What is the difference between the deep web and the dark web?

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The “Deep Web” and “Dark Web” both sound intimidating, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same. Although they are related, knowing the difference can protect you from dangerous places on the internet and make you a hit at parties.

The internet is not the web

Before we get to the distinction between “deep” and “dark”, another common amalgamation needs to be clarified. We tend to use “internet” and “web” interchangeably, but they are very different.

The internet is the network infrastructure we use to communicate worldwide. That includes the network card in your computer, your router, your home’s fiber optic cable, submarine cables, and all the other bits and pieces that shoot electrical (or optical) impulses all over the planet. You can also include Internet Protocol as a defining feature of the Internet. It is the language of the Internet and describes exactly how information is encoded and routed across the Internet.

The World Wide Web is a service that runs on Internet infrastructure. Specifically, it is the network of websites hosted on web servers, connected to the Internet. The Internet is home to many other services such as streaming video, FTP (file transfer protocol), email, etc.

The concept of the Internet as a network that can host many different types of network applications is important to understand if you want to understand the difference between deep, dark, and surface webs.

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Living on the Surface Web

The surface web is the public face of the internet. When you go to a company’s website, you are visiting the surface web. Definitions may vary a little, but the surface web is essentially all websites and resources connected to the Internet that can be freely discovered and visited. For example, the Google search engine “crawls” the web for websites that are accessible to everyone. When you visit our website here at How-To-Geek, you’re on the surface web!

Rolling in the deep web

So the “deep” web is all things connected to the internet, but hidden behind some form of security. When you log into your webmail service, you are on the deep web. All the things you can see unless you log into Facebook? So is the deep web.

Rather than being a scary part of the internet. the deep web is the flesh and bones of our everyday internet experience. It’s the basement of the amusement park where all the real work happens so you can have a good time.

Unsurprisingly, then, most of the web is the deep web. At this point there is usually an analogy with icebergs and how most of their mass is underwater.

The dark web

This brings us to the dark web. The dark web is part of the deep web, but only a very small part of it. These are websites and servers that are intentionally hidden. The people who run the site don’t want anyone to know who they are and they certainly don’t want just anyone visiting their sites.

This anonymity can be achieved in several ways, but most sites on the dark web are “ui” sites. They are only accessible through Tor Browser, which gives users access to the Tor network. The Tor network was created to allow completely anonymous (with some extra precautions) communication over the Internet. When a user and a website send data to each other through Tor, the data packets are randomly routed through a huge network of volunteer computers. Each of these nodes only knows where the packet just came from and where it’s going next, because each layer of an encryption ui is stripped of the packet contents. It is only when the packet reaches its final destination that the last layer of encryption is removed and the intended recipient gets the original data.

Although the dark web is not illegal in most countries. it has quickly been taken over by criminals to scramble illegal content and communications around the world. Coupled with the rise of cryptocurrencies, the dark web has enabled billions of dollars in illicit trade.

There are also plenty of legitimate websites on the dark web, but in general, most users should avoid this as it poses serious cybersecurity risks and any site could be compromised tomorrow, even if not today.

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