The layers of the dark web

The internet is a vast and intricate system of connected devices, servers, and websites, enabling us to access and share information online. But did you know the internet is not the same as the web?

The web has different layers that aren’t equally accessible or visible to everyone. 

Layers of the web

The web, or the World Wide Web (www), is a collection of web pages and other online content that can be accessed via a web browser using Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). The physical infrastructure connects all devices and networks using the web and other online services.

However, the web is not a static or uniform entity. It constantly evolves and expands with different layers of accessibility, visibility, and content. These layers are often depicted as icebergs, with the surface web as the visible tip and the deep and dark webs as the hidden parts.

The surface web

The surface web, also known as the “clear” or “visible” web, is what we’re most familiar with. It consists of all the web pages and content accessible by anyone using a standard web browser and a search engine like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

It is estimated that only 5% of internet content is on the surface web, and because search engines index the surface web, they can find and display pages based on keywords and queries. It’s where we find most of the information, entertainment, and services we use online.

This is also where cybercriminals and hackers can launch attacks to compromise businesses’ and individuals’ data and systems.

The deep web

The deep web, or the “invisible” or “hidden” web, is not indexed or searchable by ordinary search engines. It requires a login, password, specific URL, or special software to access. It’s an estimated 400 to 500 times larger than the surface web and holds a significant amount of data and content unavailable to the general public.

Examples of the deep web include:

  • Personal information: Email, social media profiles, banking and financial records, medical records, and cloud data

  • Academic and scientific databases: Journals, articles, books, and research papers

  • Government and legal records: Census data, court documents, and public records

  • Organisational and corporate data: Internal documents, reports, and databases

The deep web isn’t necessarily illegal or malicious. Most of the deep web is legitimate and valuable as it ensures privacy, security, and efficiency for users and owners of data and content. But like the surface web, it can be used for illicit and harmful purposes, like identity theft, fraud, espionage, and terrorism.

The dark web

A subset of the deep web, the dark web is intentionally hidden and inaccessible to standard web browsers and search engines. It requires special software enabling anonymous and encrypted communication and browsing. It’s often associated with criminal and illegal activities where users can buy and sell illicit goods.

But while many perceive it as malicious, not all activities are illegal. It’s also used by individuals who need to communicate securely and anonymously, like journalists, activists, and whistle-blowers.

Business implications

Cybercriminals frequently use the dark web to trade stolen data, including credit card numbers, ID or social security numbers, and other personal information. This could result in identity theft, which can significantly impact businesses.

Fortunately, there are steps to protect your data, like implementing strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and encryption. Implementing dark web monitoring can help you identify vulnerabilities or compromised data.

Why care about the layers of the web?

These layers aren’t separate or isolated but interconnected and interdependent, affecting each other in various ways. As a business owner, it’s always best to understand the opportunities and risks associated with each layer and how to navigate them safely and responsibly.

The web is a powerful landscape transforming how we communicate, learn, work, and live. It's crucial to adopt best practices and tools. This proactive approach ensures the protection of your data and systems, effectively preventing and responding to potential threats or incidents. 

Do you have data on the dark web? Find out today! Fill in your details below; our cybersecurity experts will contact you regarding your free dark web scan.

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