How To Setup a Dark Web Site (And Why You Might Want To)
The dark web has gotten a reputation for containing a lot of illegal content. The (mostly false) story of Ross Ulbrict was recently the feature of a Hollywood movie titled "Deep Web" that explained how he founded the Silk Road website where drugs and other illegal content was sold. What most people don't realise is that there is a whole other world of genuine content on the dark web. Although most of this falls into the category of blogs and conspiracy theory sites, the tor network is a tool like any other and can be used for good by the right people.
Why Host a Dark Web Site?
I wrote a recent article about how many countries around the world do not have free and open access to information online. If you lived in a country such as this, you might want to communicate with other citizens in a safe and anonymous way to avoid persecution against the government. Although Tor and VPNs can be used to freely surf the web, the only way for you to host your own content might be to create a dark web site. In the video at the start of this article, I explain how some great works of fiction written in English just aren't translated into certain languages. It's incredibly difficult explaining to someone what Orwellian means if 1984 just isn't available in their mother tongue. So in this example I decided to host a copy of George Orwell's 1984 translated to Mandarin.
The Technical Steps
So the typical way to host a dark web site is to just run a server such as Apache or Nginx and use the Tor service in the background to point to the server. However, there is a much easier way of doing this using OnionShare. OnionShare is a service that is mainly used to host files on the dark web but it also has a really useful feature that lets you host a website.
First thing you'll need to do is download OnionShare. If you're on Windows or Mac you can download it straight from the website. If you're on Linux you can install the Snap packet with the instruction below.
sudo snap install onionshare
When the tool is downloaded you'll be greeted with a basic program and you'll want to click on the "Host a website" option. All the steps are again shown in the video above. For my example all I had was a basic HTML website which included a folder called "files" and an index.html file that can be seen below.
<html> <head> <title>An Leabharlann</title> </head> <body> <center><h1>An Leabharlann</h1></center> <br> <center>This is just a test website for a library (leabharlann) that is hosted using OnionShare.</center> <br> <p><b>1984 by George Orwell (Chinese Edition</b></p> <a href="files/test.pdf" download>download</a> </body> </html>
Simply add these files to the program, select the "I don't want a password" option and it'll give you a long sting of characters followed by ".onion". This is the address to your dark web website and you'll need the tor browser to view it. If you don't already have the tor browser installed you can download it here.
There you have it in just a few minutes you can host your very own dark web site. If you're going to be doing this long-term (as in always having your website available) you'll want to host this on a server. Just make sure your server provider allows onion sites on their network. Hopefully with more people hosting their own dark web sites we can transform it into a genuine informative and useful environment. If you do end up creating a website feel free to send me it on my email below, so I can check it out.
Stay happy and stay private.