What’s The Difference Between Dark Web, Deep Web, and our Normal Web?
A few weeks back we heard the news about how the Zoom accounts were being sold on the Hacker Forums on the dark web. While many of you would have understood the news but some of you may be baffled at the terms like hacker forums on the dark web. What is the dark web? How does it operate? Who runs the dark web? These are some of the questions that the stories like these are bound to raise. To understand the dark web, we need to understand the history of the Internet.
So let’s dive deep into the background of the Internet and seek answers to the above basic questions about Dark Web, Deep Web, and normal Surface Web.
History of the Internet:
It is quite important to learn about why certain terms came into existence. A little history lesson to help us understand the origins of these terms. The first thing to know as a layman is that the internet and the web, are two different entities. The Internet was created by the United States military branch, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) in 1960s. DARPA is quite famous for making strides in science related to the military. The Internet was a similar exercise for the military to communicate. It was then called the ARPANET. With the DARPA’s Internet came emails and message boards which existed even before our normal surface web was born.
The World Wide Web or www as we know it was developed nearly 3 decades later at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), the particle physics research lab near Geneva, Switzerland. The web consists of HTML and HTTP protocols that are used by browsers to communicate with servers. This web – that was initially created to enable particle physicists to share data sets – runs on top of the internet in the same way that voice gets transmitted over phone lines.
The Normal Surface Web
The normal surface web is the same as the surface of the ocean. The part of the sea which we can see and hear. Similarly, the normal surface web can be seen and heard normally through browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.
The normal web has been part of the World Wide Web ecosystem right since the first browser was invented. The first web browser was called WorldWideWeb (no spaces) and later renamed Nexus. A browser is typically a search engine that brings the part of the web you access when you read an article on a news site, buy something from Amazon or watch a cat video on YouTube.
The normal surface web only makes up only 5% of the entire worldwide web architecture. The Deep Web is generally considered to be anywhere between 500 to 5000 times larger. So you can imagine the numbers that we are talking about. The normal web consumes roughly twenty terabytes (TB) of data compared to 7,500 terabytes (TB) of the dark web.
The Deep web is what is directly below the ocean surface. It contains data that cannot be discovered by our search engines like Google. This data is publicly available and accessible but you need credentials to access this data. A common example of the deep web would be your bank servers. The bank servers exist overground but you as a consumer can’t access it without a user id/password.
Similarly, nearly all governments and organizations have their own Intranet services which require special access credentials. This is the part of the web that contains our birth records, medical records, financial records, social security records, and plenty of important information that can’t be accessible by Google Search.
As said above, the Dark Web is the ocean floor. You need specialized training and equipment to go to such depths under the sea. Similarly, to visit the Dark Web, you need special kinds of browsers that are not ordinarily available. The simple explanation of the Dark Web is the part of world wide web which is not available through normal web browsers.
The Dark Web was created by US Military Researchers in the 90’s for military communications. It is still operated and funded largely by the United States military to help dissidents and journalists around the world to share data and news.
The Dark Web is accessible only with a browser called ” The Onion Router ” or TOR. The name comes after the peels of the onion. The innermost onion peel has no connection with the outermost peel. A similar technique is used in TOR where the originating request computer does not know the address or whereabouts of the ultimate computer which has the answers. It operates through application layer encryption within a communication protocol stack thus segregating each encrypted layer from another.
The dark web has a very negative ring attached to it. When people think of the dark web, they normally think of drugs, gunrunning, prostitution, and hacking. But the dark web is much more than that. It provides a gateway to citizens of rogue nations like North Korea to share information and news. It also helps people escape censorship in countries like China, Russia, and Cuba. Many rebel groups hold their meetings and exchange notes on the dark web. Dissidents, artists escaping imprisonment, and journalists are prime users of the dark web.
It has its fair share of criminals. Hackers use it to sell exploits, stolen credentials, drug mafia uses it to sell drugs, and criminals use it for selling guns and for prostitution. The Bitcoin has made it that much easier for such criminal elements to use the dark web to sell their sin goods. However, the authorities from time to time take down such hacker forums and market places to make the dark web a safer place.