What is the Dark Web?

What is the Dark Web?

The dark web is a part of the internet that provides anonymous and secure communication channels that are not able to be found by search engines. Numerous criminal activities are carried out on the dark web, such as the trafficking of stolen personal information, illegal sales of weapons and the trafficking of drugs.

Dark Web Vs. Deep Web

Although the terms “deep web” and “dark web” are used interchangeably, they are not the same. Any part of the internet that is not indexed by search engines is considered the deep web. This content consists of paywalled websites, private databases, pages that search engines have not yet indexed and other content that is in some way or another available online.

The dark web is a subset of the deep web that is only accessible through the use of special tools such as the Tor browser. A majority of internet users will never interact with the dark web, but will interact with the wider deep web.

These are some of the key differences between the “dark web” and the “deep web”:

Accessibility

In terms of accessibility, the dark web requires you to have a special browser in order to access it and the deep web requires you to have login credentials. However, both the dark web and the deep web require you to have a website’s exact URL in order to access them.

Size

Technically speaking, the dark web is a smaller subset of the deep web. There is no possible way to accurately estimate how big and complex the dark web really is. As for the deep web, it is simpler to provide an exact estimate of its size due to its public nature – there are more than 200,000 websites on the deep web

Applications

The primary use of the dark web is to give visitors and website operators anonymity. The usage of this anonymity does not always involve criminal activities. In contrast, the deep web is frequently accessed by most internet users and includes websites like subscription-based applications since users can only access them once they have paid for them. Even publicly accessible, free online services fall under the deep web category.

Security

The dark web is continuously changing, with new forums and markets for illegal behavior regularly appearing. There are security measures that have to be taken before accessing the dark web to ensure your information does not get stolen, such as using a VPN and the Tor browser. Although accessing websites on the deep web is reputable, keeping security measures in place is essential. Criminals can find private personal information in user accounts on the deep web. It is important to use strong, unique passwords for all your accounts. Using a password manager is helpful when accessing the deep web.

What is a VPN?

VPN, or “Virtual Private Network”, allows you to create a secure network connection when utilizing public networks. VPNs mask your online identity and encrypt your internet activity. This makes it more challenging for third parties to monitor your activities on the internet and prevents them from stealing your data. VPNs use real-time encryption to secure your online activity.

What is the Tor Browser?

The Tor Browser is a web browser that utilizes the Tor network to anonymize your web traffic. You can think of Tor as any other web browser like Chrome or Safari. Tor is comparable to VPNs in that they support some level of anonymous browsing. Tor and VPN can be used synonymously to provide a powerful level of privacy and anonymity.

What is on the Dark Web?

We’ve compiled a list of some of the potentially dangerous content you’ll find on the dark web:

Black markets 

Black Markets have expanded since the beginning of the internet. Black marketplaces can be found all across the dark web, where anything from passwords to social security numbers, firearms and drugs can be bought and sold. 

Forums and chat boards

The dark web also has a number of message boards and chat rooms, many of which are devoted to subjects that are not appropriate for discussion elsewhere on the internet. 

You can also find forums that are run by cybercriminals on the dark web where they sell their stolen data. Typically, this includes information from credit cards, passports and online identities. Cybercriminals get access to this type of data using techniques like phishing and man-in-the-middle attacks.  

Whistleblowing websites

Journalists and whistleblowers use the dark web as a tool to get their messages across and to locate or release sensitive information. By posting their information onto the dark web, they are able to keep their identity anonymous – preventing themselves from being targeted by those they’re exposing.

What is the Dark Web Used For?

The dark web is mainly used for anonymity. People may want to safeguard their online identity for a variety of reasons. For instance, in places where someone’s identity would be in danger because their government outlaws free press or where there is political censorship.

The dark web is also used by people who want to engage in unlawful internet activities, such as selling illegal weapons or drugs online. Hidden Services are frequently used to describe these types of operations and the websites that provide them. 

Hidden Services is also referred to as an “onion service.” A hidden service is where Tor protects both the user’s and the website’s anonymity. People commonly use the dark web to access hidden services. 

Is the Dark Web Illegal?

Accessing the dark web is not always legal depending on where you are. Visiting the dark web is lawful in the US, but using Tor without the security of a VPN could result in monitoring from the government or your internet service provider. Additionally, while accessing the dark web may be lawful, engaging in criminal activity, such as buying or selling stolen data, is not.

The purpose of the dark web is to allow for anonymous browsing and although some people abuse this anonymity for unlawful purposes, certain people depend on it. Activists and whistleblowers depend on the privacy safeguards that are offered by the dark web. Others who depend on it include people who live in countries where free speech is restricted or outlawed and want to share information without facing legal repercussions. 

All in all, although the dark web is not illegal, there are circumstances that would make visiting the dark web illegal.

How Do I Protect Myself On the Dark Web?

While we don’t recommend you access the dark web, if you must, please follow these precautions. The first way to protect yourself is by using Dark Web Monitoring. Dark Web Monitoring uses specific tools to scan areas of the dark web for stolen usernames and passwords.

Because there are billions of websites, networks and registries online, dark web monitoring is essential since you can’t monitor all of them yourself. Without certain safeguards, it’s possible that you won’t discover that your information is being sold on the dark web until it’s too late.

A dark web monitoring tool we recommend is BreachWatch. BreachWatch is a powerful tool that monitors the internet and dark web for breached accounts that match the records stored in your Keeper Vault. BreachWatch alerts you so that you can take immediate action and update your credentials. Never before has it been more crucial to protect your data and continuously watch the dark web for security vulnerabilities. 

Aranza Trevino

Aranza Trevino is a contributing writer and works in marketing at Keeper Security. She is a senior at DePaul University in Chicago, majoring in marketing with a concentration in digital marketing. Aranza has gained cybersecurity industry knowledge and continues to educate readers through her blog and social media efforts.