2023, September 08
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Security
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8 min read
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Matt S.

Deep Web vs. Dark Web

Explore the depths of the internet in our blog post, demystifying the dark web, deep web, and Tor Browser's role.

The internet, an invention that has transformed the world, has grown to staggering proportions in 2023. With approximately 175 ZB or 1.75 billion terabytes of data, it's mind-boggling to note that only 4-10% of this vast digital expanse constitutes the surface web, the part we access with our everyday browsers. The remainder is known as the dark web, a realm shrouded in secrecy and not easily accessible to the average internet user.
Intrigued by the concept of the dark web, its distinctions from the deep web, and its mysterious allure? If so, keep reading as we embark on an exciting journey to demystify the deep web vs. dark web, exploring what they are, how they operate, and what lies within.

Deep Web 101 - Navigating the Unindexed Web

In essence, the deep web encompasses all unindexed web content, comprising data not publicly accessible or readily discoverable via conventional search engines. However, it's crucial to clarify that this article primarily delves into the dark web.
Deep Web Demystified
The deep web, also known as the darknet, constitutes a system of overlay networks within the internet, existing parallel to the regular surface web. It is a realm necessitating specific software, configurations, and sometimes authorization for access, as it operates on a unique, customized communications protocol. Traditional browsers like Chrome, Safari, and Firefox cannot penetrate its depths. The most common gateway to the deep web is through Tor, the Onion browser, which we'll explore in greater detail later.
The deep web comprises a collection of smaller darknets, coalescing into a vast, enigmatic whole. Some surprising content, such as video streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, resides in the deep web. This content remains hidden from the majority of internet users due to its unindexed nature.
While the deep web often garners sensationalized media coverage associated with illicit and harmful activities, a 2016 study by Terbium Labs revealed that approximately 48% of its content is legal and mundane. Nevertheless, it's undeniable that the clandestine environment of the dark web offers a conducive backdrop for malevolent actors to thrive.
Distinguishing Features:
Deep
Web vs. Surface Web
  • Size
    : The deep web dwarfs the surface web in terms of content, estimated to be approximately 24 times larger. However, most of its content is mundane and unremarkable, such as company databases and government websites.
  • Accessibility
    : Browsing the surface web is a breeze, requiring nothing more than mainstream browsers. In stark contrast, the deep web necessitates the use of specialized software like Tor.
  • Safety
    : While the surface web has its vulnerabilities, it is generally safer compared to the deep web. The anonymity inherent to the dark web makes regulating and tracking activities challenging, resulting in substantial risks for users.

The Mechanics of the Dark Web

Dark web websites are inaccessible via standard browsing methods. Instead, users rely on software and protocols distinct from those used for surface web browsing. Despite this disparity, the fundamental structure of the dark web remains familiar, featuring servers that store information, domains, and websites. Dark web browsers often offer interfaces similar to mainstream browsers, albeit with a focus on user anonymity.
The crux of dark web browsing lies in the browser's ability to obscure the user's true IP address by routing traffic through multiple nodes, a process that significantly enhances anonymity. This multilayered approach makes it exceedingly challenging, if not impossible, to trace a user's origins, unlike the traditional web where a single relay (or VPN) is typically involved.
Pros and Cons of Dark Web Usage
Let's dissect the advantages and disadvantages of venturing into the dark web:
Pros:
  • Anonymity
    : The dark web provides a haven for secure, anonymous communication, crucial in situations where revealing one's identity could lead to danger. It is widely used by media outlets and law enforcement to protect sources.
  • Freedom to Share Information
    : Access to hidden services on the dark web can provide protection for those who need to share sensitive information without jeopardizing their safety.
  • Curiosity
    : For the adventurous, the dark web offers a legal, albeit risky, means of exploring the internet's vastness and understanding its unconventional facets.
Cons:
  • Illegal Activities
    : The dark web harbors black markets where one can purchase fake documents, firearms, and illegal services. Engaging in such transactions, even as a buyer, is highly illegal and fraught with the risk of encountering scams.
  • Scams Abound
    : Anonymity on the dark web cuts both ways. Users may fall victim to scams, with dishonest sellers seeking to exploit the cloak of anonymity for personal gain
  • Collateral Damage
    : Merely accessing or sharing information on the dark web can expose users to potential security breaches, hacking, and other cyber threats.
In summary, while the dark web presents opportunities for secure communication and information sharing, it also harbors significant risks associated with illegal activities, scams, and potential collateral damage.

The Role of Tor Browser

Now that we've unraveled the enigma of the dark web, let's shift our focus to Tor, the Onion browser. This free and open-source application has a storied history and remains a vital tool for accessing the dark web while enhancing privacy for regular internet browsing.
History of Tor
Tor, short for "onion routing," finds its roots in American intelligence's quest for improved online secret communications. The project commenced in the late 1990s, with employees of the US Naval Research Laboratory tasked with the mission. In 2002, Tor's alpha version emerged, courtesy of mathematician Paul Syverson and computer scientists Roger Dingledine and Nitch Mathewson. Subsequently, the project transitioned to open-source status and became accessible to the public.
How Tor Works
Tor's functionality relies on the principle of onion routing, a technique involving the encryption and routing of internet traffic through numerous servers, randomly assigned. Unlike traditional web browsing, where data may pass through just one or two relays (if a VPN is employed), Tor routes traffic through a multitude of relays. This intricate network of reroutings makes it exceptionally difficult to trace a user's identity, enhancing anonymity.
As a consequence of this multilayered routing process, the Tor browser often exhibits slower browsing speeds compared to mainstream browsers. However, this slight inconvenience is the trade-off for the enhanced privacy and security it affords users.
The Current Status of Tor Browser
Estimates indicate that nearly 2.5 million individuals use Tor, the most popular dark web browser, on a daily basis. The application continues to receive updates, even more than two decades after its initial release, ensuring that it remains a relevant and reliable tool for privacy-conscious users.
Installing and Using Tor
Getting started with Tor is a straightforward process:
  • Visit the official Tor Project website and navigate to the download page.
  • Choose the appropriate version of Tor for your operating system and download the installation file.
  • Launch the installer and follow the on-screen instructions to complete the installation.
  • Open the Tor application and wait for it to launch.
  • Start browsing the dark web or enhance your privacy for regular internet activities.

Accessing Dark Web Search Engines and Sites

If you've successfully installed the Tor Browser, exploring the dark web is made more accessible by using dark web or Tor-specific search engines like Torch, Not Evil, or Ahmia. These search engines provide a gateway to Tor sites, which typically bear the .onion extension. Alternatively, if you already know the URL of a dark web site, simply enter it in the address bar with the .onion extension to access it directly.

Is the Dark Web a Force for Good or Evil?

The question of whether the dark web is a force for good or evil is a complex one. It's essential to contextualize the dark web, understanding that it is neither inherently virtuous nor malevolent. Its fundamental objectives are often rooted in positive ideals, such as safeguarding anonymity, enabling uncensored information sharing, and protecting the privacy of individuals residing under oppressive regimes.
However, the dark web, like any tool, can be employed for both virtuous and nefarious purposes. It provides a sanctuary for anonymous communication and information sharing, but it also serves as a haven for illegal activities and malicious actors. Users must exercise caution and awareness of the potential risks associated with dark web access, including exposure to illegal content, scams, malware, and law enforcement surveillance.

Safe and Secure Alternatives for Communications

It's worth noting that alternative communication channels are emerging as viable alternatives to the dark web. End-to-end encrypted communication applications like Skyda offer robust privacy and anonymity, delivering a more user-friendly experience compared to Tor. These apps empower users to send messages, share images, audio recordings, and files without the fear of surveillance or monitoring. For those seeking anonymous information sharing without the dark web's risks, Skyda on Android and iOS presents a compelling solution.

In Conclusion

The dark web, shrouded in mystery and intrigue, beckons those curious enough to explore its depths. However, embarking on this journey entails accepting the inherent risks associated with its unregulated and chaotic content. While the Tor Browser facilitates access to this enigmatic realm, simpler and more convenient alternatives exist for sharing sensitive information and maintaining anonymity.
In navigating the intricate interplay of the deep web and dark web, it is essential to exercise discernment, vigilance, and ethical responsibility. The digital world's hidden layers offer both opportunities and challenges, making it imperative to tread carefully as we delve into the uncharted territories of the internet.
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