Dark Web vs Deep Web: What's the difference?
Like billions of others, you probably use the Internet to find answers, buy consumer goods, communicate with others, enjoy leisure activities, and meet your professional responsibilities.
But how much do you really know about this vast, modern-day version of the Library of Alexandria?
For example, are you aware that the Internet you use is the “surface” web, and that it comprises only 4% of the entire network? Search engines index websites on the surface web, and these are the pages you see and use.
What about the remaining 96%? This is what’s known as the “deep web.” The deep web comprises the “gated” internet, or to put it simply, pages that aren’t easily accessible. The terms deep web and dark web are often used interchangeably. However, this is erroneous, because the two are not the same. Read on to learn more.
What Is The Surface/Clear Web?
- Search on google?
- Shop on Amazon?
- Watch movies on Netflix?
- Play games on Sporcle?
You access these and many other websites through an Internet browser like Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer, or through a search engine like Google. All these sites are part of the surface or “clear” web.
But if you think the surface web is a vast place, think again. The surface web is like a small lake compared to the vast ocean that is the deep web.
What Is The Deep Web?
The deep web comprises all the pages that are not indexed by search engines, and are therefore not visible on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
The deep web contains data or content that’s stored in databases and that support services on the surface web, e.g., social media platforms or bank websites. Further, this content is usually password-protected or placed behind a paywall.
To access such pages, users must either know the password or have a specific URL or IP address. Thus, although these pages are not technically “hidden,” they can be challenging to find, unless you know how to look for them.
What Is The Dark Web and How Is It Different from the Deep Web?
If you’ve ever read anything about the dark web, you probably already know that the dark web was home to Silk Road, an online black market for illegal drugs. All transactions were carried out with bitcoin, ensuring the anonymity of both buyers and sellers. By the time it was shut down in 2013, Silk Road had handled over $1.2 billion worth of illegal goods and services.
The Silk Road was just one of dozens of dark web marketplaces that have cropped up over the years. To add complexity, many dark web marketplaces are mirrored, which allows malicious actors to mimic “legitimate” dark web markets and steal information from unaware would-be purchasers.
The dark web is a part of the deep web. Moreover, the dark web is where the genuinely dark (pun intended!) stuff takes place. On the other hand, the deep web mostly consists of private files or subscriber-only databases rather than illegal information.
The dark web relies on connections between trusted peers and provides a degree of user anonymity since almost all transactions are carried out with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and the TOR network essentially prevents user tracking. It is these qualities that make it a haven for all kinds of criminal and illegal activity.
The dark web is even more challenging to access than the deep web since it requires specialized software, tools, and browsers. Two such popular tools are Tor (The Onion Router) and I2P. Ironically, the original onion routing technology behind Tor was developed by the U.S. Navy.
What Information Is Available on the Dark Web?
Virtually any kind of illicit, illegal, or criminal information not available on the surface web is available on the dark web. This includes stolen credit card numbers, medical information, bank account data, and personally identifiable information (PII).
This content can be incredibly valuable, depending on its sensitivity and volume. According to an investigation by Privacy Affairs, the average price of a cloned American Express credit card with a PIN is just $35. Still, if a hacker manages to steal thousands or millions of instances of card information, the payout can be massive. The average price of a hacked Coinbase verified account is much higher at $610. A criminal who compromises even 100 such accounts can expect to earn upwards of $60,000.
Everyone from identity thieves, financial fraudsters, money launderers, drug cartels, murderers for hire, and human traffickers buy stolen data on the dark web. However, it’s not just information that’s such a popular currency on the dark web. Drugs, weapons, pornography, malware, and ransomware are all bought, sold, and traded in huge numbers. Buyers and sellers are protected by Tor, data encryption, and of course, cryptocurrency.
The Dark Web and Cybercrime After COVID
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, cybercrime has increased, and the dark web has played a part in this development. Threat actors have taken advantage of the chaos, panic, and worry following the pandemic to:
- Launch malware attacks against organizations
- Encrypt their data and systems with ransomware and demand considerable ransoms to release these assets
- Steal passwords and other credentials via phishing attacks
Is the Dark Web Good for Anything?
Surprisingly, yes. The same anonymity that protects criminals also helps protect the privacy of those who may otherwise be persecuted for their opinions, beliefs, or even identities.
Monitoring the dark web is crucial for companies in today’s cybersecurity environment. If you are concerned about your digital footprint, consider Flare’s Digital Risk Protection Platform. We enable your analysts to automatically scan the deep and dark web for threats, with real-time alerting and an AI driven prioritization engine to cut through the noise.