You only have direct access to 4% of the World Wide Web. The other 96% is called the Deep Web, and within it are the sinister confines of what is called the Dark Web.
What if I told you that there is another “web” out there that you have never seen? Or that the publicly available World Wide Web is only 4% of what’s really out there? It’s a revelation, to be sure, like learning that planet earth is only one of nine others in our solar system. The truth is that a more sinister online region exists, and it’s called the Dark Web.
The web we know
The World Wide Web has been such an indispensable part of life for more than two decades, it’s hard to re-imagine the puny world we lived in before every possible answer to every conceivable question was just a few keystrokes away.
In the time it takes to turn one page of an aging volume of Encyclopedia Britannica, millions of possible web pages are discovered, sorted, and condensed by search engines like Google, all listed in order of decreasing relevance from top to the bottom, all ripe for the clicking.
This is the world we have grown to love and expect—instant gratification, where there is no longer any excuse for not knowing everything.
The Public Web, the Deep Web, and the Dark Web
What many people don’t realize, is that there are really two levels to the World Wide Web, each defined by their mode of access and common purpose. The Public or Surface Web is what we use every day, but the Deep Web is bulk of the World Wide Web, the 96% that is hidden under the surface of the iceberg.
Unless suppressed by individual governments, The Public Web is freely available to all through internet browsers like Google Chrome, Safari, and Firefox, then indexed by search engines with the familiar Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Most of the Deep Web is more secretive than sinister. Websites on the Deep Web are not indexed by search engines and exist in this space because the owners don’t want public access. It’s often used legitimately by internal company websites, online databases, or member-only websites.
The dark web is where the bad guys lurk
The Dark Web is a much smaller subset of the Deep Web—a tiny fraction of the total World Wide Web—and this is where the bad actors hang out. Websites that deal in weapons, drugs, child pornography, human trafficking, and the sale of personal information from data breaches and hacks can all be found here. WikiLeaks? Yes, this is their hidden lair, too.
Players in the world of the Dark Web remain anonymous because they use masking software like Tor that hides their identities and location. This type of specialized web browser is necessary to access the inner sanctum of the Dark Web and because of its design, makes the IP address of a criminal’s individual computer impossible to trace.
Oftentimes, pirated information that like that obtained from the September 7 Equifax breech comes bundled in a package with a name, Social Security number, birth date, address, and account numbers, all handily formatted in an Excel spreadsheet—a prepackaged prize for a criminal to waste no time putting it to “good” use.
Vigilance is the key keep your data off the Dark Web
As Ellen Sirull writes in an excellent post on Experian.com,
“There’s no fail-proof way to keep your information off the dark web because hackers are always trying the latest new thing to get your information and sell it to those looking to pay for it, but you can be vigilant about looking for red flags that your identity is in the hands of someone else.”
With all of the security breaches that have occurred in the past several years, from Target to Yahoo to Equifax, it is safe to assume that much of our personal information is already circulating through the seedy arteries of the Dark Web.
None of us will ever get our personal data back, so it’s up to us to “ride herd” on all of our accounts and look for irregularities, including a check of our credit reports. By law, your are entitled to one free credit report from Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian each year.
Our lives are now irrevocably chained to the exploding world of technology and the boundless expanse of the internet, and this presents an entirely new ecosystem for hackers, thieves, and opportunists to test your vulnerabilities every minute of every day. We created Secure the Beast to help you understand the threats and provide you with the information you need to stay ahead of the beast.
Kim Stone was a horticulturist, writer, and editor of several publications for the University of Arizona at Boyce Thompson Arboretum over the better part of three decades. He is now happily self-absorbed in freelance writing, travel, and content marketing.