What is the difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web?

The dark web and Deep Web sound like scary places. The difference between the Deep Web and the dark web is often misunderstood. The truth is they are part of the same thing – the internet we use every day – yet they are entirely different. The term ‘deep web’ refers to anything that isn’t publicly available or searchable on the Internet. The ‘deep web’ includes things like your email for instance. It’s “deep” on the web because you need a password to get to it. If you didn’t anyone and their cat can’t just search up your email on Google and read your correspondence. Other things like medical records, academic papers, and records, paid-content, or even confidential corporate web pages are just a few more examples of what makes up the deep web.

The dark web on the other hand is a special suspect of the internet – arguably of the ‘deep web’ itself – that is intentionally hidden from search engines and standard browsers. You need a specific browser to get access to the dark web. A Tor browser to be exact.

A Tor browser is a special open-sourced browser project designed to relay traffic to sites anonymously. The browser does this by sending information encrypted within many layers and sending it over a volunteer network of many many relays. Incidentally, the layering of the inscription is where the term .onion comes from. The standard extension for a dark web website.

When I started digging into the dark web I was surprised to find that there isn’t just one but several search engines that operate on the dark web. Including – a search engine dedicated to your privacy that also operates on the surface web unlike other major search engines DuckDuckGo indexes .onion websites. No, you can’t access these sites just by searching on – you’ll still need the Tor browser and you’ll need to visit the DuckDuckGo dark web address – https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/

Large news organizations are hanging out on the dark web too. There’s a site called SecureDrop, described as a place where whistleblowers and journalists meet anonymously. This site inspired organizations like Forbes, and Reuters to set up their versions of anonymous .onion sites. Knowing this gives me hope for the media.

How does the Dark Web Work?

As mentioned the Tor browser sends your request under layers and layers of inscription – like an onion made of complicated math – through usually thousands of relays before reaching its destination – which is also encrypted. The packet containing the information you requested is sent back along with another set of relays and delivered back to you without revealing your identity or location to the server you accessed or any of the relays in between. Along with each relay, a layer of encryption is removed until it reaches its final destination (or ‘end point’). This allows people to communicate, research, and yes even conduct illegal activity anonymously. The onion relay is entirely secure but it’s arguable for full protection on the endpoint it might be reasonable to use a VPN.

How do I access the Dark Web?

Accessing a website on the dark web using the Tor browser is essentially the same as accessing a website via any other browser. The first and most important part is downloading the Tor browser. Once that’s done you can poke around and find some search engines on the regular internet and go from there. I will caution you on what you look at on the dark web. There is always the chance that you click on a dummy link and end up with something on your computer you don’t want, so just be mindful and don’t be a dick, you’ll be fine. 

Why the Dark Web is Important

The dark web is one of the last truly anonymous places on the internet. This has several benefits. As mentioned it allows whistleblowers to connect with credible journalists in an anonymous/safe way; it also allows people in Countries with censored internet access to access Facebook and speak freely. Please note I don’t recommend logging into your Facebook from a Tor browser ever unless you have to. It would obliterate any anonymity you had in the first place.

Should I Use a VPN to access the Dark Web?

No, and Yes, you don’t need to use a VPN as Tor browsing is by nature anonymous. That said, there are some things to consider where your privacy is concerned. When you use a Tor browser one of two entities will be aware you’re browsing with Tor. Without a VPN it will be obvious to the internet provider that you’re using Tor. With a VPN your Tor browser will be invisible to your internet provider but visible to your VPN provider. If you do choose to use a VPN with the Tor browser for an extra layer of security from your internet provider, remember to enable it before enabling your Tor browser, otherwise, you’ve just composed your privacy on both ends.


Anything else?

Yes, shut down everything else before opening the Tor browser. Then open your VPN should you choose to use one, then open Tor. Leaving other browsers and programs open can leave you open to security/privacy breaches. Close everything first. If you’re anything like me you reset your computer and turn the lights on and off seven times, for an added layer of security. 

Why The Dark Web is Important and Why You Should Use It

First off, if you’re using Tor and you’re not doing anything illegal, great. It’s a perfectly good browser and privacy is awesome (Have you signed up for our newsletter?). Don’t log in to Facebook, remember. Google either. Or YouTube… If you find yourself cursing around the dark web, don’t break any laws, don’t order opium, don’t click on any weird links, certainly don’t give anyone your credit card and you’ll be fine. Probably. More people are logging on to the net with the Tor browser all the time and In actuality, the more people that are using the dark web the more law-enforcement can stay anonymous and organize to take down the actual criminals, so accessing the dark web now and again is probably not even a bad idea. SAFELY! Remember everyone is anonymous, so I guess the more distractions out there the better?

The last note I’ll leave you with are some thoughts on the sovereignty of thought and expression. I’m incredibly lucky to live in a Country run by reasonable people that follow Science and logic – for the most part. Not everybody does. The dark web is by no means a sane place, a safe place, or even a bad place – it’s just a place – it’s a reflection of our real world more so maybe than the Internet we’re used to. It is a place where activists can organize, it’s a place where victims of crime can get help, and it’s a place where bitcoin is the standard currency, allowing for an open market of goods – legal and illegal – from around the world. Which is sort of cool. I could see that being a problem come tax time.






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