We have all heard of the dark web but what is the deep web? Are they the same? Different? What is it all about?
The deep web is different from the dark web. In fact, deep web includes dark web. Essentially the term ‘deep web’ refers to all those web entities that are not included in search engines. This can include non-indexed dark web sites, pages behind paywalls, private membership websites, any page that needs a password to log in, some forums, some dating websites, special interest sites, databases and all manner of entities.
It might surprise you that you probably access the deep web every day. Gmail, Outlook webmail, some elements of Microsoft Office 365, WordPress admin pages, Joomla admin pages, cloud applications, some messenger applications and all banking apps are included in the deep web. This is because they are locked behind login screens that stop search engines accessing them. This is the true meaning of deep web.
According to Wikipedia, the deep web makes up 96 percent of the entire internet. Considering how massive the accessible web is, that is a whole lot of data. Back in 2003 a study estimated that the deep web contained around 91,850 terabytes of data.
Deep web vs. Dark web an important distinction
Unless you live in Mongolia, or Missouri, you will have heard scare stories about the dark web in the media. About how it is only used by criminals to buy and sell guns, drugs and slaves or how hackers hide out there while online. While that is true, it is only a tiny part of the truth. The dark web is massive and only a portion of it is used for nefarious activities.
The terms deep web and dark web or darknet are often used interchangeably but are technically different things. As mentioned, the deep web is any web entity that a search engine cannot get to. The dark web is purposely kept away from search engines. Some reasons are purely about privacy and exclusivity while others do have criminal purposes.
- The deep web is any website or resource that a search engine cannot access
- Only small parts of the dark web are used for criminal activity
- There are many positive uses for the dark web
The good in the deep web
If you’re a regular TechJunkie reader then you know we lament the slow erosion of our rights and privacy. We are normal citizens living normal lives in a relatively normal country. But what if we lived somewhere more oppressive? A country where there is little or no freedom of speech? Where being a journalist or even speaking your mind could get you thrown in prison?
There are places like that in the world and the deep web helps people who live there. It is a place where people can meet in relative safety and discuss their hopes, fears and dreams. Where citizens can talk freely about their religion, criticize the state or enjoy true freedom of speech. For journalists, it is often the only way they can publish their work and expose wrongdoing without serious repercussions.
It is overly simplistic to paint the deep web with a broad brush and label it as a criminal’s playground. While that is true for some parts of it, that isn’t the whole story.
How to access the deep web safely
As the deep web is not indexed by search engines, you won’t be able to Google your way to it. Neither will you be able to use your normal browser to access it. You will need a custom browser able to penetrate the layers of the deep web. One such browser is the Tor browser. Tor Browser is more popular than ever right now as it does a lot to improve your privacy online. While it is not impenetrable, it goes a long way to enhancing personal privacy while on the internet.
Tor uses the .onion system which uses a layered topology to hide your activities. Rather than connecting directly to your ISP and then directly to a website, you instead connect to your ISP and then to another random user running Tor. You may then connect to another user in an anonymous relay. This makes tracking where you go almost impossible.
If you are planning to fully explore the deep web, I would suggest using a VPN and a ‘clean’ computer. A clean computer could be a recently rebuilt laptop with no personal information or a virtual machine running another operating system.
I tend to use a virtual machine using VirtualBox running Zorin Linux. It has no identifiable data on me whatsoever. Used in conjunction with a no logging VPN and the Tor browser, it is very unlikely indeed that anyone could trace me while online. Not impossible as there is no such thing, but very unlikely.
Navigating the deep web
As the deep web is not indexed by search engines, you cannot use traditional search to find what you are looking for. There are deep web search engines but these are obviously not very good. So to get around, you first need to know where to go.
If you just want to take a look around the deep web, this Pastebin page has a long list of addresses of websites on the deep web. There is everything here from the Hidden Wiki to chat channels. There are lots of address repositories like this so it isn’t usually difficult to find what you’re looking for.
Surviving the deep web
If you take proper precautions, the deep web won’t hurt you. It is only if you act like an idiot, annoy someone or buy something that you being exposing yourself. When you are exploring, remember that this is a place where you can hire a hitman completely anonymously and hit anyone in the world at any time. With these kinds of resources available, it pays to keep a low profile.
Just browsing, reading and learning is perfectly safe if you take precautions. The same rules apply in the deep web as they do on the rest of the net. Don’t be a douche, don’t give out identifiable information and try not to annoy anyone too much. Follow those guidelines and your time in the deep web should be very illuminating!
Have any stories to tell about your time in the deep web? Any good sites to recommend? Tell us about them below if you do.