The Internet is massive. Millions of web pages, databases and servers all run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But the so-called “visible” Internet – sites that can be found using search engines like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and Yahoo—is just the tip of the iceberg.
People turn towards the web for targeted information on numerous things – from a simple information search to DIY videos and latest updates, there’s nothing that you don’t get online. Irrespective of their profession, people across the world rely on online platforms to add value to their jobs.
Quite naturally, it becomes imperative to stay informed about certain things. The web surrounds innumerable aspects and factors which are often not fully understood by many. Of late, the concepts about surface web, dark web, and deep web are doing the rounds. It is high time we take a look at these concepts and try to understand them.
No one really knows how big the deep web is, but it is certainly larger than the surface web, with some estimates saying it may be 500 times as large as the searchable web.
According to a study published in Nature in 2015, Google indexes just 16 percent of the surface web, and none of the deep web, meaning that a Google search will show up less than 1 percent of the information that exists online.
If you’re into computer security at all you may have heard of terms like “Deep Web” and “Dark Web”. The terms can be confusing so here are the basics:
This is the easy one. It’s the common Internet everyone uses to read news, visit Facebook, and shop. Just consider this the “regular” Internet.
The Deep Web
The deep web is a subset of the Internet that is not indexed by the major search engines. This means that you have to visit those places directly instead of being able to search for them. So there aren’t directions to get there, but they’re waiting if you have an address. The Deep Web is largely there simply because the Internet is too large for search engines to cover completely. So the Deep Web is the long tail of what’s left out.
The Dark Web
The Dark Web (also called Darknet) is a subset of the Deep Web that is not only not indexed, but that also requires something special to be able to access it, e.g., specific proxying software or authentication to gain access. The Dark Web often sits on top of additional sub-networks, such as Tor, I2P, and Freenet, and is often associated with criminal activity of various degrees, including buying and selling drugs, pornography, gambling, etc. The most common software used to access the the Dark Web is The Onion Browser, referred to as TOR.
Tor can be used to visit everyday internet websites, but it also has numerous hidden websites and services which we can’t be accessed on the regular internet. Tor powers them using its protocol known as Tor Hidden Service Protocol. And the websites limited to the Tor network have a special .onion address. Due to this, Tor’s darknet is also known as onionland.
The Dark Web is much smaller than the Deep Web, and it’s made up of numerous types of sites. But it’s perhaps most popular for its anonymous marketplaces that often sell illegal products like drugs or weapons.
How to access the Dark Web
Technically, this is not a difficult process. You simply need to install and use Tor. Go to www.torproject.org and download the Tor Browser Bundle, which contains all the required tools. Run the downloaded file, choose an extraction location, then open the folder and click Start Tor Browser. That’s it.
The difficult thing is knowing where to look on the Dark Web. There, reader, we leave you to your own devices and wish you good luck and safe surfing. And a warning before you go any further. Once you get into the Dark Web, you will be able to access those sites to which the most tabloids refer. This means that you could be a click away from sites selling drugs and guns, and – frankly – even worse things.
Surface web, dark web, and deep web are interconnected concepts. They define certain activities which take place on the world wide web and have severe repercussions on online operations. While activities on the surface level are mostly secure, those taking place in the deep levels are hidden and shady. In case of the dark web, anonymous operations form the major part of activities. In short, the surface web is the place where search engine crawlers as well as our own crawlers go to fetch useful information whereas the dark web houses dark and shady activities and is best avoided for security concerns.
Though the Dark Web is most commonly associated with the sale of drugs, weapons, counterfeit documents and child pornography and all those vibrant industries do in fact take advantage of Tor hidden services, not everything on the Dark Web is quite so “dark.”
One of the first high profile Dark Web sites was the Tor hidden service WikiLeaks created to accept leaks from anonymous sources. That idea has since been adapted into a tool called SecureDrop, software that integrates with Tor hidden services to let any news organization receive anonymous submissions.
Even Facebook has launched a Dark Web site aimed at better catering to users who visit the site using Tor to evade surveillance and censorship.
There may be a wealth of information out there in the Deep Web, but you should be careful about what you look for. Just like Alice – the deeper you go, the more trouble you could find yourself in.