The World Wide Web is much more vast than you can realize. It can be broadly categorized into two parts — the surface web and the deep web. The deep web is also called the hidden web. Within the deep web, there’s another portion called the dark web. If you think the web in only for searching for information, streaming live audio/ video, online shopping, using social media and stuff like that then you should look beyond that. Alongside the visible web, there lies a hidden world of the internet which common people are unaware of.
The Surface Web — The web you know.
The surface web also known as the visible or indexed web is the web you use all the time. This is the portion of the web which is indexed by standard search engines and the results are available for the general public.
This web accounts only the tiny fraction of the entire web, ranging from 4 to 10 per cent. This web contains the web pages which can be accessed and indexed by search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing etc. Online activities you do every day is through the surface web.
According to this website, The Indexed Web contains at least 5.26 billion pages as of now. If you think that’s a huge number then you’ll be surprised to know that it’s only about 10 per cent of the whole web.
The Deep Web — The web you don’t know.
The deep web, also known as the hidden or unindexed web, is a portion of world wide web whose contents are not indexed by standard search engines. It is opposite of the surface web and accounts approximately 90 to 96 per cent of the entire web.
The web pages which can’t get indexed by search engines reside in the deep web. These deep web pages can then be accessed by entering the exact URL address or IP address of the website.
What’s inside the deep web?
The main purpose the deep web serves is to hide webpages from getting indexed by search engines and to anonymize them by restricting access to the general people. Obviously, there are many reasons individuals and organizations opt for the deep web. Some of the things found on the deep web include —
- Online databases of e-commerce companies.
- School, college and university’s intranet websites.
- Huge databases of hospitals containing medical reports & other secret information about patients.
- Private websites with password protection and member-only access.
- Admin login portals of the websites.
- The internal sites of major companies and organizations.
- Personal social media account’s information.
- Government’s secret missions information.
Is it legal to surf the deep web?
Of course, Yes. It is not illegal to surf the deep web by any means. It’s just hidden from the common public so that only an authorized person can have access to it. The activities happening inside the deep web are within the context of laws.
How to access the deep web?
Since the deep websites will not show up in search results, you have to have exact URL address or an IP address of the website you want to access. You can type in that URL or IP in the address bar of any web browser like you normally do for other websites. In the case of password protected sites, you need to have an access password.
Here, the important thing to note is that you must have the authorization to access that particular website.
The Dark Web — Diving Deeper.
What is the Dark Web?
The Dark web is a small portion of the deep web. It is a subset of the deep web. The dark web requires special software(such as web browser), configuration or authorization to access it.
The websites or services available on the dark web work similar to that of the deep web. The only difference is you can’t access them with your normal web browser such as Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari etc.
The websites residing on the dark web have very complex URLs similar to a hash and have .onion extension.It looks something like this — http://kpvz7ki2lzvnwve7.onion/.
How to access the dark web?
As mentioned earlier, accessing the dark web needs special software or changed configurations. You can access dark websites only through networks such as TOR (The Onion Routing) or I2P (Invisible Internet Project).
The TOR browser — a product of TOR project is more popular most widely used to surf the dark web. Other options are using Freenet, I2P or Riffle.
The TOR browser is specifically developed for accessing the dark web. It’s a modified version of firefox browser with some added features. It provides complete encryption of web traffic and passes your traffic through several tor relay circuits. The TOR browser provides almost complete anonymity. However, it is recommended using it along with a good VPN to increase your anonymity. To know more about the TOR project go here.
Read more about TOR: Tor vs. VPN
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What you’ll find on the dark web?
Since the dark web operates with high anonymity, it hosts harmless as well as criminal activities. Because of high anonymity, the dark web has become a market for dark content — illegal and unhuman. Some examples are —
- Stolen credentials of social media or bank accounts.
- Counterfeit currency, passport, credit cards or any other document.
- Drugs / Narcotics.
- Hacking stuff such as malware, virus, worms, ransomware etc.
- Hitman-for-hire (Assassination).
- Human trafficking and many more…
Is it legal to surf the dark web?
If you land on the dark web just out of curiosity, you are putting yourself in trouble. As the dark web offers to trade illegal things and unhuman services, Law enforcements always keep an eye on these illegal activities.
While you cannot be imprisoned just by browsing the dark web, you can accidentally get caught doing illegal stuff. You can be traced. So, it’s strongly recommended not to dive into the dark ocean.
Safety measures while accessing the deep and dark web:
- First and most importantly, don’t use your main (host) OS to access. Instead, create a virtual environment (guest OS) to surf the deep and dark web.
- Make sure your OS is updated.
- Use TOR browser and keep the TOR services updated.
- Don’t download any material from the web.
- Don’t use your regular email address for registering an account. Create a dedicated one or use temporary mail services to create a temporary email id.
- Do not change your browser screen size. keep it as it is. Hackers can trace your system information if you modify screen size.
- Do not give any information that reveals your identity.
- Do cover your webcam if you have one.
IMPORTANT: The terms deep web and dark web are completely different. The term deep web is related to search engines while the term dark web is related to the web browsers. The content of the deep web is not indexed by search engines but can be accessed by standard web browsers. On the other hand, the dark web can only be accessed using a special browser like TOR.