What Exactly Is the Dark Web and Why Does It Matter?
You’ve invested time and resources into strengthening your department’s cyber defenses against things like phishing scams, ransomware attacks, and storage vulnerabilities, but what about those threats you can’t see? Beneath the internet you use every day lies a larger, less regulated platform — the dark web.
Dark Web Definition
The internet you use daily is powered by search engines and webpage indexing. The dark web is another side of the internet where all data is encrypted and there is no webpage indexing, which is why you won’t find a dark web search result with a regular Google search.
It’s undiscoverable on purpose, and the privacy and anonymity of the dark web is its appeal. It can only be accessed through special software and web browsers, such as Tor Browser. While you’ll likely find the same webpages you frequent here, you’ll also find an immeasurable number of unregulated marketplaces, forums, and file-sharing networks.
As you can imagine, this level of secrecy fosters cybercrimes and other criminal acts. Your company or department should be concerned about the dark web and what type of information is out there regarding sensitive employee, company, or client data.
Why Does the Dark Web Exist?
The dark web isn’t all nefarious — in fact, it can be a powerful tool for researchers, journalists, and individuals who want to protect their browsing habits and personal information from monitoring or tracking. Like most things, there are right and wrong ways to use it.
Who Created the Dark Web?
Much like the open web you’re using now, the dark web happened naturally, then evolved into a more complex entity over time. Secretive sites were initially used for security and protection purposes but soon grew into a more seedy underbelly of web browsing. Internet-savvy users started experimenting with things like illegal file sharing.
David Goldschlag, Mike Reed, Paul Syverson, Roger Dingledine, and Nick Mathewson had a background from the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) education. They began working on The Onion Router, now called Tor, to create an entirely private way to experience the web. Once the Tor web browser became accessible to the common web user in the 2000s, the dark web grew into a popular alternative to monitored, traceable browsing.
What Is the Dark Web Used For?
There are several legitimate and legal reasons to use the dark web that have nothing to do with criminal activity. It’s the place to go for anonymous browsing, ideal for accessing research information without excessive paywalls, reading hard-to-find texts, and accessing new forums or social media websites. For those living in regions where the internet is highly policed, the untraceable anonymity of the dark web might be the only way to access information and connect with others.
The illegal side of the dark web is what many think of when they hear the term. Many parts of the dark web — like the Silk Road, an unregulated marketplace — exist to cater toward illicit and illegal activities, like forgery, weaponry, drugs, identity theft, malicious software, counterfeiting, and hacking. Hackers and cybercriminals use the dark web to buy and sell personal information and intellectual property (IP). Some sites are even associated with more horrendous criminal acts, like murder and abuse. Purchases are typically made with cryptocurrency, adding to the anonymous nature of the sale.
As a company owner or department manager, you don’t want to find your organization mentioned on these websites. It could mean you’re at risk for a cyberattack or data breach or that private information has been bought or sold for criminal activity.
Dark Web vs. Deep Web vs. Darknet vs. Regular Web
If you’re somewhat familiar with IT and cyber terminology, you’ve probably heard words like “dark web,” “darknet,” and “deep web” used interchangeably. Though they sound similar, there are some key differences to know:
- Dark web: The dark web is what we’ve discussed here — an unregulated, private side of the internet that you can access through an anonymous browser for browsing, buying, and more. “Darknet” is another name for the dark web, typically used as a proper noun.
- Deep web: The deep web — also called the invisible or hidden web — is not the same as the dark web. It refers to the parts of the internet that you can’t access through traditional search methods, like a Google search. This includes non-indexed pages, private organization databases, and fee-for-service (FFS) sites. It’s a broad term that also encompasses the dark web. The deep web is one option for accessing searchable databases, guides, directories, research centers, think tanks, and scholarly publications with fewer limits to accessibility.
- Regular web: The regular web — also called the open web, surface web, visible web, or indexed web — is the common internet you’re likely using now. It includes search engines, social media, news sites, web stores, viewable content, and more. Many parts of the regular web are regulated according to your local laws or specific webpage restrictions. On the regular web, sometimes your information is collected and used for advertisement targeting and to improve your user experience.
Is It Legal to Surf the Dark Web?
The act of accessing and browsing the dark web is not illegal. Think of it like walking in the shadows — it’s a place of secrecy and anonymity to research and conduct yourself without monitoring, but also a place that can easily harbor and attract criminal activity. The legality of the situation depends entirely on what you’re using the dark web for. You’re still subject to all local, state, and federal laws, no matter where you’re accessing the information from. Law enforcement professionals are also aware of illegal platforms.
Practice caution if you plan to use the dark web, and never download unverifiable files. Limit how much information you put onto the internet and bolster your security with things like VPNs and antivirus software. Do not permit any webpage or account to access your computer’s administrative privileges, and be wary of any purchases made on unregulated markets.
Worried About the Dark Web? We Can Help.
The internet is an ever-changing, multifaceted place. The parts you use and see daily are far from the web’s entirety — there are endless ways to access, collect, and use information, including the deep web and dark web. At Consolidated Technologies, Inc., we know firsthand how quickly technology and the internet change. That’s why we’re here to help with cutting-edge technology and a proven track record of security innovation.
Get your free copy of What Is A Dark Web Scan? and learn more about what Consolidated Technologies, Inc. can do for you today.