M. De Domenico et al./Phys Rev E

Information technology

How Darknet defends itself

Researchers reveal the structure of the hidden network.

The Darknet — the global network that hosts anonymous, and often illicit, online activity — is more resistant to attack than the Internet, thanks to its decentralized structure.

The Darknet routes all data through complex paths using a network of relays to conceal users’ identities. Manlio De Domenico and Alex Arenas of Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain, analysed the network periodically between late 2013 and early 2015. They report that the Darknet is less centralized than the Internet, routing its traffic more evenly throughout the network, rather than relying on a few core ‘hubs’ (pictured, with hubs coloured). In simulations of attacks, the researchers found that this structure meant there was less disruption to traffic flow when nodes went down.

However, the Darknet’s resilience fell slightly during the study period, suggesting the network is evolving and possibly becoming centralized.