Ham Radio and the Dark Web

An in-site into using “shifty” technology to benefit ham radio

Preface

I can see the do-gooders and the old beige cardigan wearing fools (you know who you are) now saying “why would you want to mix the two? It’s not in the Spirit of Ham Radio”

Its fairly simple really. Anonymity, Security and Access. And in all reality, it is in the spirit of Ham Radio, it is experimenting, it is solving a problem that is continuously giving us grief, can benefit the Ham Community, and costs NOTHING!

How many of us have made this wonderful magic bit of equipment, with a html control front end, shoved a 4g modem onto it so that we can remotely control it, only to find out that Tel$tra et-al have put you behind a public NAT and stopped any access from the outside, making it rather useless to be able to remote control it (think pi-star).

How many times have you had a port 80 (html) or port 22 (ssh) open on your home router for a web page or device, only for it to be smashed by a hacker or bot trying to gain access and gobbling up your bandwidth?

Shifting all your services into the “Dark Web” Solves all of this. Yes, the Dark Web can be a scary place, you can buy drugs, counterfeit credit cards and guns amongst lots of other questionable stuff, all with bitcoin. Being down here in amongst those sites is dangerous, and without a VPN and correctly configured browsers, you WILL get into a lot of trouble.

But as this article is not about visiting those sites, nor is it suggesting to visit them, the default settings for accessing the dark web will be sufficient.

What is the dark web?

The dark web was conceived waaaay back in the 1970’s, at the same time as the internet we know today. (called from now on the “clear web”). It was devised by the US navy as a way to use an existing network to send secure, encrypted messages to and from field operatives. And of course as time as gone on, more people (particularly deviants) have utilised the technology to move contraband around the world.

There are several YouTube videos and web pages explaining exactly how the dark web and TOR works and how the messages etc bounce around via relays, being encrypted over and over again each time it bounces. All we have to worry about is, it is secure, and it solves some problems.

Google will NOT work within the dark web, in fact it wont go down there. There are search engines (if you can find them), that claim to have indexed millions of TOR sites. My playing around down there suggests that even though there are millions indexed, that would only be about 10% of what is actually there.

Apart from the contraband listed above, some sites I have found contain instructions etc to build many items, some are even related to radio. It’s stuff that might be too questionable to put onto the clear web or the writer wants to remain anonymous because his experimenting might clash with his employment.

If Bill Cheek (designer of some nifty decoding software) had put his findings on the dark web and not his name on the clear web, he wouldn’t have gone to prison….

Traffic in the dark web is slower than the clear web, this is due to the fact the traffic bounces everywhere and is encrypted at every step. You cannot ping, nor find the IP address of a dark web server.

If at this point, the urge to go delving into the dark is great, follow the next steps and have a look. Remember, when you see some places that you disagree with, don’t say I didn't warn you. Here is a place to get you started:

ai57a2gkmjr5cfjg66p7zuwe6hlaosmsgmw6tztd4lp4luo25idtivad.onion

Those who need to curl up in a ball in a corner and find their happy place probably should not click that link and stay up in the comfort of the clear web, clicking like on Facebook photos.

Having said that, Facebook has a presence in the dark web, supposedly without logging etc. I’ll believe that when I see it: www.facebookcorewwwi.onion/



Accessing the Dark Web

Accessing the dark web isn't as simple as typing “www” into google chrome and hoping you got the address right. If you put an onion address into chrome you get a screen that looks like this:


You need to download a TOR browser and associated TOR network access tools. Fortunately the TOR-project has a nicely bundled TOR everything for you to install and use. Point your clear web browser to:

www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en

and choose the correct version you want for your operating system.

From here, this article will be focusing on linux, as that is what I use. There are instructions on the clear web to install it on winblows.



Installing the TOR browser

When you have downloaded the file, you need to uncompress it. Put it into your home folder, untar it, then run it. NOT AS ROOT:

#  tar zxvf tor-browser-linux64-7.5.6_en-US.tar.xz
#  cd tor-browser_en-US
#  ./start-tor-browser.desktop 

You will be presented with a screen that looks like this while it is loading and connecting to the dark web:


And voila, a browser on the TOR network:


You can search with duckduckgo, or try some of the links mentioned earlier.

Installing a browser on an Android phone

You need two apps from google play. You need Orbot and Orfox. Orbot does the tor connections, Orfox is the browser. Simply download them from google play and install. The settings may need a little fiddle (ie set to Australia) so you connect to the closest relay.

Due to the security nature of Orfox, it won let screenshots be taken. However Chrome was able to be configured to use TOR and get a screenshot.