If you naively think that the Internet is only what you can see on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, you’re in for quite the shock! What you can see through such search engines is a very small part of what’s availavle on the Internet. There are plenty of websites that offer various legal or illegal services. They all live in the Internet zones called Deep Web and Dark Web.
Although these are no new concepts, frequently, there is confusion about them. Sometimes, they are used as synonyms or inaccurately. To start, we can say they are real web destinations. How scary can Deep Web and Dark Web be? Let’s find it out!
What is the Surface Web?
The Surface Web or Visible Web is the smallest portion of the World Wide Web, whose content is accessed and indexed by the search engines you know, Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. In the Surface Web, you find static and dynamic web pages, websites, blogs, e-commerce, social media, and many more types of sites using a variety of formats to display their content, like text, audio, video, and image files.
The content living on the Surface Web is easy to access because it is openly published for everybody, not hidden behind encryption or a login. Usually, you only need an Internet connection to search and access such content through a simple click.
Now, here’s a shocking number for you. Experts say the Surface Web is roughly 5% of the whole Internet. So, what can you find in the remaining 95%? How can you access it? Should you do it or not?
What is the Deep Web?
The Deep Web is a very large zone on the Internet hosting massive amounts of content that’s not indexed, searchable, or accessible using the standard search engines. It will not appear in the regular Google results because it is hidden behind privacy controls, a paywall, or encryption. And probably right now, your mind is linking “hidden” to shady, illegal, criminal, or dangerous. Well, it’s not (necessarily) that way!
Hidden in this case, mostly means private content that requires registration to be seen. The Deep Web hosts important stuff like your emails, banking, or social media posts you hide from the general public through the privacy settings of your account.
Not-indexed content does not mean directly criminal or shady content. So, what else can you find in the Deep Web?
These are websites that only specific users or collaborators (web or software developers or IT people) can access. Their design requires the use of a password or other forms of authentication to keep the security and privacy of the company and everybody who is involved, for example, websites like online communities, chat rooms, or private forums; many of them are quite useful for different matters and absolutely legal.
A lot of different entities use private networks from governments to all types of organizations and businesses, operate with their own private networks to limit access to only certain people and guarantee security for themselves and their customers. You can imagine the amount of sensitive and confidential information that these organizations handle and of course, you don’t want it to be open and accessible to the general public.
Usually what happens is that business or website owners index only their main pages, so they can be searched by the common search engines (Surface Web). But once there, the rest of the website’s content is not indexed so it is only searchable and accessible through the site’s built-in search function. There are plenty of examples. Just think about your banking. You can easily load your bank’s homepage using Bing or Yahoo, but the content of your account is only reachable by your login credentials. It means this part in the Deep Web for security and privacy reasons.
Networks or websites that are only accessible through the Deep Web can better hide the physical location of their servers which makes it harder for potential attackers to track them down and harm them.
How can you access the Deep Web?
The Deep Web is not accessible through a simple click: Registration and authentication is required. You can use DuckDuckGo, notEvil, or the Torch search engine which has indexed more than a million hidden pages.
Then, be careful, and watch every step you take. The Internet in general is dangerous. Both, the Surface Web and the Deep Web are full of mines (malicious links) and scammers hunting for victims.
Should you access the Deep Web?
Sooner or later, you will be there. You actually access it daily just by checking your email account. Besides your banking, cryptocurrency accounts, medical records, legal documents, paid subscription content, and more, so much content lives there. A lot of databases, and academic and scientific information also lives in the Deep Web.
Examples of Deep Web websites:
ProPublica – a media website. This is a news site where you can see different opinions rather than just the traditional media.
Facebookcorewwwi.onion – It is what you expect, a Facebook, but for the countries where it is unavailable.
Sci-Hub. Science database where you can find a lot of useful information and it has more than 50 million research papers available to view!
Is the Deep Web dangerous?
Real fact: the whole Internet became a dangerous place a long time ago. Based on that and without considering the Dark Web, the Deep Web is as dangerous as the Surface Web. It offers benefits and extra security, but still, bad things can happen!
What is the Dark Web?
Now, we are approaching scary online territory. The Dark Web is a part of the Deep Web, intentionally hidden, only accessible through special software, and mostly connected with illegal activities. Yes, it is a constant in humans’ history, the benefits of technology are used for criminal purposes too.
Having a website that is not easily accessible (hidden), and that can keep the anonymity has attracted criminals like honey attracts bees. Such a website is difficult to regulate so it opens a big window for an unregulated market of goods and services that normally would be hard or impossible to sell.
People buy illegal drugs like cannabis, cocaine, and so on. They usually use cryptocurrency. The process can be dangerous, especially if it involves delivery in person.
Criminals often buy guns with hidden serial numbers and no registration through the Dark Web.
Prostitution hasn’t been legalized in many countries, so these hidden services may be even darker than first considered. These sex workers may not be voluntarily working in this industry.
Companies can use hackers to attack the competition in different ways like getting their passwords, bringing down their system, buying traffic for DDoS attacks (learn what is a DDoS attack), and more. All of these activities are illegal.
The Internet is full of it, and the Dark Web is not an exception. The worst part is that in it, the regulation is less and there might be strongly disturbing materials.
There’s plenty of personal data, financial data from companies, and industrial reports for sale.
Navigating the Dark Web, you could find abominable content and many organized criminal activities. And still, even in such a dangerous place, you can also find less harmful or benign content.
Communication. The Dark Web is used by journalists to converse with whistleblowers, activists working against authoritarian governments, or informants contacting authorities. Remember that there are still many countries where freedom of speech is not guaranteed. Why choose this dangerous zone for those types of contacts? Because of the anonymity. On the Dark Web, everybody knows the risks so there is a massive technology focused effort to protect identities. Yes, ironically, the most dangerous part of the Internet can also be the safest!
Offering freelance services. The hidden pages are less popular, but there you can get paid in cryptocurrencies, and nobody will ever know that you’ve earned that money. That means no taxes!
The market of medicine. People use it to buy drugs that they might be ashamed to buy in a pharmacy like Viagra or The Morning After Pill.
The experts calculate that the Dark Web represents 5% or 6% of the Deep Web content. It is hard to give an exact number considering that this zone is not easy to access, and some websites are very well hidden.
How can you access the Dark Web?
Disclaimer – Neterra.Cloud does not recommend you visit any site on the Deep Web or the Dark Web. Visiting such websites can damage your device, and it might be illegal in your country.
Well, a regular browser or search engine will not help you. You need a specific tool, like the Tor (The Onion Router) browser that works with a VPN-like network to anonymize online activity. Tor contributes to protecting the identity of all involved parties during data exchange. Now wait, Tor alone is not infallible. You will need more security software to be truly protected.
Install a reliable antivirus program. Be sure it is active. For extra safety, cover your camera and microphone. Later when you are browsing pages, don’t click on sketchy links. We know that it might be hard to distinguish which are safe and which are not but try your best because you are walking into a minefield! Besides, there are plenty of people who want to phish your data (learn what is Phishing).
Examples of Dark Web websites:
The Silk Road. It is a marketplace for various illegal products like drugs.
Bankers and Co. Is a financial service for money laundering.
Should you access the Dark Web?
Hopefully not. As we said, the Dark Web is a minefield. It is best to stay away from a zone where illegality prevails.
Taking advantage of its benefits is not for everyone. Someone without the necessary knowledge and skills can very easily make a mistake.
Is the Dark Web dangerous?
Yes, the Dark Web is more dangerous than other parts of the Internet. Nowadays, scams and criminals have polluted the whole Internet, but the Dark Web is like their home or a criminal hub; a neighborhood from which very few can safely return.
The Deep Web and the Dark Web are not the same thing. The Internet is like a big iceberg. You see its tip, but there is much more than that. Now you know how scary the Deep Web and Dark Web can be. Honestly, visiting the unknown can be tempting for many, but in this case, seriously weigh the risks and cost-benefit of doing so. If on the Surface Web, you can fall into painful traps, imagine what could happen while visiting the Dark Web. Better stay away from illegality and the safer, the better!