Dark Web

What are the Deep Web and the Dark Web?

What are the Deep Web and the Dark Web?

Definition of the Dark Web

The Dark Web is a hidden collection of Internet sites accessible only by a browser specially designed for this purpose. It is used to preserve the anonymity and privacy of Internet activity, which can be useful for both legal and illegal applications. While some use it to evade government censorship, others also use it to carry out highly illegal activities.

What are the Dark Web, Deep Web, and Surface Web?

The internet is vast. It has millions of web pages, databases and servers that all operate 24 hours a day. However, the "visible" Internet (also known as the Surface Web or the Visible Web), made up of sites accessible using search engines, like Google and Yahoo, are only the tip of the iceberg.

There are a number of terms to qualify the Non-Visible Web, but it's best to know their differences if you plan to navigate off the beaten path.

Surface Web or Visible Web

The visible web, or the surface web, is the “visible” surface layer. If we continue to visualize the whole web as an iceberg, the visible web would be the top that sits above the water. Statistically, this collection of websites and data represents less than 5% of the total Internet volume.

All websites that are publicly accessible through traditional browsers, like Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox, are featured here. Websites are generally tagged with registry operators, such as “.com” and “.org”, and can be easily located using popular search engines.

Localization of surface websites is possible because search engines can index the web through visible links (this is a process called "web crawling" due to the search engine crawling the web. Web like a spider).

The Deep Web

The Deep Web sits below the surface and makes up about 90% of all websites. It is the part of an iceberg underwater, much larger than the surface web. In fact, this invisible web is so vast that it is impossible to know precisely how many pages or websites are active at a time.

To continue the analogy, the big search engines could be thought of as fishing boats that can only “catch” websites that are close to the surface. Everything else, from academic journals to private databases to more illegal content, is out of reach. This Deep Web also includes the part we know as the Dark Web .

While many media outlets use the terms "Deep Web" and "Dark Web" interchangeably, much of the Deep Web as a whole is perfectly legal and secure. Some of the most important parts of the Deep Web include the following:

  • Databases: Collections of protected public and private files that are not connected to other areas of the web, but that can be viewed in the database itself.

  • Intranets: Internal networks of companies, governments and educational institutions used to communicate and control certain things privately within their organizations.

In case you were wondering how to access the deep web, chances are you are already using it on a daily basis. The term "deep web" refers to all web pages that are not detectable by search engines. Deep web sites can be hidden behind passwords or other security walls, while others simply tell search engines not to “crawl” them. Without visible links, these pages are better hidden for various reasons.

The “hidden” content of the deep web is generally more qualitative and more secure. Whether it's blog posts to review, web pages to rethink, or the pages you access when banking online, all of these resources are part of the deep web. Furthermore, these pages do not pose any threat to your computer or to your security in general. Most of these pages are hidden from the visible web to protect user information and privacy, for example:

  • Financial accounts like bank accounts and retirement accounts

  • Email and social messaging accounts

  • Private databases of companies

  • Sensitive HIPAA information, such as medical documents

  • Legal files

By venturing further into the Deep Web, we expose ourselves a little more to danger. For some users, there are parts of the deep web that allow you to bypass local restrictions and access TV services or movies that may not be available in their area. For others, these places offer the possibility of downloading pirated music or stealing movies that have not yet been released in theaters.

On the Dark Web, you will find the most dangerous content and activities. Tor websites are located at this end of the deep web, known as the "Dark Web". These sites can only be accessed by an anonymous browser.

The security of the Deep Web is more important to the average Internet user than the security of the Dark Web, because you could find yourself in dangerous areas by accident: many parts of the Deep Web are still accessible in ordinary Internet browsers. This is how users can take rather winding paths and find themselves on a hacking site or a politically extremist forum, or even come across disturbingly violent content.

The Dark Web

The Dark Web refers to sites that are not indexed and can only be accessed by specially designed web browsers. Much smaller than the tiny surface web, the Dark Web is considered part of the deep web. Based on our illustration of the ocean and icebergs, the Dark Web would be the bottom part of the submerged iceberg.

The Dark Web, on the other hand, is a very hidden part of the Deep Web that few people will interact with or find out about. Simply put, the Deep Web covers everything below the surface that remains accessible using the appropriate software, including the Dark Web.

An analysis of the construction of the Dark Web reveals a few key layers that make it a haven of anonymity:

  • No indexing of web pages by surface web search engines. Google and other popular search tools cannot detect or display results from pages on the Dark Web.

  • Presence of “virtual traffic tunnels” via a randomized network infrastructure.

  • Inaccessible by traditional browsers due to its unique registry operator. In addition, it is further hidden by various network security measures, such as firewalls and encryption.

The reputation of the Dark Web has often been linked to criminal intent or illegal content and "merchant" sites where users can purchase illicit goods or services. However, legal parties have also made use of this infrastructure.

When it comes to security, the dangers of the Deep Web are very different from those of the Dark Web. It is not necessarily easy to come across illegal cyber activity , but it tends to be much more dangerous and threatening if you discover it. Before revealing the threats related to the Dark Web, let's take a look at how and why users access these sites.


How to access the Dark Web

The Dark Web was once a lair for hackers, law enforcement personnel and cybercriminals. However, thanks to new technologies, such as encryption and the anonymous Tor browser, it is now possible to dive into it if desired.

The Tor Network Browser (“The Onion Routing” project) allows users to visit websites with the “.onion” registry operator. This navigator is a service initially designed in the late 1990s by the US Navy research laboratory.

Recognizing that the nature of the Internet implies a lack of privacy, the Navy created an early version of Tor to conceal spy communications. Eventually, the infrastructure was redefined and has since been made public in the form of the browser we know today. Anyone can download it for free.

Tor is sort of a web browser like Google Chrome or Firefox. This is because instead of taking the most direct route between your computer and the deep parts of the web, Tor browser uses a random path made up of encrypted servers known as "nodes". This allows users to connect to the deep web without worrying about their actions being tracked or their browser history being leaked.

Sites on the deep web also use Tor (or similar software such as I2P, also known as the "Invisible Internet Project") to maintain their anonymity. In other words, you won't be able to find out who is using them or who is hosting them.

Is it illegal to access the Dark Web?

To put it simply, no, it is not illegal to access the Dark Web. In fact, certain uses are perfectly legal and underline the merits of the "Dark Web". Dark Web users can derive three distinct advantages:

  • User anonymity

  • Virtually untraceable services and sites

  • Possibility of taking illegal actions by both users and providers

Thus, the Dark Web has attracted many people who would otherwise be threatened by disclosing their identities online. Among the frequent users of these hidden sites are victims of abuse and persecution, whistleblowers and political dissidents. However, these advantages can of course be easily extended to those who wish to act beyond the constraints imposed by the laws, by other explicitly illegal means.

Seen in this light, the legality of the Dark Web depends on how you use it as a user. You could find yourself on the margins of the law for many reasons that are important from the point of view of the protection of liberty. Others may act illegally to ensure the protection and safety of others. Let’s analyze these two concepts in the context of the “dark web browser” and the websites themselves.

Is the use of Tor illegal?

With respect to the software, the use of Tor and other anonymous browsers is not strictly illegal. In fact, these so-called "hidden web" browsers are not exclusively related to this part of the Internet. Today, many users use Tor to browse both the public internet and the deeper parts of the web privately.

The privacy offered by Tor Browser is important in today's digital age. Businesses and governing bodies are currently engaged in unauthorized monitoring of online activities. Some people just don't want government agencies or even Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to know what they're looking for online, while others don't really have a choice. Users in countries with strict access and use laws often cannot access even public sites, unless they are using Tor clients and virtual private networks (VPNs).

However, it is still possible to take illegal actions in Tor that could incriminate you, regardless of the legality of the browser. You could very well use Tor to attempt to hack copyrighted content on the Deep Web, share illegal pornography, or participate in cyber terrorism. Using a legal browser will not put your actions on the right side of the law.

Are using and visiting sites on the Dark Web illegal?

When it comes to the network, the Dark Web is a bit more blurry. Using the Dark Web generally means that you are attempting to participate in an activity that you might not otherwise be able to conduct in public view.

Political opponents and other activists may fear a backlash if their true identity is discovered. People who have suffered harm from third parties may not want their abusers to find out about their conversations about the event. If an activity is deemed illegal by the governing bodies on which you depend, then it will be illegal.

That said, there is a dark side to anonymity as criminals and malicious hackers also prefer to operate in the shadows. For example, cyber attacks and trafficking are incriminating activities, and participants know it well. This is the reason why they carry out these actions on the Dark Web.

In the end, just browsing these spaces isn't illegal, but may be a problem for you. While browsing is not illegal as a whole, questionable activity can be found in many parts of the Dark Web. It can put you at unnecessary risk if you are not careful or if you are not a knowledgeable user and aware of existing threats. So what is the Dark Web for when it is used to conduct illegal activities?

Types of threats on the dark web

If you are considering using the Dark Web for privacy reasons, you may be wondering, "Is using the Dark Web dangerous?" Unfortunately, this place can be very dangerous. Below are some common threats you may encounter during your browsing sessions:


Malware is indeed present on the Dark Web. They are often offered in certain portals to provide threat actors with the tools necessary to launch cyber attacks. However, they are also found all over the Dark Web, and they infect unsuspecting users, just as they do on the rest of the Web.

The Dark Web doesn't have as many social contracts that website providers adhere to to protect users on the rest of the web. Thus, users may regularly find themselves exposed to certain types of malware, for example:

  • Keystroke Loggers

  • Botnet-type malware

  • Ransomware

  • Phishing malware

If you choose to continue crawling the sites of the Dark Web, you risk being caught and targeted by hackers, among others. Most malware infections can be detected by your endpoint security programs .

Threats related to online browsing can spread to the offline world if your computer or network connection can be hacked. Anonymity works with Tor and the Dark Web infrastructure, but it's not foolproof. Any online activity can leave traces of who you are if someone digs deep enough.

Government oversight

Since many sites using Tor are controlled by law enforcement agencies around the world, the danger of becoming the target of governments for simply visiting a Dark Web site is very real.

Illegal drug markets, such as Silk Road , have in the past been hijacked for police surveillance. Using custom software to infiltrate and analyze activity, law enforcement officials were able to uncover the identities of users, whether they were bosses or simple visitors. Even if you don't make any purchases, you could be watched and blamed for other activities later in your life.

Infiltrations can also put you at risk of being watched for other types of activities. In some countries, evading government restrictions to discover new political ideologies may constitute an offense punishable by imprisonment. China uses what is called the "Great Firewall", which limits access to popular sites for this very reason. The risk associated with visiting this type of content could result in the visitor being placed on a watch list or an immediate jail sentence.


Some services purporting to be offered by professional "contract killers" may be nothing more than scams intended to take advantage of potential clients. According to some reports, the Hidden Web offers many illegal services, ranging from paid assassinations to sex trafficking and arms trafficking.

Some of them are well-known and well-established threats circulating in this corner of the web. However, others can take advantage of the Dark Web's reputation to deceive users and extract large sums of money from them. Additionally, some Dark Web users may attempt to mount phishing scams to steal your identity or personal information for extortion purposes.

End user protection against exploitation by the Dark Web

Whether you are a business, a parent, or any other web user, you must take precautions to prevent your information and privacy from being disclosed on the Dark Web.

Monitoring identity theft is essential if you want to prevent your personal information from being misused. All types of personal data can be disseminated online for profit. Passwords, physical addresses, bank account numbers, and social security numbers are constantly circulating the Dark Web. You may already know that malicious actors can use them to damage your borrowing capacity, commit financial theft, and hack your other online accounts. Personal data leaks can also damage your reputation through social fraud.

Anti-malware and virus protection are just as important in preventing malicious actors from exploiting you. The Dark Web is filled with information stolen from users infected with malware. Attackers can use tools, such as keyloggers, to collect your data, and they can infiltrate your system from any part of the web. Endpoint security programs, such as Kaspersky Security Cloud , are comprehensive and encompass both identity monitoring and anti-virus defenses.

How to access the Dark Web safely?

If you have a legitimate or viable need to access the Dark Web, it's important to make sure you're protected if you decide to use it.

7 tips for securely accessing the Dark Web

  1. Trust your intuition. To avoid getting scammed, you should protect yourself by behaving smartly on the web. Not all people are who they say they are. To stay safe, you need to be careful about who you're talking to and what sites you visit. You should always take steps to remove yourself from a situation if something doesn't feel right.

  2. Distinguish between your character online and real life. Your username, email address, "real name", password, and even your credit card should never be used anywhere else in your life. If necessary, create brand new disposable accounts and credentials. Obtain prepaid, unidentifiable debit cards before making purchases. Do not use any information that could be used to identify you, either online or in real life.

  3. Actively monitor identity theft and financial theft. Many online security services now offer identity protection for your safety. Be sure to take advantage of these tools if they are available to you.

  4. Explicitly avoid file downloads from the Dark Web. The risk of malware infection is significantly higher in this lawless territory of the Dark Web. If you choose to download a file, you can use an antivirus program to scan it in real time.

  5. Disable ActiveX and Java in all available network settings. These structures are known to be explored and exploited by malicious parties. Since you are browsing a network filled with threats like this, you will want to avoid this risk.

  6. Use a non-administrator secondary local user account for all day-to-day activities. The native account on most computers will have full administrative permissions by default. Most malware needs it in order to work. Thus, you can slow down or stop the progress of the exploitation by limiting the use of the account to strict privileges.

Always limit access to your device using Tor. 

Protect your children or other family members so that they don't risk stumbling upon content that no one should ever see. Visit the Deep Web if you're interested in it, but don't let kids access it.