Plenty of news outlets report that something is happening on the Dark Web, that criminals are congregating there, sharing tools and information that improve their ability to attack and steal from regular, hardworking people. Yet, few articles go into detail about what the Dark Web really is, how it works and where someone might access it.
As a result, plenty of average web users have dozens of unanswered questions about the Dark Web. Is the Dark Web a different internet from the one everyone uses? Why can’t authorities shut it down if it is a hub for criminal activity? Is the Dark Web good for anything else besides crime? You can find the answers to those questions and more in this guide to the Dark Web.
The Clear Web vs the Deep Web
As web-savvy as you might believe yourself to be, it is much more likely that you comprehend only a tiny fraction about how the internet works. The internet is much more vast than you might currently believe, and much of it is hardly accessible to the average user. While you might think of the Dark Web as the opposite to the internet you use every day, the truth is a bit more complex.
Internet experts tend to break the web into three distinct layers: the Clear Web, the Deep Web and the Dark Web. It might be helpful to think of these layers as parts of an iceberg, with the Clear Web the small portion of ice poking out of the sea, the Dark Web the massive hunk of ice hidden below and the Deep Web the lightless ocean underneath it all.
The Clear Web is the portion of the internet that most users access on a regular basis. The webpages that comprise the Clear Web have been indexed by search engines, which makes them more visible to the masses of web users. Yet, despite Google knowing of more than 130 trillion web pages, the fact is that 96 percent of the internet is not within their index. This remainder of the internet, which is remarkably difficult for users to access, is called the Deep Web.
Not all of the Deep Web is as threatening as the name makes it sound. Many webpages are not indexed because they are hidden behind paywalls or require login credentials. Sometimes, website owners instruct Google’s spiders not to index pages because they are not yet complete and ready for visitors.
How the Dark Web Works
There are portions of the Deep Web that are intentionally hidden from Google’s spiders, usually because they contain illegal, corrupt or otherwise dangerous tools and information. This is what you might call the Dark Web. To access the Dark Web, you need to use a special browser called Tor, which obscures your device’s IP address by routing your requests through a series of proxy servers around the world. Thus, everyone using the Dark Web is anonymous and untraceable — but the experience of accessing the Dark Web tends to be unpredictable and slow.
Dark Web websites tend to look and function like the sites you might see on the Clear Web, with the exception that they end in .onion instead of .com or .org. There are dark search engines that strive to make the Dark Web easier to use, but because Dark Website owners are usually participating in disreputable activities, webpages and sites tend to appear and disappear chaotically, making indexing the Dark Web an impossible chore. Ultimately, using the Dark Web effectively requires patience and skill, and most regular web users will never achieve it.
Why Users Gravitate to the Dark Web
You might already have a sense of why the Dark Web exists: to hide certain activities from authorities interested in stopping them. Often, this involves real crime, like identity theft, espionage, cyber attack or intellectual property theft, but sometimes, it is merely shady behavior, like offering tutorials for launching malware attacks or support services for phishing on the Clear Web.
A significant amount of trade on the Dark Web concerns sensitive information, like consumer data, financial data and more. However, you likely won’t be able to navigate the Dark Web well enough to prevent your data from being passed around — which is why you should use an ID security service that monitors the Dark Web for you to keep you safer from attack.