You’ve heard about the “dark web” and the “deep web,” but you aren’t exactly sure what they are, nor what the difference is between them. We'll help you understand these two parts of the Internet, and therefore help you avoid the shadier parts of the dark web —particularly if you search the web privately.
What the deep web and dark web share is an existence just beneath the public parts of the Internet. Watching YouTube videos and reading news sites is all on the public side. Sites behind paywalls, logins, or that are encrypted are what fall into the deep web. The worst of the worst lives in the dark web - drugs, murder for hire, child porn, etc.
The deep web and dark web therefore take some effort to reach, but less than you’d think, particularly with the deep web. Being in either presents some danger, so it’s important to understand these sections of the Internet so you can protect yourself, and your personal information.
Scroll down for a playlist of Komando on Demand podcast episodes on the dark web!
If you like private browsers or using the Internet with VPNs, you want to know when you’re on the dark web, and when you’re on the deep web, so read on to get the information you need, and to learn what to avoid in both parts.
The deep web explained
Though the name implies it exists in some underground virtual catacombs completely hidden from view, the deep web is actually something you probably access every day. The term refers to parts of the Internet you have to log in to view; the pages that need passwords, or payments, to be accessed. Therefore, as Daily Dot points out, you’re on the deep web every time you log in to social media, or your email. You’re also on it when you look at your bank account online, or when you have full access to an article because you have a subscription.
Because pages in the deep web are somewhat private — there’s a condition for access — they don’t usually come up in online searches. Most of the time that’s fine, but for access to more information, you can use any of the websites we’ve previously recommended that specifically search public pages, and those that classify as deep web. You get more complete searches out of it, and with it, more potential knowledge on whatever you’re trying to understand.
All in all, being on the deep web really isn’t that different from your average Internet experience; in fact, it’s probably the vast majority of your Internet experience. The main difference between deep web pages and public pages is that on deep web pages, you exist as a registered person, and can personalize your experience on the site. There is relative privacy, as you get customized content to view, and you select what you share with others in public pages or profiles when they exist. But it’s far from a unique web experience. It’s just being online, with a little more personal information.
Because of this personal information, it’s important to protect the passwords to the parts of the deep web that you frequent. We’ll get more into that after we explain what the dark web is.
The dark web explained
Unlike the deep web, the dark web lives up to its somewhat-insidious name. It exists as a relatively small cluster of pages kept on an encrypted network that aren’t publicly accessible. These pages can’t be searched, and they can’t even be viewed on a normal browser—you need tools like I2P or Tor, which conceal your identity, in order to access them.
We’ve previously explained how to get on the dark web, so we won’t go into it in too much detail here. It involves getting a tool like Tor on your computer, then using a virtual private network (a VPN for short) to conceal your identity while you enter a specific URL. Because the dark web isn’t searchable, you have to know exactly where you’re going in order to get there. But once you know, you can get it.
Because it’s relatively difficult to access, and so anonymous, the dark web isn’t only for illegal deals and activities, but illegal deals and activities do take place there fairly easily. On certain dark web sites and pages, people can purchase guns and drugs, or hire hitmen and prostitutes. This is where the insidious reputation for the dark web comes from, and applies; criminals still get caught from actions they’ve taken or deals they’ve made on the dark web, but they have an improved chance of getting away with it.
But as we said, the dark web isn’t only comprised of illegal activity. In fact, the dark web exists mostly for privacy and anonymity. It lets people go on sites like Google without having their search history cataloged, and it allows people from countries like Turkey and China to use the Internet more freely than they normally can because of censorship and regulation.
So you can use the dark web on your own to have a more private web-browsing experience. You just need to be aware of the dangers, much like you do with deep web activity, and we’ll tell you how to be safe on both below.
Being safe online when you want to be private
Use of the deep web is pretty inevitable online, and with the dark web, these experiences can just be more private, protecting you from some aggressive advertisers, and general data collection. But like with the public, surface web, you’ll encounter dangers with both, so make sure you’re taking precautions before you use either.
Primarily, with deep web use, you want to make sure you protect your passwords and your personal information. Phishing scams may have you log in to a fake page to obtain your password, and then raid your personal information, so make sure URLs you type your password into have “https” at the start, and are the correct address, not a slightly different version.
When on deep web sites, don’t give out personal information often either. Giving it to strangers could harm you in multiple ways, but if you get hacked, even giving it to people you know could become devastating. Basically, just make sure anything you put out on deep web sites, or on any sites, is information you’re comfortable getting out no matter what.
With the dark web, privacy is nice, but with it can come a lack of accountability, and a lack of scruples. A seemingly innocuous link there could get you to download a virus, and there wouldn’t be much means for retribution or punishment.
Agreeing to a deal on the dark web is highly inadvisable, as you don’t really know who you’re talking to, or what they might really be offering. And of course, frequenting parts of the dark web that are less than savory might eventually get you in trouble. It’s best to avoid those all together, which is easy enough to do since they’re not super easy to access.
All of these warnings apply as much to the public parts of the Internet as they do to these private ones. And just like with the public parts, knowing the dangers listed above exist is the main way to fight them.
Make sure you know a few ways to help you protect yourself online in general, and you should be just fine on the deep web, or the dark web. In general, it’s good to be private on the Internet, and the deep web and dark web make that possible in their own ways. Just be careful, and you should be just fine.
Listen on the go. Interested in learning more about the dark web? Download this playlist of Komando on Demand podcasts. Take an intimate tour of a disturbing place on the dark web, listen to Kim's interview with former FBI special agent Lawrence Wolfenden, and more, below.
Questions about the dark web that you were afraid to ask
Did you know there's more to the internet than we are all accustomed to? There is the internet that you and I use on a daily basis, and then there is the other internet that most people don't. There are multiple layers that most people probably don't even realize exist! Did you know there's more to the internet than we are all accustomed to? Tap or click to learn more about the dark web.