deep web

Dark Web Definition

The Dark Web refers to an invisible network of internet websites only accessible through certain web browsers. It is designed for keeping internet activity private and anonymous - both legal and illegal applications may use this resource; while some people use it as an escape route from government censorship it has also been utilized for illicit activity.

What Is the Dark, Deep, and Surface Webs?

The Internet is vast with millions of websites, databases, and servers all running 24/7 - yet only a fraction can be seen using search engines like Google or Yahoo to navigate its vast depths. Surface web (aka "visible") sites only represent part of what lies underneath.

The surface web or open web

The "Open Web" or "Surface Web" is the accessible and visible layer of the internet.

 If we imagine our world as an iceberg with water covering every part of it except its topmost portion - this would be where we would find the "Open Web," representing just over 5% of total website data and websites online.

Here you will find all of the websites commonly accessible via traditional browsers like Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox. These websites typically bear registration operators like ".com" and ".org", making them easily locateable using search engines.

Search engines make finding surface websites easy through indexing via visible links (a process known as "crawling") - as though the search engine were traveling the web like a spider!

The Deep Web

deep web

the hidden part of the internet, known as the deep web, exists beneath the visible surface and constitutes around 90% of all websites. Think of this hidden network like part of an iceberg below the water; much larger than its surface counterpart. In fact, its vast size makes it impossible to know exactly how many pages or websites are active at any one time.

Continued the analogy, large search engines could be seen as fishing boats that can only "catch" websites close to the surface; academic journals, private databases and illicit content remain beyond their grasp - this portion of the internet is known as the deep web or dark web.

Many news outlets confuse "deep web" and "dark web," yet much of its contents remain perfectly legal and safe. Some major areas include:

  • Databases: these collections of public or private files that exist solely to be searched from within their database itself.
  • Intranets: Intranets are internal networks designed for businesses, governments, and educational facilities that are used to communicate and control aspects within their organizations privately.

If you're curious to access the deep web, chances are that you are already doing it daily. "Deep web" refers to all websites which cannot be identified by search engines - either due to being hidden behind passwords or security walls, or telling search engines not to "crawl" them; without visible links these pages become more invisible for various reasons.

On the deeper web, its "hidden" content tends to be safer and cleaner - from blog posts and website redesign proposals, through bank account pages and social messaging accounts, all the way to private enterprise databases - its presence poses no threats or risks for your computer or safety at large. Most pages kept hidden are done so to protect user data or privacy; such pages include those for financial accounts like banking and retirement; email and social messaging accounts as well as private enterprise databases that require user privacy protection such as:

  • Financial accounts such as banking and retirement, along with
  • Email and social messaging accounts
  • Private enterprise databases
  • HIPPA sensitive information such as medical documentation
  • Legal files

Stepping deeper into the dark web brings with it additional risks. Some users use parts of it to circumvent local restrictions and access TV or movie services they may not otherwise be available in their area, while others venture deeper still for pirated music or films yet to hit theaters.

At the dark end of the web lies more harmful content and activities, including those related to Tor websites located here in what's dubbed as the "dark web", accessible only via an anonymous browser.

Deep web safety is more pertinent to the average internet user than dark web safety, since accidental exposure could land you in potentially hazardous areas: many portions of the deep web remain accessible through traditional browsers allowing accessing any tangential pathways into it and eventually reach sites of illicit content such as pirate sites or politically radical forums, or viewing violent material.

The Dark Web

Dark web

The "dark web" refers to sites not indexed by search engines and only accessible using specialized browsers, with much lower traffic volumes than on the surface web and considered part of the "deep web." As an iceberg would submerge under water, its base tip represents this portion of cyberspace - much smaller than surface web websites but no less essential than its topside cousin.

The dark web, however, is an inaccessible corner of the deep web that few will ever come in contact with or see for themselves. Simply put, "deep web" refers to all content accessible with special software from beneath the surface that's still accessible today - including dark web content.

Unpacking the Dark Web reveals several essential layers that make it such an anonymous haven:

  • No webpage indexation by surface web search engines such as Google; these search tools cannot find or display results for pages within the Dark Web.
  • Virtual traffic tunnels that operate via randomized network infrastructure.
  • These pathways remain beyond the reach of conventional browsers because of their distinct registry operator and are additionally shielded by multiple network security measures like firewalls and encryption.

The dark web has long been associated with criminal content or activity and "trading" websites where users can purchase illicit goods or services; however, legal parties have also used this framework for their benefit.

Dark web and deep web dangers differ significantly, as illegal cyber activity cannot always be easily discovered and tends to be much more harmful and lethal if discovered. Before exploring what lurks on these sites, let's first understand who accesses them and why.

Also Check Top 10 Emerging Trends in Software Development

How to Access the Dark Web

dark web access

Accessing the dark web was once the domain of hackers, law enforcement officers, and cybercriminals only; however, new technology such as encryption and anonymizing browser software Tor is making it possible for anyone interested to explore its depths.

Tor ("The Onion Routing" project) network browser enables users to visit websites using the ". onion" registry operator. Originally developed in the latter half of the 90s by United States Naval Research Laboratory.

Realizing the Internet was lacking privacy, an early version of Tor was created to anonymize communications from spying networks. Over time, its framework has been modified into the browser we know today - anyone can download it free of charge.

Tor is an encrypted web browser similar to Chrome or Firefox, yet distinguished from these browsers by using a random path of encrypted servers known as nodes - giving users the chance to explore deeper parts of the internet without fear that their actions or browser history are being monitored or exposed.

Deep Web sites use Tor (or similar software such as I2P - "Invisible Internet Project") to remain anonymous, making it impossible for you to ascertain who owns them or where they're hosted.

Is it Illegal to go on the dark web?

Doing business on the dark web is legal; in fact, some uses may even contribute to its value and support its existence. On this platform, users may find three main advantages from its usage:

  • Anonymity
  • Virtually untraceable services and sites
  • Enabling both users and providers to engage in illegal acts

As the dark web provides the ability for both parties to take illegal actions online without being threatened, many vulnerable parties use these hidden sites regularly - abuse victims, whistleblowers, political dissidents etc - however these benefits can easily extend to anyone looking for covert or explicit illegal methods of operation.

Viewed through this lens, the dark web's legality depends heavily on your interaction with it as a user. While some might step outside legal lines for reasons related to freedom preservation or security of others; others may engage in illegal actions in order to safeguard others and ensure their own safety. Let's unpack both concepts further when talking about "dark web browsers" and websites themselves.

Are Tor and other anonymized browsers illegal to use?

Their software usage is legal. Many users now leverage Tor to navigate both the public Internet and deeper sections of it privately, using it both ways.

Privacy provided by Tor browser is of utmost importance in today's digital world, where both corporations and governing bodies participate in unwarranted monitoring of online activity. Some prefer not having government agencies or ISPs know what they're browsing online while others have no choice; users in countries with strict access and user laws are sometimes prevented from even accessing public sites unless they use Tor clients and virtual private networks (VPNs).

However, even using Tor legally could still lead to criminal activities that could land you in trouble with law. You could easily use it in order to steal content from the deep web, share illegal pornography or even commit cyber terrorism; using legal browser won't make your actions legal!

Are sites on the dark web illegal to visit and use?

On an individual level, using the dark web can be seen as more of a gray area; typically it indicates you are engaging in activity that would otherwise not be tolerated in public view.

Government critics and other outspoken advocates can fear backlash if their real identities were revealed; those who have experienced harm from others may not want their attackers finding out about any conversations regarding that incident; any activity which violates governing bodies is unlawful and should be stopped immediately.

However, anonymity comes at the cost of criminals and malicious hackers as well. Criminal activity such as cyberattacks and trafficking are activities which will incriminate participants; to escape exposure they turn to the dark web in order to hide.

Simply browsing these spaces is legal but may present you with risks. Although not illegal as a whole, unsavory activity does exist within parts of the dark web and could expose you to unnecessary risks if you're not mindful or an experienced computer user aware of its threats. So what exactly is dark web used for?

Types of threats on the Dark Web

When exploring the dark web for basic privacy purposes, one question may remain unanswered - is dark web dangerous to use? Unfortunately, yes it can be. Below are some threats you could come across while browsing:

Malicious Software

Malware -- or malicious software -- has long been present across the dark web, often offered for sale via portals by threat actors for cyberattacks or left to lurk and infect unwitting users as it would on any other part of the Internet.

The dark web does not feature as many social contracts that website providers adhere to in order to safeguard users on other parts of the internet, leading them to frequently encounter some form of malware such as:

  • Keyloggers
  • Botnet malware
  • Ransomware
  • Phishing Malware

By exploring any sites on the dark web, you expose yourself to being targeted and attacked with hacks and more. Most malware infections can be identified using endpoint security programs.

Online browsing poses threats beyond its confines if your computer or network connection can be exploited. Anonymity provided by Tor and the dark web is powerful, yet any online activity could potentially reveal your identity if someone investigates deeply enough.

Government Monitoring

Due to Tor-based sites becoming more and more targeted by law enforcement authorities around the globe, simply visiting such dark websites increases your risk of becoming an official target.

Illegal drug marketplaces such as Silk Road have long been exploited for police surveillance. Through using custom software to infiltrate and analyze activity, law officials have used such platforms as an avenue for discovering user identities of patrons and bystanders alike. Even if you do not purchase anything at such marketplaces, law officials could still watch you and potentially link your actions later with criminal activities that occur off of it.

Infiltrations put you at risk of monitoring for various activities as well, like evading government restrictions to explore new political ideologies and ideologies that violate government restrictions can lead to jail sentences in some countries; China uses what's known as the Great Firewall to restrict access to popular websites for this very purpose, so being exposed to content such as this may put you on an immediate watchlist or put you directly under investigation resulting in immediate arrest and jail sentence.


Alleged services like professional hitmen could just be scams designed to take advantage of unsuspecting customers and profit off them. Reports indicate the dark web provides illegal services ranging from assassinations services and trafficking of both sex and weapons, according to reports.

Some of these threats are well-established threats that circulate on the dark web, while others take advantage of its reputation to defraud users out of large sums of money. Furthermore, some individuals on the dark web may attempt to utilize phishing scams in order to gain your identity or personal data for illegal extortion purposes.

End User Protection Against Exploitation by the Dark Web

No matter if you're an individual, business, parent, or any other user of the internet, taking steps to safeguard yourself against dark web exploitation is of paramount importance.

Identity theft monitoring is critical if you want to ensure the protection of your private data from being misused by criminals online. All types of personal information - passwords, physical addresses, bank account numbers and social security numbers can be sold online for a fee; malicious actors use these to harm credit scores, engage in financial theft or compromise other accounts online - with leaks of personal information leading to reputation damage via social fraud.

Antimalware and antivirus protections are both vital in order to stay secure from malicious actors online. The dark web is a haven for cybercriminals engaging in information theft through malware-infected users. These attackers employ tools like keyloggers to gather sensitive information and breach any part of your system, regardless of its location on the web. Endpoint security programs like Kaspersky Security Cloud provide comprehensive coverage against identity monitoring attacks as well as antivirus threats - which is important when accessing it safely.

How to access the dark web safely

Regardless of the reasons for accessing the dark web, if it becomes necessary for you to utilize its services it is vital that you take precautionary steps in order to stay safe when accessing it.

  1. Trust Your Intuition. In order to avoid being scammed online, it's wise to adopt smart behaviors on the web and heed any warning signs from others that might indicate trouble brewing. Not everyone online may be who they appear to be so it is wise to carefully select who and where you interact online in order to remain secure and take immediate steps if something doesn't feel right about a situation.
  2. Separate Your Online and Real Life Personalities. Don't use anything that identifies you online or off. Create throwaway accounts if necessary; acquire unidentifiable debit cards before making purchases; avoid anything that might help identify who you are either online or off.
  3. Take proactive measures against identity and financial theft. Many online security services now provide identity protection features; be sure to utilize these if made available to you.
  4. Strictly avoid dark web file downloads. Malware infections are particularly likely to arise on this lawless platform, so real-time scanning by an antivirus program could provide added peace of mind if you decide to download any files.
  5. Deactivate ActiveX and Java in all accessible network settings. These frameworks have long been exploited by malicious actors; you should therefore take every measure to avoid taking that risk when travelling through networks containing threats like these.
  6. Switch to using a secondary local user account without administrative privileges for daily activities. Most computers come preloaded with full administrative permissions by default, giving malware full access to execute its functions - you can limit their progress through strict privileges for accounts used daily.
  7. Always limit access to Tor-enabled devices. especially devices used by children or other family members, so as to prevent any accidental exposure to something they shouldn't see. Visit the Deep Web if interested but keep children out.
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