Deep web and dark web? The invisible internet realms

Ruth C. | August 06, 2020

Misunderstandings involving the deep web and dark web have always sparked the interest of the internet community. Some regard them as synonyms, referring to the same mysterious layer of the internet. While not all dare to find out the difference practically, you should know their core principles. We are all familiar with the surface web that is easily accessible, safe to an extent, and with a touch of monitoring and censorship. Let’s shed light on the deep web and dark web and figure out the niches that they thrive in.

The surface layer is the environment we all know

The World Wide Web is the leading source of information and entertainment, allowing us to interact with people thousands of miles away. This endless journal is our daily stop, and our lives have inevitably changed ever since the big bang. We can search for information through search engines and have no issue retrieving it.

Why? Because web crawlers index websites according to the most useful information. The websites from deep web and dark web won’t appear after a quick Google search. In some cases, you might even need a special browser to dive deeper into the invisible realm.

The first rabbit hole: deep web

The deep web is not the grim place you assume. In fact, it encompasses all websites not indexed by search engines. Usually, website owners prevent web crawlers from digging out their domains. So, regular netizens are unlikely to stumble upon them by accident. The intentional decision to include a page to the deep web club can derive due to several reasons. For one, people responsible for uploading content might not intend the website for random guests.

Therefore, the deep web is not necessarily a place for unlawful behavior. It is more of an exclusive layer, that expects guests to have direct links, presumably received from website owners. Typically, people also need to complete an authentication process, guaranteeing that only approved netizens get access. For instance, an enterprise might create an extensive database, including onboarding policies and other rules. Naturally, owners do not want this domain to show up in random search results. Hence, even such a legitimate website is a part of the deep internet infrastructure.

Dark web empire or the criminals’ den

The situation changes when we turn to the dark web. This encrypted and camouflaged environment is the notorious place, involved in thousands of unfortunate accidents, breaches, and other violations. Do not get confused: dark web belongs to the deep web as they share the same feature of non-indexed pages. However, regular non-indexed sites are still accessible via regular browsers. In the case of the darker corners of the internet, you need specialized software (Tor, I2P, or Freenet) as the key to enter.

Why dark? Because the name represents the sinister objective of concealing visitors’ identity and location. This lack of identification builds an environment that assists people who want to be untraceable while potentially committing crimes. So, the dark web is not for the faint-hearted. It contains tons of offensive content, illegal exchanges, child pornography, and other disturbing material. Just recently, hackers freely gave away stolen credentials, resulting from an intense hacking spree across the web. Luckily, while the dark web is secretive and hackers expect total privacy, their prosecution is not a rare sight. Such an incident occurred when Aaron Hutton got caught up in the charges for child abuse and sexual exploitation on the dark web.

Bottom line: deep web vs. dark web

From our thorough investigation, we can summarize several points regarding the unlisted sites of the web:

  • The deep web is a broader term, meaning that it includes the dark web. While non-indexed websites are relevant to both, their niches differ.
  • Deep web refers to the portion of the internet that website owners intentionally hide from search engines. Such websites can require special authentication.
  • The dark web is a thriving marketplace of sensitive information, drugs, illegal services, child pornography, and all sorts of dubious content. However, while it has an ill-famed reputation, it is not all black or white. The underworld of the internet helps people in heavily censored countries share their stories. In 2019, BBC News launched an alternative version of their page, not controlled by the government’s regulations.

Is it dangerous to enter the dark web?

Being curious about the dark realm is a natural reaction. However, the temptation to take a stroll through the invisible part of the internet might have severe consequences. People have found disturbing content, or have accidentally become criminals’ targets. One disturbing discovery was the blood of COVID-19 survivors, costing 3 times more than hitman services.

You might assume that scratching the dark web won’t be detrimental as you have the guarantee to be anonymous. However, the links you visit might contain scripts that operate to steal data or infect your device with malware.

Before you embark on a risky journey on the dark web, you need to take all the available precautions. The Tor browser is one of the components that you need, but security experts do not regard it as enough. Tor, or so-called Onion Router, got its name from the layers you need to peel off to expose visitors’ identities. However, criminals might use their resources to unravel your identity and approximate location. Hence, you need to put more barriers or reconsider your decision of visiting the dark web in the first place.

Ruth C.

Ruth C.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.



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