Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Network theory

How the Darknet defends itself

Credit: M. De Domenico et al./Phys. Rev. E

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.

Phys. Rev. E 95, 022313 (2017)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

How the Darknet defends itself. Nature 543, 153 (2017).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing