The internet is much deeper than what you access daily. It consists of approximately five million terabytes of data, but the web searches index only 200 terabytes. This makes 0.004% of the internet accessible to the public, while 99.996% is hidden and inaccessible by the standard search engines.
The unindexed part of the internet is the deep web, while a larger portion of the deep web is the dark web. Most people can’t easily access because it conjures thoughts of illegal drug sales, fraud, and other criminal acts. However, the reality is that much of the content and activities on the internet deepest part are clear and not illegal.
The dark and the deep web can be a safe place to visit for everyone. But to know how these webs are more than just illegal marketplaces, it’s crucial to explore these hidden parts of the internet in detail.
What makes the Internet
The world wide web is divided into three different categories; the surface web, the deep web, and the dark web. The following table gives a quick overview of the differences between the three:
|The surface or the indexed web is the internet layer that includes web content indexed by search engines. In other words, everything you find and browse on Google search is a part of the surface web.
|Next to the surface web is the deep web which consists of 90% of all websites. It refers to all the web pages that are not indexed, and the search engines won’t return them to you after you enter the search query. But if you know the exact address or have a direct link, you can access these sites without using any additional software or making special settings.
|Within the deep web is the dark web. This part of the internet contains websites and webpages hidden from search engines for a purpose. The websites on the dark web are so well-hidden that a regular browser such as Mozilla Firefox, Chrome, or Safari can’t access them.
What is the Dark Web
The dark web is the deep web subset that consists of content and web pages not indexed by search engines. It is infamous for hosting illegal activities like drugs, firearms, stolen credentials, and counterfeit money business is pretty common on the dark web. A study examined the contents of the dark web and later revealed that more than 2700 websites are available, while 60% of them hosted illicit content.
However, the dark web isn’t always associated with illegal activities. Social activists, journalists, and whistleblowers use the dark web to stay anonymous and access information on online forums that are not available on the surface web.
The dark web is an anonymous open space where people can do anything illegal or stay within legal grounds; it all depends on their intentions.
Dark Web VS Deep Web- What’s The difference
The deep and the dark web are often interchangeable terms, but these are two distinct concepts. The deep web is the part of the internet that includes content not available on the surface web and aren’t indexed by the standard search engines. Most of the deep web information is hidden behind a password-protected wall. In contrast, the dark web is the subsection of the deep web that’s hidden for a purpose, and you must use a special browser like Tor to access this part of the web.
The deep web is much safer and more secure than the dark web, but it doesn’t mean that the deep web is devoid of danger. Some parts of the deep web allow users to overcome the legal restrictions to access content not legally available in their jurisdiction. Users can even access the deep web to download pirated content. These portions of the deep web also contain malware and other cyber threats and can put your digital security at risk.
Unlike the deep web, the dark web evolves with new marketplaces for cybercriminals that cause significant harm to individuals and business organizations. The content on the dark web is more dangerous, and that’s why it’s walled off from the sight of the regular user.
In addition, because of the immoral activities on the dark web, ISPs and government surveillance agencies always track and monitor the user activity who access the dark web. Even if you’re accessing the dark web for legal purposes, you are always seen with questionable eyes. Law enforcement agencies can also take action against people accessing the dark web. Hence, taking measures to access the dark web safely is necessary.
Why does anyone use the Dark Or the Deep Web
Despite being the hidden part of the internet, there are several reasons why anyone prefers to use a dark and deep web. Some of the things you find people doing on the deep and the dark web are as follows:
The deep web gives users access to far more information than is available on the surface web. Below are the reasons why anyone would use the deep web:
- Academic research papers and journals are sometimes not available on the surface web. Scholars or students access the deep web to get access to such information.
- Internal networks of an organization or government use the deep web for communication and to control things privately.
- People who want to access the latest TV shows, censored news, financial accounts, and a
the company’s databases use the deep web.
Using the deep web to access information or content that’s not indexed but publicly available is not illegal. But using this information in the wrong way is illegal.
The dark web is the most dangerous part of the internet because its content is sometimes questionable and promotes criminal activities. But still, people continue to use the dark web for the following reasons:
- People are always worried about protecting their online identity. The dark web helps hide their information, like their location and visited sites, and ensures an anonymous browsing experience.
- People reside in countries where the government imposes censorship on the internet, and it’s hard for individuals, whistleblowers, and journalists to access any online forums or popular social media sites. In such cases, accessing the dark web is the only way to access inaccessible information and connect with others.
- The dark web offers exclusive private email search engines to protect users’ privacy by providing an extra layer of anonymity and helping in preventing surveillance and censorship.
- The dark web offers search engines that protect your anonymity and ensures an ad-free browsing experience.
- By accessing the dark web, people join online forums to discuss social issues and other world problems within the cover of anonymity.
- The dark web also contains hidden services or .onion sites. These sites frequently change URLs that maximize privacy and are legitimate and worth exploring. Several reliable hidden services like DREAD, ProPublica, and Dark.fail are available that people can consider using.
- Bad actors also use the dark web to carry out illegal activities. The dark web is a hub for several illegal activities such as buying and selling drugs, and stolen credentials and offering services to target someone with malware, spyware, or ransomware.
However, the dark web doesn’t condone any such illegal business or activities.
Is Browsing the Dark Web or the Deep Web illegal?
The legality of accessing the deep and dark web varies from your activities and from country to country. For instance, if you live in the US, then accessing the dark web via the Tor browser is not illegal, and you won’t get into serious trouble. However, using the Tor browser without a VPN can draw the unwanted attention of the ISP and surveillance agencies.The Tor browser provides layered encryption instead of completely encrypting the data. Also, there’s no protection on the Tor entry nodes; hence, ISP knows that you’re using the Tor network. Thus, always use the Tor browser with a reliable VPN provider before you access the dark web.
Accessing the dark web is legal but accessing it to engage in criminal and illegal activities is not legal. Visiting the dark web to buy and sell drugs, software exploits, prohibited content, and promoting terrorism is unlawful and also makes the dark web illegal. Similarly, using the deep web is not illegal. It contains password-protected information like legal files and medical records, but as long as you use the data with positive intentions, it’s not illegal.
When does your Activity over the Dark Web become Illegal
The dark web was not created for cybercriminals to carry out illegal activities but for anonymous browsing and communications, so the dark web isn’t illegal to use; however, anyone who accesses the dark web to visit certain websites to purchase goods and services is illegal.
When people misuse the anonymity offered by the dark web and use it to acquire illegal content and procure prohibited items is, of course, illegal. Some activities on the dark web are illegal, and there is a chance that you don’t know if your activity is illegal or not. Following is the list of activities that are illegal on the dark web:
- Selling illegal items like drug dealing, arms trafficking, stolen credentials, fake IDs, hacking tools, social media profiles, email accounts, and unlicensed guns.
- Wikileak documents
- Downloading and sharing pirated and violence-related content.
- Promoting terrorism and hate speech.
- Pairing dark web services with cryptocurrency to scam users.
- Joining forums that don’t have a place on the surface web.
- Black marketplace for hackers that sells viruses, malware, RaaS, and spyware
If you’re using the dark web for any activity as mentioned above, it’s illegal and also makes accessing the dark web illegal.
Is the Deep Web legal?
The deep web is the part of the internet that people visit every day, but search engines do not index its pages. Still, most of the deep web pages can be accessed by regular browsers, but as a password protects these web pages, you need it to access them. Most of the web pages on the dark web are hidden because they contain financial account details, legal files, HIPAA sensitive files, private databases, and email and social messaging accounts. Besides this, legitimate mainstream sites like Netflix are included in the deep web.
Hence, accessing the deep web is not illegal. It is illegal when you use the deep web to access a company’s private database and then use this information against them to launch an attack.
How to Safely Access the Deep Web and the Dark Web
Accessing the dark web itself is not illegal. It consists of plenty of reliable websites that don’t violate any laws. You can also find forums, blogs, and social media sites that are not illegal.
The dark web can be accessed via the Tor browser. If you’re accessing the dark web on your computer, you can easily download and install it from its official site. While accessing the dark web on your phones like Android, you can download the Tor browser app from the Google PlayStore, but for the iOS device, use Tor browser alternatives because there’s no app for the iOS device.
It’s crucial that users also use a reliable VPN for the dark web. It will encrypt their connection and make them private and anonymous as they access the dark web.
Taking safety measures while accessing the dark web is necessary because snooping around the dark web is dangerous as hackers track you to collect information and scam you into downloading malware or gaining access to financial data. Besides this, the ISP and government agencies also track your IP address via the Tor entry nodes for accessing the dark web. This can also lead to ISP throttling or official investigation, even if you’re not doing anything wrong.
Unlike the dark web, the deep web doesn’t require any special browser like Tor to access it. You can use any regular browser, such as Google, Microsoft Edge, or Firefox, to access the deep web. In addition, you also need valid login credentials to authorize your access, making it easy to access newspapers, research journals, articles, and private databases. For additional protection and security, use a trusted VPN provider and run antivirus software to boost device security after downloading any file from the deep web.
How to Set Up Tor For Accessing the Dark Web and Deep Web
Tor is an anonymizing software that hides your IP address and makes you anonymous on the dark web. To use the Tor browser for accessing the dark or the deep web, you need to set up the Tor browser. Here’s how you can do it:
- Download and install the Tor browser from its official site.
- When the installation is done, click the Finish button, and the browser will launch.
- In the Tor browser configuration window, click on Connect.
- Wait for a few seconds till the browser connects to the nodes.
- You can now browse the Tor network.
Once you have downloaded the Tor browser, you can configure the Tor browser on your device. Like, you can configure settings, such as increasing the safety level, deleting cookies, and enabling private browsing mode to enjoy more anonymity.
Is Tor the only way to Access the Dark and Deep Web?
The dark web is built around darknets or overlay networks and can’t be accessed by special tools and software like the Tor browser.
Tor is a great anonymizing tool to access the dark web. It uses onion routing to route the internet traffic through several nodes, making your IP address untraceable and ensuring an anonymous browsing experience. However, users can also use the best tor browser alternatives to access the dark web besides the Tor browser. It’s because they might want to use the dark web on iPhone, and as the Tor browser lacks a dedicated app for the iOS device, Tor alternatives for the dark web can prove helpful.
Moreover, despite being a secure browser, some risks are associated with the Tor browser. For instance, internet traffic goes through multiple proxy servers, slows down the speed, and often frustrates the users. Also, the ISP knows that you’re using the Tor browser and might suspect you.
For accessing the deep web, users can use any mainstream browser. But if they want, they can even use the Tor browser or its alternatives; it all depends on their choice.
How to Set Up VPN for your Safety on the Deep/Dark Web
Accessing the dark web is risky, and the risk doubles when you don’t use any protective tool like a VPN. A VPN for the dark web ensures a greater level of security and protection on the dark web. It uses robust encryption that hides the content of your internet traffic and makes it impossible for ISPs and bad actors to know what you are doing on the dark/deep web. Below are the steps that you can follow to set up a VPN for your safety:
- Choose a reliable dark web VPN and subscribe to it.
- Download and install the VPN on your device.
- Create a user account and login into your account.
- Choose a server and tap to connect.
Once the VPN connection is established, you can rest assured that your connection is secured and you can safely access the deep/dark web. To further enhance your security, ensure your VPN doesn’t leak your IP address. You can run various IP leak tests to check if the VPN works properly. Also, enable the kill switch feature or any other dark web-centric feature for an anonymous browsing experience.
Important Safety tips and Tricks to Remember
You must take extra security measures if you’re accessing the dark web for legitimate reasons. Here are some more safety tips and trips that one must remember while accessing the deep/dark web:
- Always connect to a VPN first. This means to opt for Tor over the VPN method and prevents ISP from viewing that you’re connected to the Tor network.
- Access the dark using dark web search engines like DuckDuckGo that refrain from tracking you or your searches on the dark web.
- Avoid downloading any file from the dark web; if you do, first run the best antivirus or anti-malware software.
- Hackers on the dark web can trick you into giving away your personal information. Don’t share your personal or financial details with anyone on the dark web.
- To keep your identity private and anonymous, use a temporary name and email address to access the dark web.
- Use reliable websites on the dark web to prevent getting into trouble or engaging in any illegal activity.
- Be aware of the scams common on the dark web, like clicking on malicious URLs. Also, trust your intuition before taking any action.
While it isn’t to access the dark and the deep web safely, by following the tips as mentioned above one can ensure and enjoy a safe and secure browsing experience.
The deep and the dark web are the hidden part of the internet. While the deep web contains web pages and hidden content that can not be indexed; the dark web content is hidden on purpose because a bulk of the content appearing on the dark web is illegal.
Accessing the deep or the dark web is not illegal; the legality of the deep/dark web depends on the activities for which you use it. It is perfectly legal if someone uses the deep and the dark web for anonymous browsing and to access information from online forums. But, using the dark web to access websites and forums that promote illegal businesses and activities remains illegal.
Because of the illegal activities happening on the deep and the dark web, it’s better to use a VPN to boost online privacy. Also, as a best practice, you shouldn’t reveal your true identity or share any details with anyone and use antivirus software to boost your device security.
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About the Author
Waqas is a cybersecurity journalist and writer who has a knack for writing technology and online privacy-focused articles. He strives to help achieve a secure online environment and is skilled in writing topics related to cybersecurity, AI, DevOps, Cloud security, and a lot more. As seen in: Computer.org, Nordic APIs, Infosecinstitute.com, Tripwire.com, and VentureBeat.More from Iam Waqas
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