Most marketers say the best place to hide a dead body is on page two of Google. I disagree. There’s a darker digital graveyard. It’s called the deep web, a place where Google can’t find anything.
The terms “deep web” and “dark web” are often used interchangeably, they’re not the same thing, though. The dark web is technically a tiny sliver of the deep web, making up 0.01% of it. But the horror stories you hear about the dark web don’t actually happen on the deep web.
What Is Deep Web?
Most of us actually access the deep web every day, whether it’s by logging on to Facebook or checking our email.
The deep web is made up of content that cannot be indexed by search engines; this includes material that is accessible only behind log-in pages. Or on sites that have restricted or blocked search engines from indexing their contents. When you log into your bank account, or your social media accounts, the content that is available to you as a registered user is the deep web.
In short, the deep web describes everything from your online banking portal to your electronic healthcare records to your workplace’s intranet. You don’t need a special browser or a VPN to access the deep web. Just any old browser and an internet connection will do. Far from being illicit, the deep web is deeply boring. It’s a catch-all term for the millions of pages of password-protected internet that most of us access on a daily basis.
Criminal activity still happens on the deep web. Such as phishing scams where criminals try to lure you to password-encrypted websites. They do it in order to steal your bank account details or other personal information.
Deep Web vs. Dark Web
The Dark Web is effectively a subset of the Deep Web. Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, this isn’t correct.
While any online information that hasn’t been indexed by search engines is part of the Deep Web, only the online information that is intentionally hidden from search engines qualifies as the Dark Web.
Those using the Dark Web are taking advantage of the secrecy. They do this in order to buy items or share information that they don’t want anyone knowing they’re buying or sharing. Weapons, drugs, and sex are all included.
Think of it this way: If you’re on the Deep Web, you’re exploring the wild west of the internet. If you move into the Dark Web, you’re choosing to walk into the bandit’s den in the outskirts of town.
Not So Hidden, After All
Since it’s designed to be hidden, the Dark Web is actually easier to identify than the disparate elements that make up the Deep Web. Dark Web users often host their sites on the “.onion” domain rather than the “.com” one, as this domain is only accessible through a Tor browser. Tor is short for “The onion router”.
Those who strongly value their anonymity might use Tor even if their activities are legal. Because companies can’t track the location or network of a Tor user. The NSA likely keeps a database on anyone who has downloaded Tor, however. So the Dark Web might not be as secure as its inhabitants hoped for.
Unlike the Deep Web, the Dark Web is fairly small, and likely just a 30 or 40 thousand sites. More criminal activity happens on the rest of the internet than on the Dark Web. Simply because the regular internet has billions of users.
How the Deep Web Works
There are a few different reasons why a page or the data it holds might not be indexed by a search engine.
- It intentionally doesn’t use a http:// or https:// protocol, opting for a non-standard protocol, such as a .onion domain.
- Being password-protected — this includes subscription services, private social media accounts, and everyone’s Gmail inbox.
- It is hidden behind a CAPTCHA or similar machine-input filter.
- It simply hasn’t been linked to by any other online page.
- The data is only accessible through a database query.
Deep Web Databases
The last possibility is why the Deep Web holds so much potential. The raw, unlinked information found in online databases is part of the Deep Web. Visitors must type a keyword into a search function to find the information they want. And the page’s hyperlink remains the same even while its portal delivers the right results.
In other words, thousands of databases on the internet — all of which are free to access — can’t be found by Google or Bing.
The Social Security Administration’s baby name database is an example of information that can be searched within the portal, but isn’t available on its own link. As a result, you can easily learn that 8,705 U.S. babies were named “William” in 1888, but Google can’t index this fact.
Useful databases that commonly escape search engines’ notice include census data, patient lists, insurance information, and scientific papers.
Why You Should Avoid the Deep Web?
1. There’s Nothing Good There
You might think of the Deep Web as this treasure trove of secrets that are just waiting to be uncovered, but really, it’s not. Most of the Deep Web is heavily encrypted to keep hackers out. So if you’re expecting to just stumble onto a top-secret government project or even just a politician’s naughty e-mails, you’re going to be very disappointed.
The closest you’ll ever get are the Dox sites, where the information of celebrities such as their address, social security number, etc. has been posted. But if you even manage to find a Dox site that’s still functional, the information you find will almost always be outdated by at least a few years. Sure, there’s also plenty of torrent sites and other pirate treasures. But you can easily find those on the surface web if you’re so inclined.
2. There’s Plenty of Bad, Though
As a general rule of thumb, if something is on the deep web, chances are it has a very good reason why it’s there. Usually, the reason is because it’s highly illegal. We’re talking child pornography, drugs, hitmen for hire, even alleged snuff videos. This is stuff that you do NOT want to see, ever.
Most of us would prefer to stay as far away from it for personal reasons. But if for some reason that doesn’t deter you, those things are also very illegal. Just viewing child pornography is a crime. So even if you accidentally stumbled upon it or checked it out for curiosity’s sake rather than for sexual gratification you’re technically committing a crime that can label you as a sexual predator. So just don’t risk it.
3. It’s Very, Very Unsafe
The people who dwell on the deep web do illegal stuff. That’s kind of their forte. They’re definitely not above luring newcomers to a site and promising them this awesome hacking tool, only to covertly install a virus to your site alongside it. Next thing you know your credit card has $4,000 in drug purchases charged on it and you’re dragged by an FBI agent for interrogation. It’s just not worth it.
But believe it or not, your money being stolen or getting a nasty virus on your system is one of the least bad things that can happen to you there. You can suffer from identity theft, which can absolutely destroy your life.
Literally the last thing you want is a fugitive from the wall using your name and information in order to evade the authorities. And God help you if you happen to piss off a denizen of the deep web.
While this is hear-say, a popular story narrates a man’s experience with a site dedicated to live-streaming the murders of real people, usually homeless men and runaways. The man called out the people on the website for being the psychopaths that they are, and within moments received a private message with his name and address. Impossible? Not entirely. Every computer has its own unique IP and MAC address. And with the right connections you can easily find out the personal information of a certain user by the ISP they are registered at. And even without connections anyone, even you and me, can pinpoint an approximate location based on nothing but the IP address. So don’t take that chance.
It’s not illegal to visit either the deep or dark web. But you should be aware that the government has taken an interest in those who use Tor or even a VPN. Even if your specific activities on the dark web might remain hidden, the fact that you’re going there using Tor is not. That alone could be enough to draw the FBI’s attention. Consider yourself warned.
If you’re worried about data loss or corruption on the dark web, check out how a VPN can help. Do you have stories to tell about the deep or dark web? Please share them in the comments below. Thanks for reading our article.