What Is the Dark Web? Everything You Need to Know
Did you know that more than 90% of the internet is unseen? That’s right. The search engines you and your employees use daily only display a small amount of what’s out there. That’s because most online content is hidden within the Deep Web—and more worryingly, the Dark Web.
You may have heard of these phrases already. But not every business knows how the Dark Web works, what risks it presents, or what consequences there are if your company’s information finds its way into the depths of the internet. So, let’s discuss what you need to know.
What is the Dark Web?
Well, the Dark Web is a place for all things hidden. By that, we mean sites that aren’t accessible by your browsers like Chrome and Bing.
Inside the Dark Web is a hidden network of websites that include legitimate and illegitimate content. The reason it holds both types of information is because the Dark Web hides your identity when online, allowing almost anyone to publish and distribute content as they please without disclosing their information.
To access the Dark Web, you need a special browser with anonymity features. Since these features mask your IP address (a tell-tale sign of your location) and scramble your online traffic, no one can see which sites you visit. Essentially, you’re untraceable when you use the Dark Web.
Surface Web, Dark Web, and Deep Web — What’s the difference?
Are the Deep Web and Dark Web the same thing? And what about the Surface Web?
They’re all different, although the Dark Web forms part of the Deep Web. Let’s look at each one individually.
The Surface Web includes anything you can access through a regular search engine or browser. It’s often referred to as the Open Web because it has publicly available websites accessed by anyone. Your company’s website or blog are both examples of the Surface Web.
The Deep Web includes websites hidden behind paywalls or logins—essentially, any restricted content only accessible by authorised individuals. For example, your business email accounts, intranet, company financials, and confidential data accessed with logins and passwords.
However, while this information is already protected, without the proper cybersecurity measures, hackers can easily bypass firewalls to access data about your business.
Here’s where things get a little tricky. The Dark Web makes up a small portion of the Deep Web, but it’s different in that it relies on darknets requiring specialised browsers or software to gain access.
For instance, you couldn’t simply type in a URL to head over to the Dark Web as you could with your intranet held in the Deep Web. Aside from the fact the URLs are incredibly complicated and challenging to remember, the Dark Web doesn’t function in this way.
Like the Deep Web, it includes restricted content that isn’t indexed by regular search engines. However, this part of the internet isn’t regulated. Consequently, it contains illegal marketplaces, piracy websites, offensive forums, and stolen personal details.
Why does the Dark Web exist?
The exact details of who created the Dark Web are unknown, but it’s thought to have evolved from the Tor Browser—a tool that enables individuals to surf the web anonymously.
Originally, the browser allowed individuals to engage in private communications without the risk of the user’s identity being shared.
However, as Tor became more mainstream, individuals began using the browser to share secretive (and potentially harmful) files and information without revealing their identity.
What is the Dark Web used for?
The Dark Web is used for many legitimate reasons and allows users to browse anonymously.
It’s also a powerful tool for journalists and researchers wanting to share and find information. Plus, the Dark Web helps people bypass geoblocks, so they can access libraries or social media sites in countries that ban usage.
However, the Dark Web is also a breeding ground for criminal activity. Many cybercrooks use it for illegal purposes, including selling and purchasing illegal goods, identity theft, hacking, fraud, downloading copyrighted material, and much more.
Worryingly, if cybercriminals steal details about your business or employees, they can sell them on the Dark Web without you knowing. That’s a scary thought. But did you know the Dark Web can be monitored?
At Fabric IT, we conduct in-depth Dark Web monitoring to immediately identify any compromised or stolen details, working with you to protect your company’s infrastructure and data from security breaches.
How does the Dark Web work?
The only way to get on the Dark Web is by using the Tor Browser (or The Onion Router).
This specialised browser masks your IP address by bouncing traffic through a series of nodes, encrypting it before reaching the destination. It sounds complicated, and it is.
When you access the internet through a regular browser, there’s a single line of traffic with an assigned IP address. The service can access your location and understand what you’re doing.
However, when using the Tor browser, there are multiple lines of traffic with several IP addresses—making it harder to uncover your identity. Using the Tor Browser also adds layers of encryption to internet traffic, which anonymises your online activity. No one can see what you’re searching for—that’s especially important when browsing through the Dark Web.
How big is the Dark Web?
So, just how much of the internet is the dark web?
Dark web domains change regularly, so it’s difficult to offer a definite number of available sites. However, most estimates place the size of the Dark Web at around 5% of the total available web.
Is it illegal to use the Dark Web?
If you’re wondering, ‘is the Dark Web illegal?’ The answer is no.
Browsing anonymously is legal. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. For example, some individuals use Tor to access Surface Web sites without fear of people monitoring their traffic, or to read news sites on the Dark Web.
However, the Dark Web is also used for many illicit activities, whether downloading copyrighted material or selling stolen credentials. Using the Dark Web in this way is, of course, a criminal offence.
What threats are on the Dark Web?
Although the Dark Web can be monitored to identify illegal information, it’s still a dangerous place to visit. Use the Dark Web, and you could stumble across harmful sites or malware that might threaten your systems.
Here are some of the most common risks:
Malware and ransomware
The Dark Web is littered with malicious software waiting to infect your device. Once installed onto your systems, ransomware and malware gives hackers control over your device, including free access to any data you hold.
If an employee used a work laptop to access the Dark Web and downloaded malicious software, that could have enormous consequences for your business’ data. In some cases, cyber crooks could access your organisation’s entire network.
Fraud and identity theft
Many individuals use the Dark Web to sell stolen credentials, including names, email addresses, bank details, and other PII data.
If your employees’ information finds its way onto the Dark Web, it’s easy for someone to steal their details and impersonate them. That can result in identity theft, fraud, money loss, public exposure, and other cyber attacks.
The Dark Web is a hotspot for criminal offences, which means many governments monitor Tor-based sites to crack down on illegal activity. It’s not uncommon for police and other legal officials to take over Dark Web websites, solely to seek out criminals and prosecute individuals.
When it comes to cybersecurity, businesses like yours can’t afford to take short cuts. At Fabric IT, we work with you to install effective cybersecurity measures, from phishing protection to Dark Web monitoring, ensuring you’re well-equipped to handle any security threats. Get in touch with the Fabric IT team today to find out more.