IT Security Outsourced IT

Dark Web

What is the Dark Web?

The dark web is the hidden part of the internet that can only be accessed through specialized web browsers and search engines. The dark web keeps internet activity anonymous and private through the use of encryption software which hides them and their locations. While the dark web may be used for practical reasons such as evading government censorship and sharing/obtaining highly confidential information, it is also widely used for buying/selling illegal items and buying/selling stolen data. Things that can be found on the dark web include firearms, drugs, counterfeit money, pornography, passwords and usernames for streaming services, credit and debit card numbers, bank account numbers and passwords, social security numbers, software to access people’s computers, obscure publications, and reports from whistleblowers looking to expose corporate and government corruption.

The dark web is a part of the internet, and the internet has several layers1:

Open web/surface web. This is the “visible” surface layer of the internet, making up under 5% of the total internet. On this layer you find public-facing websites ending with registry operators such as “.com” and “.org” that are accessed through popular web browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox. Locating surface web websites is possible because search engines can index the web via visible links through a process called “crawling”.

Deep web. The deep web is found below the surface web and accounts for roughly 90% of all websites. Popular search engines can only crawl the surface web, meaning that everything else that exists in the deep web is largely unreachable. Deep web refers to all web pages that are unidentifiable by search engines, often because they are protected by passwords, security walls, or because they are simply forbidden from being “crawled” upon. Most of this hidden content is hidden from the surface web to protect privacy, including information such as: financial account information, email accounts, social messaging accounts, private enterprise databases, HIPAA sensitive information, and legal files. Some of the largest parts of the deep web include:

Databases that hold both public and private file collections that are not connected to other areas of the internet and can only be searched from within the database itself.

Intranets, which are internal networks for enterprises, governments, and educational institutions that are used for private communication and management from within their organizations.

The terms “dark web” and “deep web” are often used interchangeably, but the deep web is largely legal and safe, while the dark web is the portion of the deep web that is even more hidden and contains more illegal activity. Features of the dark web that make it exceptionally private are:

  • No webpage indexing by surface web search engines
  • Virtual traffic tunnels via a randomized network infrastructure
  • Inaccessible by popular web browsers due to its unique registry operator and network security measures

1 Kaspersky, 2022, “What is the Deep and Dark Web?”