounter, get back to fundamentals on the concept that is powering our earth. 

1. An algorithm is a set of really specific guidance

How to bake a cake, uncover the sum of two in addition two, or even operate a region in accordance to the U.S. Structure are all illustrations of algorithms. Why? Due to the fact, according to Domingos, the definition of an algorithm is “a sequence of guidance.” That is it! 

Right now, an algorithm commonly refers to “a sequence of recommendations that tells a laptop what to do.” A computer system program is an algorithm, composed in a laptop programming language, that a computer can understand and execute. 

Algorithms written for personal computers also have to be extremely exact, typically using the instructions “if,” “then,” and “else.” For instance, a self-driving car or truck may well operate on an algorithm for navigating that claims “IF the instructions say transform remaining, THEN switch remaining.” See how certain you have to be to make a laptop abide by a seemingly very simple established of recommendations?

In the well known creativeness, have come to dominate our plan of what an algorithm is. That is, when quite a few people today consider about or refer to algorithms, they’re referencing something like what Tv set demonstrate Netflix thinks you could like, or which intercontinental travelers . While these are really complicated algorithms, at their hearts, they’re still just a set of directions a laptop or computer follows to entire a specified process. 

“With pcs, the algorithm can get vastly additional intricate,” Domingos said. “Addition is an algorithm that is defined in a couple of lines of text. Computer systems can have algorithms that get millions of lines to define.”

2. Men and women wrote and utilised algorithms prolonged in advance of pcs even existed

As early as the Babylonian era, individuals were crafting algorithms to enable them do the mathematical equations that allowed them to regulate their agricultural culture. 

“There ended up algorithms right before computer systems, since you do not want a laptop to execute an algorithm, the algorithm can be executed by a particular person,” Domingos reported.

Algorithms employing computer systems initial rose to prominence in the mid-20th century, when the navy began creating formulas for, say, identifying where to goal a missile at a going object. The concept then moved into enterprise administration, with computer systems functioning formulas for administering payroll and such, and in science, for monitoring the movements in the sky. 

A turning stage for modern day algorithms came when Larry Site and Sergei Brin wrote the . As a substitute of just relying on information and facts within just a web site to decide how related it was to a research time period, the lookup motor algorithm integrated a host of other indicators that would assistance it surface the best outcomes. Most notably, how lots of other back links pointed to the report, and how trustworthy those content were being, based on how several inbound links pointed to those pages, and so on. That was a potent sign of relevance. And the rest is heritage. 

3. Now, you can uncover algorithms everywhere

While we may possibly consider of algorithms as mathematical equations, algorithms, in accordance to Domingos, “can compute everything from nearly anything, there could possibly be no figures included at all.” Just one distinguished and incredibly intricate algorithm is the algorithm that governs the . It is an equation that Facebook works by using to decide what parts of content material to demonstrate its people as they scroll in other text, a established of instructions to decide what goes on the Information Feed.

“There’s no conclude of factors that Fb could set on your News Feed but it has to decide on.”

“There’s no close of matters that Facebook could put on your News Feed but it has to select,” Domingos reported. “And it’s generally a blend of factors like how a lot do you treatment about the persons that generated straight or indirectly that post? How shut are they to you in your social community, how applicable it is in its very own terms since of the subject matter, and also how latest.”

Fb, Google, Amazon, and other significant tech businesses all rely on algorithms to provide written content and items to their clients. But there are also algorithms through your daily life that you could possibly not be knowledgeable of. 

For instance, Domingos explained that an algorithm governs how your dishwasher appreciates when it’s time to transition from washing to drying, or how your car or truck regulates gasoline ingestion and knows when its tank is total whilst at the gasoline station, or how shadows seem in a digitally animated motion picture to completely replicate the solar in the genuine planet.

“Clearly, every time you interact with the laptop or computer, or you are on the internet, there’s algorithms included,” Domingos claimed. “But these times algorithms are also concerned in just about every little thing.”

4. The most advanced algorithms use equipment mastering

As we realized, an algorithm ordinarily has to be created in “excruciating detail” for a laptop or computer to have an understanding of what to do. On the other hand, which is not the circumstance when the individuals who create algorithms incorporate machine studying — a style of artificial intelligence — which leads to the most refined algorithms.

“In common programming, a human becoming has to generate down every very little detail of what the other has to do, and that is really time consuming, quite high-priced,” Domingos mentioned. “Machine discovering is the computer system exploring its individual algorithms alternatively of becoming advised what to do.”

Put yet another way, equipment learning is when a programmer feeds a software some raw details as a beginning stage, then submits the conclude level of what an organized, categorised edition of that info seems like, and leaves it up to the software to determine out how to get from point A to point B. Take into account an onion: A human who is familiar with how to cook dinner can turn that onion from a pungent raw sphere into strips of caramelized goodness. In a classic algorithm, a programmer would compose every single solitary step of the cooking guidance. But in an algorithm formulated by synthetic intelligence, provided the end issue as a intention, the application would figure out how to get from uncooked to caramelized itself. Consequently, the machine discovered. 

These sorts of algorithms develop into even additional strong when a human getting would not know how to get from stage A to place B. For example, a human procedure like becoming ready to figure out that a cat is a cat can take so much challenging brain power that it would be unattainable to create out step by stage. But by offering a application a bunch of images of a cat, and images that are not a cat, and demonstrating the desired endpoint as categorizing a cat image as a cat, the laptop or computer can understand to execute that procedure itself.

“It’s the computer system mastering to method alone as a substitute of owning to be programmed by people.”

“It’s the laptop or computer discovering to method alone as a substitute of possessing to be programmed by people today,” Domingos stated. “This, of program, is extraordinarily effective when it functions, since now you can, you know, develop very strong, incredibly elaborate algorithms with extremely small human intervention.” It is also pretty humorous when it will not work.

5. Irrespective of the term’s recent cache, algorithms are not magic

Many thanks to the sheer total of info algorithms method, it may well look like they are all-recognizing thriller containers constructed to reveal secrets and techniques. Having said that, don’t forget that an algorithm just signifies a established of guidelines. What’s much more, human beings produce algorithms, which indicates they can be flawed.

“There’s also a good deal of misconceptions about algorithms, partly simply because individuals never really see what is likely on within the laptop,” Domingos mentioned. “A very prevalent 1 is that folks think that algorithms are somehow excellent.”

Domingos explained that programmers devote enormous amounts of time correcting blunders in algorithms so that the strains of code generate the ideal results. On the other hand, individuals really don’t always catch all those issues. What’s a lot more, an algorithm is centered around the output a human wishes to see, or what that human is optimizing for. Get a using the services of algorithm, which ostensibly really should locate the best applicant for a task. If a human sets the guidance to appear at skills that are not always related to a position (say, college pedigree), just since the algorithm then suggests “candidate A is the very best human being,” doesn’t make it the reality.

Often, that’s simply because of bias. And difficulties with bias can get even worse with algorithms that make use of artificial intelligence.

“In classic programming you have to worry about the biases of the programmer,” Domingos mentioned. “In equipment discovering, mostly, you have to worry about the biases that appear from the details.”

For illustration, a employing algorithm driven by device learning might use as its starting off stage a bunch of resumes of candidates, and as its output the resumes of persons who were being hired in the past. Having said that, most tech businesses are not racially numerous. So an automated algorithm that can make choosing recommendations could mirror that real earth inequality.

Scientific studies that synthetic intelligence can mirror the gender and race stereotypes of the humans that teach them. In a single review, an algorithm that produced phrase associations applied the entirety of the English language on the net as its training data to understand associations in between words and phrases. Many thanks to the biases that exist in our environment, the algorithm determined that female names ended up much more involved with the arts, although male names have been extra connected with math and science. Scientific tests like these demonstrate that algorithms are not inherently neutral, fantastic, or malevolent: They basically do what the humans and facts that train them say to do. In brief, they are just as flawed as we are.

6. Algorithms are ushering in a technological revolution

Algorithms may possibly be imperfect, but they are nonetheless reworking our world. 

“All these items that we take for granted like the web and social media, and on and on, they wouldn’t exist without the need of algorithms,” Domingos reported.

“Algorithms are performing for mental work what the Industrial Revolution did for guide perform.” 

As these automated sets of guidelines become a lot more and far more common — from your dishwasher to the government’s supercomputers — humans have the potential to workout our information a lot more quickly and proficiently than ever ahead of. Domingos views that as nothing short of revolutionary.

“Algorithms are executing for mental operate what the Industrial Revolution did for handbook get the job done,” Domingos stated. “Algorithms are the automation of intelligence. And if you feel about that, this is a really impressive thing: to do something that utilised to consider, you know, human contemplating and labor to do, now can be completed by an algorithm.”

Algorithms are listed here to keep. But how we style and design them — biased or equitable, helpful or harmful — and how a great deal we unquestionably take their existence, is up to us.


5 Dark Web Browsers you can use to Remain Anonymous Online

A Dark Web browser allows you to access a huge portion of web content hidden from public view. Here’s a list of the top 5 Dark Web browsers.

We will get into our rundown of the top Dark Web browsers. But before that, let’s explore the difference between the “Dark Web” and the public web first.

The U.S. Defense Department’s ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (1969), provided the foundation of today’s internet. Since then, it has evolved into a worldwide platform with fathomless depths.

Contrary to what you might think, the internet and the World Wide Web aren’t synonymous. Internet is the global hardware network made of all connected devices that allows you to access the WWW content.

But not all of the web content is visible to your average search engine. You can find only a small part of all web pages through traditional search engines such as Google.

The rest is part of what is called the “Deep Web” and the “Dark Web.”

Most use these two terms interchangeably. But they are not synonymous.

dark web browser meme
Image courtesy of Reddit user @deuscar

What is the Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web?

Most people confuse the Deep Web and the Dark Web. And they both differ from, well, the regular web.

You’re using the Deep Web daily without realizing it.

Deep Web is the digital data that’s not indexed by conventional search engines and has limited access.

When you check your email, your Facebook profile, or your bank account balance, you’re in the Deep Web. It also includes user databases, web archives, company intranets, and other stuff that you can’t Google.

It’s estimated that the Deep Web is 400 to 500 times larger than the visible, or surface web.

The Dark Web is a part existing within the Deep Web as a network of encrypted websites.

Here, it’s all about anonymity and privacy. No IP addresses or DNS would allow the identification of sites.

They’re not all platforms where activities take place, though many Dark Web websites engage in illegal businesses.

Why Do People Use Dark Web Browsers?

The Dark Web isn’t necessarily for shady dealings. People could get into the Dark Web to seek anonymity, privacy, freedom of speech, knowledge-sharing, etc.

Political oppositionists, activists, whistleblowers, and many others can find in the Dark Web security they wouldn’t see otherwise.

The Dark Web also provides a refuge for ordinary people who are protective of their identity and personal information. Marketers can’t bombard them with “unethical” targeted ads on the Dark Web.

Within the Dark Web network, information flows in a complicated way, involving many traffic “nodes.”

Multi-layered encryption makes it hard to connect a user to any particular activity.

However, the Dark Web isn’t as dark as criminals would’ve liked it to be. The location, identity, and activities of the user aren’t 100% “safe.”

How to Surf the Dark Web

To access the Dark Web, you need a particular browser.

Your average browser won’t get you anywhere in this case. Instead of the usual TLDs such as “.com” or “.net,” Dark Web site URLs often come with “.onion.” Only Tor users can access these URLs.

The Dark Web isn’t inherently “evil” or illegal. It’s a tool whose potential harm or good is up to its users.

Below is a list of the top 5 Dark Web browsers:

1) Invisible Internet Project (I2P): Invisible Messages

To browse the Dark Web, there are many other solutions than Tor, like the Invisible Internet Project (I2P).

I2P is an anonymous network designed to secure the transfer of anonymous information between different applications. The communication is encrypted end to end. The I2P browser uses four layers of encryption to secure a message.

I2P The Invisible Internet Project
I2P The Invisible Internet Project |

Through the I2P browser, you can access the Dark Web using a layered data stream to hide your real identity.

Users have their own I2P “router” complete with inbound and outbound “tunnels.” You can’t know for sure which inbound tunnel the message went through to reach the recipient through which outbound tunnel.

Clients can choose the length of their inbound and outbound tunnels according to their needs. The longer the tunnels, the more anonymity, but also the more latency. Unlike Tor, you can’t use I2P to access the public web.

2) FreeNet: Dark Refuge for Freedom of Speech

Introducing its project, Freenet quotes Mike Godwin from Electronic Frontier Foundation:

“I worry about my child and the Internet all the time, even though she’s too young to have logged on yet. Here’s what I worry about. I worry she’ll come to me and say ‘Daddy, where were you when they took freedom of the press away from the Internet?”

Like other dark web browsers, FreeNet is another anonymity-based dark network that uses free software to protect freedom of speech and fight censorship of information. Users can access websites, chat forums, and various types of content available only through Freenet’s network.

The decentralized approach to its design makes Freenet less vulnerable to attacks. Freenet works to ensure that the free flow of information, as a human right, continue without disruption.

The notion of copyrights has no place in FreeNet. As FreeNet claims, the reason is that enforcing copyrights usually entails the monitoring of communications, which compromises free speech.

The organization does, however, recognize the importance of copyrights. As an alternative to reward artists and right holders, FreeNet proposes a community-based patronage system.

3) Subgraph OS: Safe Dark Computing

Subgraph’s free and open-source platform was created from the vision that people should be able to communicate freely.

Using the same source code, Subgraph OS comes with a built-in Tor integration. It works like a desktop operating system but was designed mainly as an adversary-resistant computing platform.

How the Subgraph OS works |
How the Subgraph OS works |

In addition to multi-layer encryption, the network uses “sandbox containers” to eliminate any malware threat in the bud.

When Subgraph spots an at-risk application, it immediately activates its containment mechanism. This isolation system allows the strengthening of user security and prevents the jeopardization of the whole network.

4) TAILS: Leave no Trace

TAILS is another Darknet browser that helps you go incognito on the Dark Web. It is entirely amnesiac as to your deeds.

Released in 2009, TAILS, an acronym for The Amnesic Incognito Live System is a security-focused live OS based on Debian GNU/Linux. You can run TAILS independently from your everyday operating system using a DVD or USB stick.

Using Tails on a computer doesn’t alter or depend on the operating system installed on it. So you can use it in the same way on your computer, a friend’s computer, or one at your local library. After shutting down Tails, the computer will start again with its usual operating system.”

To ensure privacy and anonymity, TAILS forces every outgoing or incoming connection through Tor filters. Also, TAILS cryptographic tools make sure all files, emails, and messages are safe. Unless you explicitly ask it to, TAILS will keep no records of your connections.

A variety of built-in apps come with TAILS, all pre-configured with security and anonymity in mind. An OS, a browser, email service, instant messaging, office suite, and others all in one solution.

5) Tor: the Top Dark Web Browser

Last but not least, we have Tor.

There’s just no way to talk about and make a list of dark web browsers without bringing up The Onion Router (TOR).

Simply put, the TOR browser is in a league of its own. It is the first and most powerful Deep Web browser. It is also undoubtedly the most popular. Tor Browser is downloaded 100,000 times every day by either new or existing users.

Just like there are many layers to the real onion, the Tor network has many layers of encryption.

Free and open-source, Tor was created based on research by the U.S. Army. To this day, the Tor project benefits from the support funding of the U.S. government.

In the mid-1990s, the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) was looking for a way to secure government communication. They came up with the concept of “onion routing” that now powers Tor.

Onion routing means sending information through a maze of user computers serving as nodes. The computer of the user requesting the information will be the “exit node.”

One would ask: why would the developers release such a tool to the broad public and compromise its efficiency? Well, it’s because of that — efficiency.

If government agents only used the Tor network, their actions would be more suspicious. Any connection coming from the Dark Web to the surface web would be easily red-flagged.

The more “ordinary” people use the software, the more they can blend in. Tor isn’t that anonymous, after all.

How to Use Tor Safely

Here’s how to use Tor the Dark Web browser to explore the onion network. Opening your standard browser and go to “” Or type tor download in Google.

Click the download button after choosing your language and version (Windows, Mac, Linux). Tor is also available for iOS and Android.

Install the Tor software on your computer. Then click “connect.” The other option, “configure,” is reserved for users whose country of origin blocks Tor for any reason.

When you open the Tor browser, you’ll see it uses DuckDuckGo as a default search engine.

Before you start surfing the Dark Web, check if your computer is connected to the Tor network. In the address bar, type “”

It would provide you with your Dark Web IP address different from your usual one.

Tor browser

You can click on the icon, in the top right-hand corner, to request a “new identity.” This option will prevent your Dark Web browsing from being easily connected to your actual IP address. You can also have another layer of anonymity by using a VPN service along with Tor.

10 Do’s and Don’ts for Using Tor and Browsing the Dark Web

  • Tor isn’t an encryption tool for ordinary internet traffic. It’s a traffic router that anonymizes the origin of internet traffic and its trajectory. Don’t use Dark Web browsers like Tor with HTTP Websites, as opposed to HTTPS.
  • Even when surfing the Dark Web, you leave breadcrumbs of your activities all over the place. Specific websites you visited, a PDF document you viewed here, or a torrent file you downloaded there.  For maximum anonymity, when using a browser, you should use a VPN.
  • Don’t access any random .onion URL you find. Ensure URLs are accurate and keep a record of correct URLs. Tor doesn’t support caching. Be careful not to click whatever links you stumble on. Check the trustworthiness of an onion website address.
  • Use the latest Tor version. Make sure to always keep your system up to date. This includes your OS, Tor client, and Tor applications.
  • A Dark Web browser doesn’t secure data stored on your computer. For example, a hacker can still access your personal information through the internet. Then he has access to your Dark Web “identity.” If you like, you can use a specialized cryptographic tool to encrypt your sensitive data.
  • Based on your settings, Jave, JavaScript, Flash,  ActiveX controls, QuickTime, and other applications can access and share your data. You need to disable these applications for a higher level of data protection.
  • Some websites use cookies and local data to track you wherever you go, including the Dark Web. Delete cookies and site’s local data. You can use an automatic cookie-deleting tool.
  • Don’t use Google on the Tor network. Google is known for being all about data, particularly personal data. Try privacy-compliant alternatives like DuckDuckGo or Startpage.
  • Don’t use your real email or anything that gives away your real identity while on the Tor network. It’s like wearing a face mask with your name printed on the forehead.
  • Do use the Dark Web and Tor browser. It’s for anyone who wants to avoid tracking and hacking and protect their anonymity and privacy. For those who want to blow the whistle on corruption, to report abuse, or divulge sensitive information and fear for their lives.

Read More: Monero To Replace Bitcoin As Currency Of Criminals In Dark Web


Manual: How to retailer your info absent from prying eyes amid Hong Kong’s new stability law

By Alan Pearce

When the new national protection law came into outcome, it seemed like the individuals of Hong Kong had shed their privateness right away. But, when these may well be the most stringent laws of their type on the earth, they require not confirm any authentic barrier to people established to maintain on to their digital freedoms.

It is important to bear in head that no matter what counter-steps you could take, you will be engaged in a never-ending game of cat and mouse with no guarantee that your things to do will not be uncovered. That reported, there is a good deal you can do to remain a single stage ahead.


Boats & Shows: A Sprawling Global Conspiracy

Welp. It happens to the best of us, even journalists. A few weeks ago we ran a story about an upcoming event dubbed “Floating Boat Cinema,” and it seems that we may have bought — and inadvertently attempted to sell you all — a handful of wolf tickets.

As the Editor of SF Weekly, the blame for this ultimately rests on my shoulders. And I say to you, sincerely and with a heavy heart: my bad.

About a week after our story was initially posted, a loyal reader reached out to us with some interesting intel. Our friends over at Orlando Weekly also had a story about the fabled float-in movie night, this one titled “No, a ‘floating cinema’ with ‘socially distanced boats’ is probably not coming to Orlando.”

The piece, written by Dave Plotkin, picked apart the proposed event — wondering about the plausibility of keeping all the individual boats from moving around, asking how drinks would be served, and, most importantly, “What do you do when you have to go to the bathroom?”

Plotkin also noted that his paper, along with other local outlets in Florida, had posted stories about several similar events — all appearing to be linked to the same promoter — never materialized before deciding to call bullshit on the Floating Boat Cinema.

We were aghast, mortified even, to think that we had possibly led you, our dear readers, astray. And so, we endeavored to make it right — posting our own brief recantation and diving headfirst into a search for the truth.

The more we dug into this dubious gathering of boats, booze, and movies, the stranger things became. Curiouser and curiouser we grew as we peeled back layer upon layer of this online onion — paging through a litany of phony-looking Facebook profiles, ostensibly made-up publicity agencies, and YouTube clips of apparently unlicensed events built upon the intellectual property of LEGO, Nintendo, and the estate of Lewis Carol — before finally zeroing in on the pair of Australia-based blokes responsible for it all.

Looking back to late last week, when all this business began, it’s hard to say exactly what I expected I would find. However, I think it’s safe to say I never would have anticipated that what at first appeared to be a bush league scam would have me scheduling a Skype session with a German investment banker, combing through a Nottingham community newspaper, and calling in favors with various professional and personal contacts in an effort track down foreign cell phone numbers and to get eyes on a bar in the Potts Point nightlife district of downtown Sydney. 

Then again, 2020’s been an exceedingly strange year, so why the hell not?

Phishing for Clues

My immediate fear upon learning that the Floating Boat Cinema might not be what it seemed was that we had unwittingly directed readers to a phishing site.

I scoured the event’s ticketing site,, to see if there was any place I could enter credit card info. I couldn’t find any such prompt. However, I did notice that the site asks people for an email address and a password in order to sign up for a wait list for the Floating Boat Cinema event. This fact is what initially triggered our tipster’s suspicions and ultimately led us to take a closer look at the event and its organizers.

After poking around for a bit, I realized that the site appears to only sell tickets or solicit sign-ups for a select number of events — all of which have been organized by the Sydney-based promoter Viral Ventures.

Although the page did not make it immediately clear that Viral Ventures was the company behind the Floating Boat Cinema — a suspicious clue in and of itself — I was ultimately able to track them down at their website,, a URL which reminds me of Brennan Huff and Dale Doback’s ill-conceived Prestige Worldwide.

What’s more, upon typing the URL “” into my browser, I discovered that I was not taken to a main page. Instead, I was always rerouted to the Floating Boat Cinema event.

From the ticketing site — which is registered in India according to a WhoIs search — I hit upon the name of another website: The landing page of this site, in turn, directed me to a collection of Facebook pages, all of them titled “Hidden” something.

There are “Hidden” Facebook pages for Denver, Cincinnati, Melbourne, Toronto, Columbus (Ohio), Vancouver, Houston, Miami, and, lo and behold, San Francisco.

They all look more or less the same, and all promote the same handful of events, including an Alice in Wonderland-themed cocktail party, a Pokémon-themed pop-up bar, and, of course, the Floating Boat Cinema of legend. The “Page Transparency” portion for most of these Facebook profiles noted that the page manager is based in Australia.

Duped & Doxxed

As I said before, I completely own my failure to catch all of this before we posted our original story. However, in our defense, the event sounded like a really fun diversion in the midst of a downright apocalyptic news cycle. Also, we weren’t the only ones to fall for it. Here in San Francisco, KRON 4, Do The Bay, and ALT 105.3, all posted stories plugging the event.

In defense of Viral Ventures, it would seem that plenty of people were interested in the event; our original piece was extremely well read, as far as articles on our website go. And it also seems as if this event promoter from Down Under has pulled off at least a handful of well-attended events in the past.

More online sleuthing turned up a number of videos from vloggers and local news outlets about events that actually took place. There was a Mario Kart-inspired event in Houston, a ball-pit bar in Cleveland, and a so-called “Brick Bar” in Pittsburgh. At the last of these, attendees were encouraged to drink booze, play with LEGOS, and further solidify the belief — widely held by Baby Boomers, Gen-X, and even Gen-Z — that Millennials are all permanently stuck in adolescence.

To be fair to our brothers and sisters in the alternative media world, Orlando Weekly is not the only paper to have pulled back the curtain on Viral Ventures. An even more in-depth exposé was penned by Walker Evans of Columbus Underground, which detailed numerous events planned by Viral Ventures in the Columbus, Ohio, area that never came to be.

In his piece, Evans noted that notices for Viral Ventures often came to Columbus Underground without specific dates or venues attached — as was the case with the boat-in movie event in San Francisco. Evans’ piece and Plotkin’s post both identified a number of Viral Ventures events that were supposed to happen in their respective cities, but never came to pass.

“Each sounded achievable and fun,” Plotkin wrote of the PokéBar and Brick Bar pop-ups, as well as a Pac-Man-inspired maze and bumper cars on ice. “But after the event dates came and went, and the website domains for each expired and reverted to Wix placeholders, we got wise.”

For his part, Evans even went so far as to attempt to track down the men he identified as being at the helm of Viral Ventures.

Aden Levin’s Twitter profile shot.

Aden Levin, a University of Manchester graduate from Nottingham, England, now runs the company out of Sydney. According to a profile of Levin, which can be found on the Nottingham Post’s website, Viral Ventures is not his first business. He is also responsible for another company called Mainstage Festivals, which has promoted boutique gatherings in exotic locales, like the French Alps and Dhërmi, Albania.

This business model of managing  “clubbing holidays for young people,” as the Nottingham Post so charmingly and English-ly put it, even earned Levin and his partner, Rob Tominey, £100,000 — an investment from British businessman Piers Linney. They secured the funding after pitching their company on Dragon’s Den, the United Kingdom’s version of the reality TV show, Shark Tank.

Evans also identified Levin’s business partner, James Farrell — a man who is a bit harder to pin down. Unlike with Levin, I could not find any fluffy articles about Farrell online, and his LinkedIn page does not have a profile picture (at least not visible to non-connections like me).

The closest I could get to a good picture of Farrell was this screen shot, taken from local network coverage of the Mario Kart-inspired Viral Ventures event held in Houston.

James Ferrell?

Among other things Evans called out in his piece: the fact that many of Viral Ventures’ events seem to be inspired by internationally recognized brands but never directly affiliated with them. There is the “Mushroom Rally” (Mario Kart), the “Brick Bar” (LEGOS), and the “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).

He also called out an odd trend that he noticed among the publicists sending him pitches for Viral Ventures events. Adam and Eve PR and Hyper Public Relations — two of the flack outfits that peppered Columbus Underground with press releases — appeared to have been made up, as visits to their URLs turned up blank placeholder pages.

A third publicist, identified as Lisa Brown of Boost PR, also reached out to Evans and his team. This time, the firm actually had a website, but, as you can see for yourself, it doesn’t exactly seem legit. Furthermore, Evans observed, the website used stock photos of its three employees, Brown, Erik Downie, and Jessica Martin. Those same three names were found on another sparse website for ND2 Media, although the photos that were connected to them were different.

Out of Stock

Speaking of pictures, of all the photos I came across while clicking through the myriad websites and Facebook pages connected to Viral Ventures, one in particular stands out.

While some of the snaps I’ve encountered have been quite obvious stock photos and others have been verified as images of actual Viral Ventures employees, one belonged to a German man named Björn Siegismund, CIO of the Berlin-based investment firm Kapilendo. He was listed as “Merv” in the “Meet the Team” section of the Viral Ventures website.

Björn Sigismund as “Merv.”

I found Sigismund by performing a reverse image search through Google, emailed him, and we set up a time to talk. I wanted to find out how he felt about his likeness appearing on a website for an event promoter in a country half a world away.

“That’s my official photo,” Siegismund said with a laugh when reached via Skype earlier this week. The image, he explained, is one he regularly attaches to the blog posts he writes for Kapilendo. It is not, however, a stock photo — at least not to his knowledge.

While he recognized his picture immediately, he was at a loss to say what it might be doing on the Viral Ventures website. “I’ve never talked to them,” he said. “I don’t know them. They stole the photo.”

As for the name they gave him — Merv — he laughed again, saying he isn’t so much concerned with the moniker or title he was assigned.

“Maybe because I’m wearing a suit, they might think this fits more to accounting than other parts of a corporation,” he mused. 

As it turns out, he was right. But I’ll get to that a bit later.

A Cold Call

Siegismund’s photo is no longer on the Viral Ventures website. And I have to assume the reason for that has everything to do with yours truly.

‘Nuff Said.

In his Columbus Underground article, Walker wrote that several direct emails inquiring about the authenticity of the PR firms pushing Viral Ventures events were ignored. However, in response to four very detailed questions submitted directly to Levin via email, the Ohio journalist did manage to obtain a pithy written response:

“Many thanks for your email,” it reads. “We at Viral Ventures host and partner with a number of local and national organisations to promote events with the intention of bringing exciting and unique events to new cities and use various channels in which to promote them. In bringing new events to new cities it can take time in organising them and gauging local interest which can take a few months.”

Given the detailed play-by-play provided by Evans, I had a feeling that emails were not the way to approach the folks at Viral Ventures. Luckily, with just a few texts to a close confidant in the B2B sales world, I was able to track down several phone numbers for both Levin and Farrell. Some of these numbers were based out of the U.K., where it appears that Levin is from originally, while others had Australian country codes.

After compiling my dossier, I typed out a few questions, waited until about 10 a.m. local time in Sydney, took a deep breath, and placed a call to Levin.

He picked up. And he had an explanation for everything.

Calm & Confident

While I had braced myself for a combative exchange with a defensive Levin, what I found at the other end of the line was a man who was more than happy to answer every one of my inquiries, and confident that all of this was just a big misunderstanding — easily chalked up to logistical roadblocks, a buggy ticketing website, the COVID-19 pandemic, and journalists who haven’t gotten all the facts before going to press.

“We’re not running scams,” Levin said when asked whether he could see why someone might think there is something fishy going on with his company.

He acknowledged that was directly connected to Viral Ventures, saying that his company was a “partner” in the ticketing site. He also said he knows that people have had trouble with the site, which he attributed to high online traffic taxing a website that wasn’t ready.

“The site is really buggy,” he said, by way of explaining why asked event registrants for a password. “It’s kinda one of those classic things of too much traffic on a site that couldn’t handle it.”

He insisted that the Floating Boat Cinema was “definitely in the pipeline,” though he couldn’t say much more, and noted that he isn’t working on the project directly. In a follow-up email exchange Levin told me that Viral Ventures was working with the San Francisco Parks Alliance on figuring out a venue for the event. Citing the fact that they were unaware of any such talks regarding a float-in movie night, a representative from the SFPA would neither confirm nor deny whether the non-profit was indeed working with Viral Ventures.

Levin conceded that some events have fallen through in the past, but he said that’s the nature of things in the event promotion business. 

“Sometimes we might try and launch an event, it doesn’t get enough traction, and we don’t run it,” he said. “We’re not data harvesting, … we don’t have any other motive apart from trying to put on fun, exciting events across different countries.”

He went on, saying that his business is “not about trying to build up hype for something and then let people down, because that makes us look bad,” and that they’ve run “hundreds” of events across the United States in the past 18 months.

Given the fractured manner in which so many of these events have been promoted — that is, through, the various “Hidden” city Facebook accounts, and the numerous, disappearing publicists — and without a clear throughline connecting said events to the parent company, Viral Ventures, verifying this claim feels like it might be a bridge too far for our small but mighty editorial staff of three full-time journalists. However, a quick check of shows that Levin and Co. appear to not be shy about using a shotgun approach when it comes to promoting the Floating Boat Cinema.

Screenshot of various Floating Boat Cinema events from

On Sept. 2, they have Floating Boat Cinema Events scheduled for San Francisco, Denver, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Auckland. Sept. 9 has the party paddling into Orlando, Miami, Chicago, Houston, and St. Louis. On Sept. 16, the event could be dropping anchor in Pittsburgh, New York, Calgary, Toronto, and Vancouver. And on Sept. 23, it is slated to sail through Cincinnati, Columbus, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Austin.

While it’s conceivable that all of the above events could ultimately happen on this timeline, it seems, at least to this outside observer, that Viral Ventures is merely throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks. In other words, it looks like they are doing exactly what Levin says he and the rest of Viral Ventures are “not about” — generating hype for events that are unlikely to come to fruition.

A Distinct Possibility

None of this is to say that a Floating Boat Cinema isn’t possible. Indeed, there are photos and video of a Viral Ventures-organized boat-in movie night available online, although it doesn’t look quite like the original illustration that Levin’s organization sent to newspapers in the United States.

You can access the clip of this event through the Viral Ventures site by clicking on the “Floating Cinema” link in the “Our Brands” section. That will take you to a website with the URL, where an embedded video from the YouTube channel called Have You Heard — which belongs to yet another Australian event promotion company of the same name.

In the video, you’ll see people gathered on a chartered yacht, all seated together on the top deck, looking at a single screen.

From what I can tell, they’re watching Jaws. It looks a lot like something the Fisherman’s Wharf-based Red & White put on last year.

Back in the early fall of 2019, the bay cruise company gathered a group of paying customers on their electric hybrid boat and screened some films, in partnership with the Roxie Theater.

Tyler Foster, executive vice president of Red & White, says that because the electric hybrid vessel is so quiet, they are actually able to show a film while cruising through the water — something a boat with a traditional combustion engine wouldn’t be able to do due to noise interference.

He says that he was a bit dubious of the viability of the event described in our original post, especially if the organizers hoped to put the boats in the bay, where choppy waters and strong currents would make it difficult to keep the vessels still.

“The risk of putting anyone who walked off the street in the bay — it starts to feel pretty silly,” Foster said.

And so it seems that San Francisco may one day soon see some form of floating cinema event. Even if if Viral Ventures isn’t behind it, Foster says he and his team hope to partner with the Roxie again, once we finally get COVID-19 under control.

Björn, Again

As I said at the outset of this piece, I had no idea how far down the rabbit hole this story was going to take me. And I still don’t know entirely what to make of it all.

While Levin said he didn’t see why I thought his methods for organizing and promoting events seemed strange, I still maintain that it’s all a bit kooky. Plus, it just seems like a lot of extra work.

Why build your own ticketing company instead of using a service like Eventbrite? Why all the “Hidden” cities Facebook pages, instead of a single “Viral Ventures” page? In short, why all the smoke and mirrors?

I asked around, hitting up promoters both large and small. Most didn’t want to go on the record to weigh in on the practices of a peer.

I did get Foster to weigh in. He says it seems as if Viral Ventures did things “the wrong way around” with the Floating Boat Cinema — putting the cart before the horse by seeking to gauge interest in a potential event before getting all their ducks in a row.

“We developed the relationship with the Roxie before we even thought about promoting it,” he said, explaining how his company went about producing its own movie night on the water.

Happily, there is at least one part of Levin’s story that I have far less trouble believing or getting behind.

When asked about the Björn-Merv discrepancy, the British expat let out a hearty chuckle and offered this explanation:

“That’s just a stock photo that we found on Google,” he said, referring to the image of our friend from Kapilendo. Leven went on to say that the real Merv is a “65-year-old South African who just didn’t want his picture on the internet, so he just asked us if we could put a nice picture of a good-looking guy that we found a stock photo for. … I think we searched for ‘good looking male office worker.’”

Kudos to you, Siegismund, you handsome devil.


Dark Internet, Deep Net, Tor: Inside of the Unindexed Portion of the Web

A man points to the webpage of an online shop that sells machine guns on the dark web in Germany, on November 12, 2016.

A man details to the webpage of an on the net store that sells machine guns on the dim world wide web in Germany on November 12, 2016. Silas Stein/photograph alliance via Getty Illustrations or photos

When you consider of the darkish internet, your brain very likely conjures a nefarious location on the world wide web where you can invest in a child or fork out some Bitcoin to have your neighbor knocked off by a hitman. The dark web’s track record is that of a lawless area, the place Silk Highway operated—the Wild West, if you will, of the world-wide-web.

Deep website, dark internet, scary web—all creepy names that crank out an outlaw, and folklore and mythology abound.

SEE ALSO: How Digital Currency Could Be China’s Top Soft-Electric power Software

But darkish net, we barely know you…

Let us backtrack: The dark web has been all over considering that the days of Al Gore inventing the world wide web. It formally obtained its present day-day get started in 2000 with the release of Freenet, a peer-to-peer system for censorship-resistant conversation. Yet another significant piece of the darkish net puzzle was the increase of cryptocurrency in the 2010s, which stored monetary transactions less than the radar and opened up the black-current market arena.

So, how do I obtain the darkish world wide web? Properly, let’s get started…

Initially, “dark web” is a catch-all phrase for the section of the online that is not indexed by look for engines it contains internet sites that really do not clearly show up on Google lookups. What you require is a Tor browser to give you access to .onion websiteswhich are only offered on the Tor network.

We have Roger Dingledine to thank for his contributions to the dim internet. In the early 2000s, this MIT graduate started the Tor Job (which stands for “The Onion Routing”). The purpose of onion routing was to make a spot on the world wide web with as significantly privacy as attainable. The premise was to route site visitors as a result of many servers—and encrypt it each stage of the way.

Welcome to the dim world wide web.

So, definitely, you should have to know a person, who is aware a man, who understands a man to get you a Tor browser in buy to accessibility the darkish world-wide-web, ideal? Not precisely. Our mate Google will choose you right to the site to obtain Tor.

Assume of it as a variant of, say, Firefox or Safari.

Largely, Tor was developed as a instrument to safeguard versus mass surveillance. We previously know Edward Snowden’s choose on this full concern and the have to have for a decentralized search motor. Just about every stage alongside the world-wide-web is an chance for your facts to be marketed to a 3rd occasion. Goal advertisements trumpet the actuality that our website searches are getting tracked and acknowledged.

On a person amount, consider of the dark world wide web (they definitely need to rebrand) as an enormous communication channel that can help men and women connect in environments that are hostile to cost-free speech. Get China, for case in point, wherever the dim website is used for discussions without having worry of the authorities cracking down and creating arrests.

Even Fb has a .onion model, which will allow accessibility in countries wherever Mark Zuckerberg’s social media web page is blocked.

But I’m not hoping to perform off the dim internet as a healthful arena of free speech a lot of terrible shit goes down on the darkish net. Scientists at King’s Faculty in London classified the contents of 2,723 dark internet web sites over a 5-week time period and observed that 57% host illicit material.

You can acquire Social Protection card figures, all method of medication (prescription and non-prescription) and, of program, life span Netflix quality accounts. You can come across bulk special discounts on stolen credit cards offered on very well structured e-commerce platforms. Persons provide guides on how to do crimes, these as how to hack someone’s Fb account or open fraudulent financial institution accounts. There’s also money laundering, investing of stolen credentials, little one exploitation and skimmer gadgets that grab financial institution account knowledge sold.

When Silk Street raked in $80 million in two yrs, Dread Pirate Roberts trumpeted that the felony product was available with cryptocurrency. The crackdown on Silk Highway essentially elevated the number of dark website drug revenue.

Of study course, there are scams aplenty simply because there are cons aplenty on the clear net (the regular, regular internet).

For case in point, on the very clear website, I was ready to come across people inclined to market me a stay tiger by merely googling “Buy Are living Tiger.” But the vast majority of responses for my reside tiger inquiries were being ripoffs, requesting supplemental charges for delivery and all the things else below the solar. (Lesson to Study: Do not attempt to buy a are living tiger over the web.) You may possibly imagine the fantasy of employing a hitman to kill your neighbor is simple on the dim net, but, in actuality, you may locate you compelled to pay out additional cash—with the response, “Pay a lot more cash or I’ll go to the law enforcement.” (Lesson to Understand: Really do not seek the services of another person to eliminate your neighbor.)

Oh dim world wide web, you are a intricate area. You are a resource that makes it possible for us to be far more non-public and safe although we love our lifetime Netflix premium offer and see an increase in predatory details collection at a commercial degree.

An Inside Look at the Good, Bad and Complicated Parts of the Dark Web


How to navigate and look for the Deep World-wide-web and Darkish Web from Chrome

The Deep Net lets us obtain to written content It is not indexed in common look for engines, but that content material does not have to be illegal or getting into this darkish place of ​​the Web constitutes a criminal offense, inspite of the myths that have formed around it.

What is the deep web

The finest simile to determine the Deep Website is that of the iceberg. What we see on the surface area is what we can discover with a ordinary browser. But most of the iceberg is concealed beneath sea level and to access it you have to use other styles of browsers and resources. But not everything that is less than the area has to be unlawful, we will also come across educational operates, trade of exploration and scientific documents, among other matters. For instance, the intranet of your function is also considered in this perception Deep World wide web, because it is not indexed in lookup engines.

It is correct that on the Deep World-wide-web there are spots where you can obtain illegal functions, these types of as the sale of arms or medications, which consider to acquire advantage of the anonymity of these non-superficial networks to have out their criminal pursuits. But a typical consumer can also enter that hidden place to research for other varieties of information and facts.

How to obtain

To enter the Deep World-wide-web phone you are likely to have to have a particular browser, unique from the common ones that you use in your working day to day. The best acknowledged is Tor Browser. With this browser we are heading to enter these .onion web sites that we will obtain in the listings and in the look for engines of this variety of web page, this kind of as The Hidden Wiki, which we will speak about below. After you put in Tor Browser you will have to configure it, if we want to use a proxy link or if our Web service service provider restricts entry. The moment configured, we will locate a typical browser, like the some others we are applied to utilizing.

Tor Browser is based on Mozilla Firefox, so we can use to navigate the Deep Web with normality. In addition we can also enter the websites of the superficial Internet. We will have to look for individuals .onion links, paste them in the handle bar and so obtain the web page in problem. There are other means to entry the Deep Internet, with other applications like ZeroNet, Freenet or I2P, but they may call for additional innovative awareness than Tor Browser, which can be a fantastic initially solution to this concealed internet.

It is possible that there are web sites that require a higher amount of security to obtain, so not all the backlinks you locate will be available with out even more ado and you will require greater actions to protect the relationship and site visitors to entry these Dim World-wide-web back links. , which is the deepest location of ​​the Deep World wide web and where by legal pursuits can be discovered.

The Concealed Wiki is an handle guide for browsing the Deep Net and has a variation available from traditional browsers, so everyone can enter and view the list of classified website hyperlinks that are made available to people there. If you enter you will see that there are a lot of one-way links to lively web site web sites, politics, acquiring and providing, discussion boards, erotic content material, messaging … When you access from a traditional browser, you see these backlinks but you are not able to enter them. You should really duplicate and paste them into a browser like Tor Browser, which will allow you to access this type of articles.

Access from Google Chrome

Onion research motor is an extension out there for Google Chrome that will allow the person of this browser to search for articles found on the Tor network, on the Deep Net, or also research for material discovered on the so-called superficial Internet. This Chrome extension can make use of the service known as TOR2Internet that can make this sort of data obtainable to buyers of classic browsers.

We will have two possibilities, a person in which info will be searched on the ‘Onion Network’ and a different for perform a research on the ‘Standard Netword’. Onion research engine assures that the assistance is anonymous and that the user’s privacy will be protected and respected. There are no cookies, there is no javascript and there will be no exterior or 3rd-social gathering codes, they say. Of class, to navigate these back links on the Deep Website that use the .onion area, it is important to install Tor Browser, as we have defined previously.

To install Onion research motor we will not have to do nearly anything specific, it is one particular far more extension of Google Chrome, so we must go to the record of browser extensions, lookup for it and set up it. When we accomplish a look for and find the website link that we want to accessibility, it will be as simple as copying it, heading to Tor Browser and pasting it into the deal with bar. With these resources you can start out browsing the deep world wide web and find with your very own eyes every thing that is there, generally being inside the legal margins if you do not want to have issues.


Switch to the anonymous web

With most of us currently self-isolating and social-distancing to avoid spreading and catching the coronavirus, we’re likely to be spending more time online than usual. This makes it more important than ever to keep our web activities private and secure. 

One option is to disguise what you’re doing by using a VPN, but another, more intriguing proposition is to connect to an alternative internet that better protects your identity and lets you access sites that are otherwise unavailable or censored. Often misleadingly called the ‘dark web’, the decentralised internet may sound legally dubious, but it’s actually a very effective way to browse and communicate anonymously online. However, you can’t just jump onto hidden networks through your standard browser. 

In this feature, we lift the lid on the invisible web, reveal the tools you need to access it, suggest the best hidden sites to visit and explain how to stay completely safe and private.

Anonymous web FAQs

There are lots of misconceptions about the so-called dark web, which detract from its many benefits. Here we address the most frequently asked questions.

Why would you want to access the dark web?

It’s exciting to explore web content that the vast majority of people never get to see, and you’ll find things there that may not be available on the normal web. You can also have completely anonymous and unmoderated interactions with other people, without worrying that Google will index and display everything in its search results. People can be themselves – for good or bad.

What content can you find there?

The dark web has a reputation for being a ‘hive of scum and villainy’, and there is certainly some truth in that – some of its online marketplaces sell illegal products such as weapons, drugs, fake passports, counterfeit currency and so on. But you can buy perfectly legal things, too, usually paying with Bitcoin or another cryptocurrency, with the benefit that you don’t need to worry about a ‘middle man’, such as Amazon, taking a cut, trying to sell you additional products or tracking your movements and building up an advertising profile.

Reputable companies including the BBC, New York Times, DuckDuckGo, ProtonMail and Facebook offer access to their websites on the dark web through ‘.onion’ addresses (so called because onion services have multiple layers, like onions). These onion versions aren’t really any different to the standard sites, but they provide a channel for people who might not otherwise be able to access them – for example, if the country they are based in blocks or censors their content.

Is the dark web legal?

Yes. Think of accessing the dark web as akin to using BitTorrent. You can fire up the tool you need to access and explore content without breaking the law, but downloading a copyrighted film, TV show or some music is illegal – and that’s also true if you purchase something illicit from one of the dark web’s marketplaces. 

Just visiting the hidden web won’t get you into trouble. It’s also important to point out that you’ll only see bad stuff on the dark web if you go looking for it, so you’re not going to stumble across anything illegal unless you choose to.

The team behind Tor, the most popular way to access the dark web, states categorically that “it is not a tool designed or intended to be used to break the law”, but to “enable anonymous communication and combat network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy”.

Is it safe?

It’s mostly as safe as the standard web. Just take the same precautions as you usually would online, and don’t click any unknown links or download anything unless you’re sure it’s harmless. 

Purchases can be more risky – if you buy from one of the marketplaces, you may end up receiving fake goods – or nothing at all. And if that happens, you won’t be able to complain to customer services, and you’ll lose your money. 

Don’t be tempted to engage in illegal activity, either, because you could end up being arrested. Law-enforcement agencies have officers monitoring hidden sites and forums.

Who uses it?

Mostly people who live in oppressive regimes where the regular internet is restricted and access is monitored, but also anyone who just wants to browse the web away from the prying eyes of their ISP and other snoopers.

Recent research by cybersecurity website found that more than 30% of North Americans used the dark web regularly in 2019. Globally, users have cited their main reasons for accessing the dark web to be anonymity, privacy from internet companies and the ability to access content not available in their own country.

How do you access it?

The most common way is to use the Tor Browser, but you’ll need to know the exact web address of the sites you want to visit. These usually consist of a jumble of 16 (sometimes 32) characters and the domain ‘.onion’. You can also use Google or another, more private search engine to track down sites – search for ‘BBC .onion Tor’, for example, to find the address of the BBC’s dark-web site (bbcnewsv2vjtpsuy.onion). There are also a few dedicated search engines for finding hidden sites on the dark web, of which Ahmia (msydqstlz2kzerdg.onion) is the best-known – and least dubious! 

Aside from Tor, there are other tools you can use to access the hidden web, which we’ll look at in the next section.

How to access the anonymous web

You can’t just hop on the dark web using Chrome, Firefox or another standard browser – it requires special tools for access. Here, we look at the main options

Tor Browser

Available for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android, Tor Browser is based on the same engine as Mozilla Firefox, but with a privacy-focused twist, using the Tor network to protect your browsing and disguise your location. Your traffic gets transmitted and encrypted across Tor relays around the world, and you can request a new “circuit” for any site at any time. This means you can browse the regular web anonymously, but the software is also adept at handling ‘onion’ addresses with ease, just as if they were HTTPS addresses, which makes it the best – and certainly the simplest – gateway to the dark web.

Unlike a VPN, there’s no single entity behind Tor that you need to trust – the network is run by thousands of volunteers, so there’s no chance of your data being harvested and sold to third parties. 

Tor also does a good job of hiding where you’re browsing from and preventing you from being tracked, although visiting an unsecured website (HTTP instead of HTTPS) could allow an exit node to spy on you. You can use Tor with a VPN for additional anonymity.

Why you should use it: Tor is very easy to use – not much different from browsing the web normally – and, in addition to its built-in Tor functionality, the browser comes with a number of privacy-focused features and add-ons. It uses DuckDuckGo as its default search engine, disables risky plugins, such as Flash, and lets you adjust the security level of the browser – you can choose from Standard, Safer and Safest. The higher levels disable additional elements, such as JavaScript, and stop audio and video autoplaying.

The biggest downside of using the Tor Browser is a drop in speed. Your traffic gets routed through a number of relays, which can slow down your browsing noticeably. It’s not a tool you should use for protecting your torrenting, either. In fact, the developers strongly advise against using it for that purpose, because it slows down the network even more.


The Invisible Internet Project is an anonymous, peer-to-peer decentralised network layer (written in Java). It is essentially an internet within the internet, and lets you send messages, browse and host websites, chat and perform other web activities in complete privacy. 

I2P employs ‘garlic’ routing (as opposed to Tor’s ‘onion’ routing), which adds an extra level of privacy by encrypting multiple messages together, to make them harder to snoop on. 

Incoming and outgoing messages in I2P use separate tunnels, which improves  privacy. It’s also designed to anonymise traffic within the network, protecting communication and preventing your ISP from seeing what you’re up to.

I2P is faster and more secure for accessing hidden services than Tor, and you can use it to access normal websites anonymously. However, it’s more complicated to set up and use than other anonymous services and while there is a browser configuration page you can follow, the website doesn’t do a great job of explaining how to get started. Additionally, I2P relies on Java, which could be seen as a security risk.


ZeroNet is a peer-to-peer decentralised service that uses the BitTorrent network and Bitcoin cryptography to deliver “open, free and uncensorable” websites. Where Tor uses ‘.onion’ addresses, ZeroNet has ‘.bit’ domains. You can create your own websites and, just as with torrent files, the content remains online as long as there is at least one peer connected. 

You need to install ZeroNet’s software to access it (available for Windows, macOS and Linux), and can then browse the available sites and services from the interface in your browser.

Because it uses the BitTorrent network, which isn’t very anonymous at all, ZeroNet offers less “out of the box” privacy than some other options. However, you can hide your IP address by using it in conjunction with the Tor Browser. There are instructions for how to do this in this FAQ.

There are a number of benefits to ZeroNet, primarily that it is very fast and it lets you access hidden sites even if you have no internet connection. Sites are updated in real time, so you don’t need to refresh your browser to get the latest content, and there are some excellent sites to browse. As mentioned above, however, ZeroNet isn’t anonymous by default, and it can be overwhelming when you first start using it because the list of available sites constantly refreshes (sort it by English to make it more manageable). Because ZeroNet relies on BitTorrent, you work as a peer to serve the sites you visit, which uses some of your bandwidth. You continue serving them, too, until you pause or remove them.


Freenet has been around for 20 years, so it predates other, similar services. It’s a peer-to-peer decentralised platform that lets you share files anonymously, chat on unmoderated forums and browse and publish so-called “free sites” that can only be accessed through Freenet. 

If you’re wondering how anonymous you will be, the answer is “very”. As the site explains: “communications by Freenet nodes are encrypted and are routed through other nodes to make it extremely difficult to determine who is requesting the information and what its content is”. There’s also a ‘darknet’ mode, which is where you only connect to your friends, making your activities even harder to detect.

Freenet’s purpose has always been to provide a private, anonymous service, and that remains the case today. You can chat on forums without fear of censorship, and publish and share files anonymously.

On the down side, it’s a peer-to-peer service. When you use Freenet, you contribute to the network by providing both bandwidth and a chunk of space on your hard drive. Popular content from Freenet is kept in this “data store” (in an encrypted format) and updated regularly. You can choose how much space to devote to it during setup. 

Would a VPN suit you better?

A VPN (virtual private network) is similar to Tor in that your traffic gets routed through its own servers, hiding sites you visit from your ISP and disguising your location. The main benefit of using a free VPN over Tor is simplicity – you can visit sites as you would normally, in your usual browser; and access geo-blocked content by choosing where to appear to be browsing from, whereas Tor assigns your location randomly.

On the downside, free VPNs come with data limitations – even the more generous, such as Windscribe, only give you 10GB of data a month – or there’s an ongoing cost of at least £3 a month if you use a paid-for service providing unlimited data and choice of servers. There are also privacy concerns, with reports of free services selling user data to third parties.

Both Tor and VPNs have their pros and cons, but combining the two gives you the strongest possible anonymity. However, you will definitely experience a noticeable hit to your browsing speeds if you do so

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8 best dark web search engines for 2020

For a beginner, it is almost impossible to find a website on the Tor browser or how it works and that’s where dark web search engines help.

To the layperson, their only exists one type of the Internet – the one we use for normal browsing every day. But, in reality, there are 3 main types of the Internet which are crucial to understanding to get an accurate picture of how it works:

1: The Surface Web
2: The Deep Web
3: The Dark Web

The Surface Web

The surface web consists of all the pages that can be indexed by a normal search engine like Google and are available for everyone to see.

The Deep Web

The deep web consists of all those pages that are protected and hence cannot be indexed by a search engine. This protection may come in the form of several security measures such as passwords. An example is a private Instagram profile whose content cannot be displayed in Google search results.

The Dark Web

The dark web consists of all those websites which cannot be accessed using a normal browser and require a special type of network known as The Onion Routing (TOR). All websites there use a .onion appended at the end instead of top-level domains such as “.com”.


Even though the first 2 are not consciously known by the vast majority of users to be distinct types, they are used every day by them. However, the real mystery lies in the third one, the dark web which only makes up a very tiny proportion of the internet containing about just over 65000 URLs.

Out of these too, only about 8000 are active with the majority of existing URLs not working due to various issues. Yet, this is only one part of the problem.

Bonus: Best legal & free online streaming sites for movies & TV shows 2020 (no signup or payment card required)

Dark web search engines

Another one is the difficulty in finding dark web websites. Unlike the normal surface web, the site URLs do not have easily rememberable names and hence memorization is not an option in most cases. This naturally poses a question, what dark web search engines are available to fill in for Google? Turns out, there are plenty, here are the top 8 dark web search engines:

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1. DuckDuckGo – 3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion

Built with the unique selling point of not tracking users, DuckDuckGo has long been used as a replacement for Google by privacy-conscious users. On the other hand, many use it on the dark web as well for its anonymity features. Considering that it is the TOR browser’s default search engine, it says a lot about their reputation for being a good search engine in the community!


2. Torch – cnkj6nippubgycuj.onion

Also known as TorSearch, it claims to be the oldest search engine residing on the dark web along with indexing over a billion pages giving it considerable brownie points. Users are neither tracked nor is there any censorship allowing one to make full use of the information buried within the dark web.

3. Recon – reconponydonugup.onion

This particular search engine was built by Hugbunt3r, a prominent member of the popular Dread service on the dark web. It aims to serve as a database through which users can search for products from different vendors in different marketplaces on the dark web.

Individual profile viewing options for vendors & marketplaces are also available including details like ratings, mirror links, number of listings, and uptime percentage.


4. – msydqstlz2kzerdg.onion

An interesting part of Ahmia is that it lets you browse dark web links using a normal browser like Google Chrome. This is even though you would eventually need TOR to access those obtained links but it lets you at least see them this way. On the other hand, it also has an onion URL.

Usage statistics are also available on its site categorized by simple & unique search queries, and simple & unique search results on both the TOR and I2P network. A notable feature of this search engine is that it appears to be simplistic while highly functional at the same time.


Further, it places the comfort of its users at heart with an example being that with one click, it allows you to add your own dark web hidden service to its database.

5. notEvil – hss3uro2hsxfogfq.onion

Putting up an aura of simplicity, notEvil is believed to have been modeled after Google. It is also reported that it took its name from Google’s motto back in the day of “don’t be evil”. For searching, users have multiple options to select their results from which are titles, URLs, or both of them combined.

6. Candle – gjobqjj7wyczbqie.onion

Built just about 3 years ago, where the design inspirations came for this site are obvious – Google. Attempting to imitate the kind of simplicity the tech giant has on the dark web has yielded its good traffic with the number of sites indexed growing every day.


7. Haystak – haystakvxad7wbk5.onion

Advertising itself as having indexed over 1.5 billion pages, it sure does deserve a place on the list. However, it should be noted that many of these may not work considering that only a small portion of the sites created on the dark web ever remain online constantly with most being wiped away.

It also offers a premium version that can be ordered using a contact form.

8. Kilos – dnmugu4755642434.onion

Dark Web search engine Kilos lets users find hidden marketplaces

Kilos is one of the dark web search engines that’s primarily been designed for the Dark Web. It was launched in November 2019 and provides cybercriminals a platform to find answers to their dark queries, search for services on the Dark Web and find the right person to deal with for all the wrong tasks. Such as, if someone wants to deal with Bitcoin secretly, they only have to type the relevant keywords and the deed will be done.


The only drawback is that researchers who have investigated the use of Kilos believe that the search engine helps cybercriminals more than someone eager to learn about dark web markets. 

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To conclude, you may also find the links of other dark web search engines but these happen to be the ones that stand out the most. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, many sites don’t survive the stain of time in this strange land so it could be that some of these don’t exist tomorrow.

See: Top The Pirate Bay Alternatives – Best Torrent Download Sites

To remain safe, be sure to steer clear from search results that may lead you to illegal sites such as those offering child abuse content, illegal drugs, or weapons as some of these search engines do not censor such results.

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Research Engine Aims to Make Darkish Marketplaces Extra Available

Two years just after the administrator of the Grams search motor shuttered the provider, yet another search motor for finding questionable and unlawful items on the Dark Internet has opened up shop.

An nameless developer has developed a lookup motor for the Dark Website that will make browsing for questionable and unlawful items and expert services less difficult, borrowing from the previously well-known Grams search engine that shut down two decades in the past, in accordance to an analysis of the provider published nowadays by Digital Shadows.

The lookup motor, dubbed Kilos, borrows a ton of design and style aspects from and increases on the performance of the Grams lookup motor, thoroughly indexing six diverse darkish markets. Whilst other look for engines have appeared more than the earlier couple many years — this kind of as Ahmia, Onion Research Engine, and Refreshing Onions — Kilos seems to trump them in conditions of features, claims Alex Guirakhoo, system and research analyst at Digital Shadows, a service provider of threat security remedies.

“Because 2017 there have been many Darkish World wide web lookup engines that each individual offer different amounts of functionality … a lot of of these have been fairly simple and incomprehensive in their protection,” he claims. “Kilos has gained a great deal of consideration on the two cybercriminal and mainstream platforms thanks to its customizability and vary of sources.”

The Grams search motor used customized APIs to accumulate information on goods and services sold in a handful of significant darkish marketplaces. This sort of markets are designed up of sellers of grey market and black industry products and expert services on the Darkish Web, which utilizes TOR or an additional anonymization assistance to retain end users identities and the supply of  transactions a key. In addition, the developers experienced paired the provider with a bitcoin “tumbler” or “mixer,” a method of combining bitcoin transactions into pools to anonymize the identities of the potential buyers. 

In December 2017, the lookup motor shut down because of to the issue in amassing info and the burden of protecting the web site, Digital Shadows said in the examination. Yet the bitcoin mixer assistance, named Helix, attracted the awareness of US federal prosecutors, which led to the indictment of 36-calendar year-outdated Larry Harmon of Akron, Ohio, in February on 3 counts of funds laundering and fiscal crimes for anonymizing a lot more than $300 million in transactions. 

“The sole purpose of Harmon’s operation was to conceal felony transactions from law enforcement on the Darknet, and since of our rising expertise in this place, he could not make fantastic on that assure,” reported Don Fort, main, IRS Prison Investigation, in a statement announcing the charges on Feb. 13. “Operating in tandem with other sites, he sought to be the ‘go-to’ money launderer on the Darknet, but our investigators at the time yet again played the job of felony disrupters, unraveling the interlinked website from one tentacle to a further.”

Kilos’ developer appears to be next Harmon’s playbook. In addition to the research motor features, the developer also announced its own bitcoin mixing services, dubbed “Krumble.” 

“In accordance to the Kilos administrator, Krumble will take great hard work in making sure person anonymity as opposed with other Bitcoin mixers by randomizing the transaction and commission expenses, implementing a randomized transaction delay, and only functioning about TOR,” said Electronic Shadows in its advisory.

The corporation theorizes that the two initiatives may well have some of the identical backers or developers. The similarities prolong just over and above the structure of the web pages and the pairing of a look for motor with a cryptocurrency mixer, claims Electronic Shadows’ Guirakhoo.

“If the two do not share the identical creator, it’s also attainable that Kilos’ style and design seeks to capitalize on the level of popularity of Grams,” he claims. “This is frequent with cybercriminal marketplaces.”

In addition, to support avert denial-of-support assaults and competitors from scraping, the developers of Kilos have implemented a CAPTCHA that asks buyers to rank product or service and seller feedback by whether or not the evaluation is optimistic or adverse. The CAPTCHA serves a secondary perform as effectively, giving the developers supplemental info to prepare the software’s machine understanding algorithm and make improvements to the search operate, Guirakhoo claims.

“The site’s administrator takes advantage of the responses to prepare the lookup engine’s sentiment classifier, which premiums effects centered on an assigned sentiment value to support make sure the maximum good quality listings are prioritized,” he says.

The service presents defenders a watch into how illegal and grey marketplace sellers and solutions continue on to strengthen. Digital Shadows predicts that the company will continue on to boost, but given US investigators’ takedown of the Grams and Helix companies, Kilos and Krumble tempt a related destiny, Guirakhoo says.

“Compared with respectable software, there is very little incentive for the creators of ethically questionable services to be clear in their development,” he states. “These are usually homegrown tasks, managed by a pick out several people.”

Connected Content:

Look at out The Edge, Darkish Reading’s new section for features, menace facts, and in-depth perspectives. Modern top rated tale: “The Perfect Journey Security Plan for a World-Trotting Notebook.”


Veteran technological know-how journalist of far more than 20 a long time. Previous exploration engineer. Penned for additional than two dozen publications, such as CNET, Darkish Reading, MIT’s Technological know-how Overview, Well-liked Science, and Wired News. Five awards for journalism, which includes Very best Deadline … Perspective Comprehensive Bio


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This is What We Know About the “Recon” Dim Internet Lookup Engine

Although classic look for engines, by definition, never operate for the Dim Internet, many web-sites let you discover information and facts on this hidden segment of the net with relative ease. Engines that enable you search Darkish World wide web marketplaces in certain abound.

Recon is 1 of the most new illustrations of a darknet sector search motor. So what do we know about it?

What Is Recon?

Resource: The Onion Website

Recon is a device that customers can obtain to discover several Darknet markets concurrently. So it is in immediate opposition with other web-sites, this sort of as Kilos. In its place of obtaining to go to or even know about all these diverse marketplaces, you can use a solitary area examine and contrast objects on give. It also makes it less difficult to locate these markets in the initial spot!

Who Produced Recon?

Although we never know the real identification of the individual (or persons) behind Recon, it would seem rather crystal clear that a single “HugBunter” administrates the site. This is supposedly the identical HugBunter powering “Dread” – a Reddit-design and style forum for buyers of the Dark Web to congregate.

Dread manufactured the information in September of 2019 when HugBunter’s lifeless man’s swap was activated, but a person utilizing that name has returned in the meantime, and Dread is even now online. So as far as any one is familiar with, Recon comes from the identical relatives of web-sites.

How Does 1 Access Recon?

dark web

Recon exists on the Tor network, so you will need to have to take a look at the “reconponydonugup.onion” web page utilizing the Tor browser.

On the other hand, if you are curious to see it for you, don’t just leap in making use of a Tor Browser copy. Be absolutely sure to adequately protect oneself by at minimum employing a VPN to disguise your Tor entry from the ISP.

Suggested: 7 Best No-Logs VPN Providers in 2020

How Does Recon Do the job?


Recon uses many unique procedures to enable consumers look for listing and info across multiple markets. It works by using historic industry data as a part of the look for source, but the most highly effective facet of Recon is its API or software programmer interface.

Entrepreneurs of darknet marketplaces who want individuals to locate goods on their web pages via Recon can decide on to combine the API with their web-site. Recon then gets frequent updates from these web-sites to make sure the listings consumers discover via Recon are up to day.

This is various from how a surface net search engine performs, which crawls the community website for info and then allows you look for it. Given that Dim World-wide-web internet sites just cannot be crawled in this way, research engines like Recon are the only real way to find out or promptly look for throughout different websites.

What Can You Buy on Recon?

drugs pharmacy

Recon does not appear to be basically distinct from other Dark Internet industry look for instruments. In other terms, you just cannot buy anything at all from Recon right. It only exhibits you the way to one more marketplace that has the solutions you are on the lookout for.

It means there are plenty of unlawful goods of every description on offer. The most prominent of these Dark Net industry products are medicines, but firearms and fake documents are also well-liked. If you want to know more about the types of matters that are sold on the Dark Internet, verify out our article on the matter.

Of program, there are also a good deal of intangible merchandise. Information and facts is generally a sizzling commodity, and the Darkish Web is a great position to purchase and offer it. This can consist of stolen person details, the fruits of corporate espionage, or malware. If it’s electronic, only the creativeness limitations what’s attainable.

Not all the things bought on these concealed marketplaces is illegal. Some of it is not even quite exciting, really.

The Information and facts on Offer you

Recon shows a prosperity of details for just about every sector that it lists. The precise data includes:

  • The quantity of listing
  • Marketplace uptime
  • Market place mirror addresses
  • Opinions & scores
  • PGP keys for non-public communications with distributors and marketplaces

Recon lists marketplaces that really do not have any relationship with them, but any sector operator apparently can assert their profile site by way of their PGP keys. So when a profile is claimed, everybody can be quite absolutely sure it is the true proprietor who has completed so, even with the acknowledged challenges with PGP.

Acquiring Vendors

Speaking of PGP keys, that looks to be the fastest way to obtain suppliers in Recon. Considering the fact that they all post their general public PGP keys to let men and women to speak to them securely, Recon makes use of these keys as a quick lookup.

So if one particular by now has the PGP important of a vendor you want, it’s as uncomplicated as pasting it into the “Find a vendor” bar.

Have to Browse: How To Use PGP Encryption for Protected Communication

Is Recon Right here to Remain?

police bust

Though Dark World-wide-web markets get taken down often, these look for engines seem to be a small far more robust mainly because they consider a tiny reduce just after strictly acting as middlemen. Sure, when it comes to unlawful goods, the intermediary nevertheless shares in the guilt.

Nonetheless, neither the prospective buyers nor sellers know the accurate id of the people powering Recon. As long as the specialized protection remains in area and none of the humans in the loop fold, there is little authorities can basically do.

On the other hand, this also suggests it is excess dangerous to basically use these amenities considering that when they are taken in excess of by the law, they transform into traps in its place.

Possibly way, we can hardly ever suggest applying the darkish world wide web to dedicate crimes of any form, but it in no way hurts to know what is lurking in the internet’s darkish underbelly.