The Dark Web: What Is It, How to Access It, and Why We Need to Study It

AuthorFawn T. Ngo,Catherine Marcum,Scott Belshaw
Published date01 May 2023
Date01 May 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2023, Vol. 39(2) 160 –166
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862231159774
The Dark Web: What Is It,
How to Access It, and Why
We Need to Study It
Fawn T. Ngo1, Catherine Marcum2,
and Scott Belshaw3
The dark web is a subsection of the deep web that conventional search engines cannot
index. As an encrypted network of websites, the dark web can only be accessed using
special browsers such as Tor. Tor, formerly an acronym for “The Onion Router,” is
a free and open-source software intended to protect the personal privacy of its users
and keep their internet activities unmonitored. While the dark web is known for both
legitimate and illegitimate purposes, it remains notorious for facilitating illegal and
deviant activities ranging from drug dealing to child pornography, human trafficking,
arms dealing, and extremist recruitment. Accordingly, researching and understanding
the dark web is a critical and essential step in fighting and preventing cybercrime.
However, studying the dark web poses unique challenges. This special issue seeks to
provide a platform for researchers and criminologists to share and discuss research
designs and methods that help shed light on the actual activity going on in the dark
web’s shadowy realms.
the dark web, the onion router, cybercrime
The internet, also known as the “information superhighway,” was created by groups of
pioneering scientists, programmers, and engineers. Broadly speaking, the internet
1University of South Florida, Sarasota, USA
2Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA
3University of North Texas, Denton, USA
Corresponding Author:
Fawn T. Ngo, Department of Criminology, University of South Florida, 8350 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota,
FL 34243, USA.
1159774CCJXXX10.1177/10439862231159774Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeNgo et al.

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