The Internet consists of many layers, including the “deep” web and the better-known “dark” web. But what are the dangers of each of them?
Most of us use the Internet for fairly common reasons, whether it’s social media, buying products and services, streaming content, or indulging in pastimes (e.g. playing video games, gambling at Ripple casino sites, etc.). However, the Internet consists of several levels, i.e. layers: surface/public, deep web, and dark web. The last two of these three levels have attracted many rumors and dubious reputations over the years, but what genuinely lies behind them?
Note: This text isn’t an invitation to visit the dark web or to visit potentially suspicious and illegal sites. This text is about the security of the dark web and the differences compared to the deep web. Visiting the dark web and everything you do on the dark web is solely your responsibility!
Deep Web vs. Dark Web: A Quick Comparison
Let’s do a quick comparison before we delve into the specific elements and dangers of the deep web and the dark web.
Content and websites
- Deep web: Websites with paid access, private chats, and email inboxes, archived websites, public and private databases, and intranets.
- Dark web: A mix of lesser-known and popular social networks, alternative news websites, illegal marketplaces, and illegal content.
Method of access
- Deep web: It’s possible to access through a regular browser or certain search engines on any browser.
- Dark web: Only accessible through the Tor browser.
- Deep web: Not as dangerous as the dark web, but there are still risks of malware and data theft, just like on the surface/public web.
- Dark web: The risks are much more numerous than on the surface and deep web, as it provides a central location for cybercriminal activities.
- Deep web: It’s legal to access. There’s a lot of legal content, but illegal content can also be present.
- Dark web: A mix of legitimate, dubious, and highly illegal platforms, and content. The darkest content on the Internet is usually found in this realm.
Monitoring and enforcement of the law
- Deep web: More private accounts and databases make it harder to keep track of things.
- Dark web: It’s harder for the police to monitor or regulate due to encrypted websites and hidden IP addresses. More advanced methods are needed to track illegal activities and find individual perpetrators.
These two levels of the Internet may overlap to some extent, but it’s important to note some significant differences regarding access, legality, and security.
What’s the Deep Web?
The deep web is the layer that exists between the surface web and the dark web. Although you may never have heard of it, the deep web makes up the vast majority of the entire web. Private databases, unnecessary websites, intranets, and other websites that your search engine can’t find through a standard search are in this area.
However, private online accounts are also part of the deep web. This includes private messages, bank accounts, and forums that can’t be directly accessed through a search engine.
For example, you can type “Gmail” in the search field on Google and get the Gmail login page as the first result. But you can’t access your friend’s or relative’s Gmail account simply by searching the Internet. To do this, you must log in using the appropriate login information. This makes it a deep website.
How to Access the Deep Web
You can access the deep web through your regular web browser or by using specialized deep web search engines. If you want to access one of your private accounts, you can usually do so via a login page that you find with a simple browser search.
However, if you’re only looking for deep web content, it’s best to use a deep web browser. Maybe you want to find a very old website that no one uses anymore or search for a specific set of public government records. This is much easier through deep web browsers, such as The Wayback Machine, SearX, etc.
What Are the Risks of the Deep Web?
A common misconception that many people have is that the dark web is completely illegal. That isn’t the case. There are many harmless websites on the dark web, but the vast number of illegal services and content on this layer should definitely be taken into consideration if you’re considering accessing the dark web.
Of all the layers of the Internet discussed here, the dark web is probably the most dangerous. Illegal entities exist in every corner of the Internet, but the dark web has been popularized by those who want to access content that wouldn’t normally be allowed on the surface or deep web. Much of that content is illegal, so it’s no surprise that you might come across shady users while exploring the dark web. What’s more, many websites on this part of the Internet are littered with malware, so just one or two clicks could infect your device without your knowledge.
However, the dark web also has a clear focus on user privacy. Encryption is key on the dark web, and most users have their IP addresses and browsing activity hidden through onion routing. Yes, you may be able to enjoy a higher degree of privacy but don’t forget that many malicious users also gravitate towards the dark web, and there’s no guarantee that they won’t target you if you’re not careful.
Should You Access the Dark Web?
If you have no real need to access the dark web, it’s best to stay away from it. Without sufficient knowledge and technical expertise, it’s very easy to land on a dangerous platform that puts you in danger.
Using the dark web as a beginner often makes you an easy target for hackers. After all, this space is used by cybercriminals who find the surface web too exposed, so there’s no guarantee that you won’t fall victim to some malicious scam or open the door to a cyberattack when using the dark web. If, however, you feel that the dark web can benefit you, make sure your VPN is always active and don’t take unnecessary risks.
Not a Single Part of the Internet Is Completely Secure
Whether you’re surfing social media on the surface web or checking classified news on the deep web, you’re never completely immune to online threats. But if you educate yourself about the risks and do what you can to stay safe, your chances of becoming a victim of a cyberattack can remain low.
If you’re thinking about exploring the deep or dark parts of the web, stay alert and keep a VPN active to protect your data.