Understanding The Web: Dark Web, Deep Web and Clear Web

Did you know that everything that you can find on traditional search engines (such as Google, Firefox and IE) accounts for only 4% of the Clear Web?


The Deep and Dark Webs are estimated to be over 500x the size of the Clear Web.

The Internet is loosely classified into three regions; Clear Web, Deep Web and Dark Web.


ice berg depicting the difference between dark web and clear web

Clear Web

The Clear Web, also known as the Public or Surface Web is the region of the Internet that most people are familiar with. These are the publicly accessible web pages that are largely indexed on search engines such as Google or Internet Explorer. These web sites can be easily found through a search query within any search engine.

Deep Web

The Deep Web refers to an unindexed section of the web not readily accessed through any conventional search engine such as Google or Internet Explorer. The deep web holds the content that’s invisible to search engines such as the contents of your personal email and social media accounts, data that companies store on their private databases, content contained within scientific and academic databases, medical records and legal documents.

Dark Web

The Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web, and is intentionally hidden and/or made inaccessible through standard browsers or requires specific configuration to access through the standard browsers. Since search engines cannot index the sites, it is not possible to show these sites as search results. There is a high degree of anonymity and it is therefore predominantly used by activists, researchers, whistle-blowers and criminals.



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What’s on the Dark Web?

The Dark Web operates with a high degree of anonymity. It hosts harmless activities and content as well as criminal ones. For instance, the Dark Web might include a site that provides complex riddles. Another might be a kind of book club that makes eBooks look more professional. Yet another might offer a forum for people who believe free speech is threatened. However, the Dark Web is better known for illegal and often disturbing content. Content contained within the Dark Web includes (but is not limited to):

Stolen Information

Following a data breach, there’s a high probability that the accessed information, from Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to Medicare or credit card details will end up for sale or trade on the Dark Web. You can also buy things like log-in credentials, hacked Netflix accounts and much more.

Illicit substances

Illegal and prescription drugs are peddled on the Dark Web. You might also find toxic chemicals that can cause other types of damage.

Disturbing and dangerous items and services

It can get ugly fast on the Dark Web. Things like firearms, counterfeit goods, gore, body parts, murderers-for-hire, human trafficking, child pornography, terrorist training material can be found for sale or trade on the Dark Web.

In short, you can buy just about anything you can imagine, including things you would probably be better off not imagining. Financial transactions are completed using various forms of cryptocurrency, which also assures the buyers and sellers anonymity.

Is the Dark Web safe?

The Dark Web may be safe in some cases, think legitimate content, but not in others. Here are a few safety issues to consider.

Criminal Element

There’s a chance you will find websites operated by criminal syndicates. Beyond selling illegal goods and services, they may seek to exploit you and steal from you.

Breaking The Law

You can be prosecuted for things you do on the Dark Web. It’s important to behave in an appropriate and legal manner.

Booby-Traps and Suspicious Links

The Dark Web is full of booby-traps designed to catch law enforcement, intelligence agencies and inquisitive investigators. There are also numerous malicious links that may take you to material you might not wish to see and may actually be illegal. It’s also possible that clicking a link or downloading a file could infect your device with malware.

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officials operate on the dark web to catch people engaged in criminal activity. Like others on the Dark Web, law enforcement can do their work under a cloak of anonymity.

How Do I Mitigate Risk on the Dark Web?

The best protection is to simply not venture into the Dark Web. However, if you do give in to curiosity below are some guidelines:
  • Remember to be smart.
  • Never use your work or personal device to access the Dark Web.
  • Ensure your device has strong cybersecurity.
  • Use a VPN.
  • Be selective about the sites you access.
In addition, only use a device that has no information contained on it and can be easily wiped if infected.

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