Dark web definition
The dark web is the hidden collective of internet sites only accessible by a specialized web browser. It is used for keeping internet activity anonymous and private, which can be helpful in both legal and illegal applications. While some use it to evade government censorship, it has also been known to be utilized for highly illegal activity.
What is the dark web, deep web, and surface web?
The Internet is sizable with millions of web pages, databases, and servers all run 24 hours a day. But the so-called “visible” Internet (aka surface web or open web) sites that can be found using search engines like Google and Yahoo is just the tip of the iceberg.
There are several terms surrounding the non-visible Web, but it’s worth knowing how they differ if you’re planning to browse off the beaten path.
When you look at the sky, what do you see? A blazing sun, a band of clouds, an occasional airplane. It doesn’t look like much, but you know there’s more than meets the eye. Beyond your infinitesimal view of the universe are entire galaxies that stretch further than you could ever imagine.
And that’s why our colossal universe is a fitting metaphor for the World Wide Web. Both are constantly expanding and changing and completely misunderstood. No matter how much probing we do, we’ll never fully grasp what’s out there.
So, before we explore those outer reaches of cyberspace, let’s start at ground zero: the origin of the internet.
A Brief History Of The World Wide Web
Before the internet, there was the ARPANET, a computer network used by the US government to share sensitive data in the 1970s. About a decade later, the ARPANET’s limited networks gave way to a single, worldwide network we call the internet.
However, the internet as we know it didn’t materialize until 1991. That’s when an English programmer introduced the World Wide Web as a place to store information, not just send and receive it. Gone were the days of only using the internet to send emails or post articles in forums. Now users could create and find web pages for just about anything.
As the World Wide Web grew in popularity, users faced a new problem: learning to navigate it. Along came Google (and its predecessors) to give users a starting point for their web search. With the help of search engines, users could finally explore cyberspace without getting completely lost.
Why Google Won’t Find Everything
Today’s biggest search engines are much more adept than they were 20 years ago. They can predict your search, interpret multi-word inquiries, and serve trillions of (yes, we said trillions) of webpages.
However, despite Google’s web prowess, it and other search engines have a very limited view of what’s out there. (Some researchers say that search engines only show about 1% of what’s actually available online!)
Search engines work by “crawling” links on a website. If a site owner doesn’t want a page on their site to be found, it won’t include a direct link to that page. If a web page has no link, it can’t be crawled or indexed in Google’s massive search library. The page won’t appear as a result on a search engine.
The Surface Web
The open web, or surface web, is the “visible” surface layer. If we continue to visualize the entire web like an iceberg, the open web would be the top portion that’s above the water. From a statistical standpoint, this collective of websites and data makes up under 5% of the total internet.
All commonly public-facing websites accessed via traditional browsers like Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox are contained here. Websites are usually labeled with registry operators like “.com” and “.org” and can be easily located with popular search engines.
Locating surface web websites is possible because search engines can index the web via visible links (a process called “crawling” due to the search engine traveling the web like a spider).
The Deep Web
When you find web pages that a typical search engine can’t access, you’re using the Deep Web. We know the Deep Websounds intimidating, but believe it or not, you use it every day. When you search for a place on Airbnb, or compare plane flights on Expedia, you’re using the Deep Web. When you log in to your email account, online bank account, or Amazon account, you’re using the Deep Web.
Anytime you log in to an account, or search for information directly on a web page, you’re getting access to Deep Web content that won’t show up on a search engine. And that’s a good thing. If someone Googled your name, you wouldn’t want your banking information or Amazon wish list showing up in results. That information is meant to be private, so those sensitive web pages aren’t crawled by search engines.
Using the Deep Web is like looking at the world from an airplane. At such high elevations, you’ll have a much broader vantage point than your friends on Earth.
The Dark Web
The dark web refers to sites that are not indexed and only accessible via specialized web browsers. Significantly smaller than the tiny surface web, the dark web is considered a part of the deep web. Using our ocean and iceberg visual, the dark web would be the bottom tip of the submerged iceberg.
The dark web, however, is a very concealed portion of the deep web that few will ever interact with or even see. In other words, the deep web covers everything under the surface that’s still accessible with the right software, including the dark web.
Breaking down the construction of the dark web reveals a few key layers that make it an anonymous haven:
- No webpage indexing by surface web search engines. Google and other popular search tools cannot discover or display results for pages within the dark web.
- “Virtual traffic tunnels” via a randomized network infrastructure.
- Inaccessible by traditional browsers due to its unique registry operator. Also, it’s further hidden by various network security measures like firewalls and encryption.
The reputation of the dark web has often been linked to criminal intent or illegal content, and “trading” sites where users can purchase illicit goods or services. However, legal parties have made use of this framework as well.
When it comes to dark web safety, the deep web dangers are very different from dark web dangers. Illegal cyber activity cannot necessarily be stumbled upon easily but tends to be much more extreme and threatening if you do seek it out. Before we unpack the dark web’s threats, let’s explore how and why users access these sites.
How To Access The Deep Web
It’s easy. Just go to TruthFinder, type in someone’s name, and press enter. The results that show up come from TruthFinder’s database of Deep Web sources.
Google will redirect you to public records search engines like TruthFinder, but it won’t show you specific public records related to the name you’re searching. Those records are held by local, state, and federal databases that Google can’t show in search results. To get to that database of public records, you have to actually search a third-party provider, like TruthFinder.
Here’s another example of the difference between Surface and Deep Web content: Before I published this blog post, I saved it as a draft on WordPress. The article existed as a web page on WordPress, but you weren’t able to find it. Technically, that draft was part of the Deep Web. Once I posted this piece to Infomania, Google could crawl the page link I published. Since the piece now pulls up in search results, it’s considered Surface Web content.
How To Access The Dark Web
Dark Web sites are so bent on anonymity, they require a special web browser to access them.
The majority of Dark Web sites in America use the TOR Network (short for The Onion Router). A TOR network is a collection of “volunteer” computer networks that send users’ encrypted traffic to multiple servers before pulling up content. That way, a user’s browsing session is so jumbled up, their identity and location is almost untraceable.
The Good, Bad, And Downright Ugly Of The Dark Web
Because the TOR network allows users to browse anonymously, it’s used by secret service agents, law enforcement, activists, researchers, whistleblowers, and users who are banned from Internet access.
WikiLeaks is a notorious Dark Web site that allows whistleblowers to anonymously upload classified information to the press. While the legality of leaking classified information is a hot topic in the US, no formal charges have been made against WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange. (He does, however, have an arrest warrant for allegations of rape and molestation against two women in 2010.)
Even Facebook has a Dark Web site. Last October, the social media giant launched a Tor hidden service so users could avoid surveillance or censorship.
Anonymity, however, has a dark side. The TOR network can also be used to hide the identities of users involved in criminal activity.
Here are the types of illegal operations you could find on the TOR network:
Sale of unlicensed firearms
Sale of malware, pirated software, and hacking guides
Sale of illegal drugs
Identity hacks and sale of stolen credit card information and user accounts
Sale of forged documents and currency
Hiring hit men
The Silk Road is the best-known source of nefarious activity on the Dark Web. Known as the “Amazon of drugs,” the site sold high-grade, illegal drugs that is, until it got shut down by the FBI. Evolution, Agora Marketplace, and Nucleus Marketplace are three additional examples of popular black market sites.
Get The Best View With A Deep Web Search
Now that we’ve covered all of cyberspace, here’s a short recap of the depths you can go online:
The Surface Web: Web pages that show up on search engine results. If you can find it on a Google search, it’s typically part part of the Surface Web.
The Deep Web: All content that a search engine can’t access. Deep Web pages include information protected by a login, a website database, or a page that doesn’t have a link.
The Dark Web: A small, anonymous niche of the Deep Web that’s intentionally hidden from search engines. It requires a special web browser for users to access it.
Next time you do a Google search, keep in mind that you’re seeing a very limited version of what’s available in cyberspace. Sure, you’ll be glad you can’t see it all. But if you want the best view of what’s out there, you need access to databases that Google can’t show.
Start searching the Deep Web today with a TruthFinder membership. You’ll be able to uncover details about almost anyone (including yourself) pulled directly from public records, including property ownership, social media profiles, location history, and even criminal records.
You can also use TruthFinder to keep tabs on your personal information with Dark Web Monitoring. Data breaches are becoming more and more common in the digital age, and your sensitive information will sell to the highest bidder on the Dark Web.That means your credit card info, medical ID numbers, and even Social Security numbers are all vulnerable but with Dark Web Monitoring, you’ll find out instantly if your data is compromised. Then, you can take action to protect yourself before your identity falls into the wrong hands.