What is the deep web?
The deep web is not something shrouded in obscurity. It fulfils an important task of protecting non-public data.
Search engines like Google and Bing can search and index websites because of links. These search engines use links to rank search results according to things like relevancy, inbound links, and keywords. Regular browsers search the so-called “surface web,” however that is where these search engines stop and cannot retrieve data.
For example, if you do a specific search for a public library catalogue to find a book, it is not possible to type the title into the search engines browser. Google or Bing will not be able to return a meaningful result for the specific library search of a book. That level of information would be in the deep web.
The reason search engines cannot return this data is because there are no links. Search engines crawl the internet by visiting one web page, then the links on that page, and then the links on subsequent pages and so on.
As an example, using deep web, it is required to go to the public library's website and use a search bar inside the website to locate this data on the library's servers.
This data is all over the internet. Almost every time you search internally on a website, you're accessing deep web content.
What is on the deep web?
The deep web holds the content that's invisible to search engines. Here are a few examples of what is on the deep web:
- The content of your personal email accounts
- The content of your social media accounts
- The content of your online banking accounts
- Data that companies store on their private databases
- Content contained within scientific and academic databases
- Medical records
- Legal documents
A lot of what exists on the deep web consists of information that you probably wouldn't want to turn up in a web search, like your checking account information, because it's private and could be misused. This information is always protected by modern and strong identity protection to prevent unauthorized access to and misuse of sensitive personal information.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is a different story and probably what you might have assumed the deep web was if you read about it. Remember, the deep web and the dark web are two distinctly different things.
Although these two terms have been used interchangeably. The deep web contains mostly harmless data and digitized records. The dark web has raised concern worldwide about criminal activity.
Regular browsers can't access dark web websites. Instead, the dark web uses what's called “The Onion Router” hidden service protocol. “Tor” servers derived from “The Onion Router” are undetectable from search engines like Google or Bing and offer users complete anonymity while surfing the dark web. At the same time, dark web website publishers are also anonymous thanks to special encryptions provided by the Tor Onion protocol.
Accessing the dark web, you are not surfing the interconnected servers you regularly interact with. Instead, everything stays internal on the Tor network, which provides security and privacy to everyone equally.
Dark web website addresses end with .onion instead of the surface webs .com, .org, or .gov, for example.
What is on the dark web?
The dark web operates with a high degree of anonymity. It hosts harmless activities and content, as well as highly criminal ones.
For instance, one dark web website might provide complex riddles. Another might be a kind of book club that makes eBooks look more professional. Yet another might offer a forum for people who believe free speech is threatened.
But the dark web is better known for dark content, meaning illegal and sometimes disturbing content. For instance, here's a sample of illegal things that can be found on the dark web:
- Stolen information, e.g., R&D, when there has been a data breach. There is a chance that the accessed information, from Social Security numbers to bank card numbers, will be put up for sale on the dark web. It is also possible to buy things like log-in credentials, hacked accounts, and more.
- Illegal substances, illegal drugs, and prescriptions for drugs are sold on the dark web. Toxic chemicals that can cause other types of damage can also be found.
- Disturbing and dangerous items and services. Things like violence, murderers-for-hire, human trafficking, child pornography, body parts, counterfeit goods, and guns for sale can be found on the dark web.
It is possible to buy just about anything on the dark web. This includes things that are highly criminal to purchase.
Payment is done using Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that helps assure buyers and sellers anonymity