A Guide to the Real Deep Web

deep web browsing

If you’re reading about the deep web, chances are you were brought here by the intriguing mysticism that surrounds it. From stories in the news and media, to popular videos and even urban legend. All telling a similar story of a deep, dark, underground web, hidden and secret from normal users and only home to master criminals and elite hackers.

Intrigued? Who wouldn’t be, but as is often the case it’s not really the whole story. Lets try to separate some of the facts from the fiction here, and give you an idea of the ‘real’ deep web, its history and customs. This guide is mainly targeted at beginners to help answer the commonly asked questions but old timers might find it an interesting read anyway.

What is the Deep Web?

Simply put, the deep web covers everything that isn’t indexed by search engines. A huge variety of things online fall under this category and in fact it makes up the majority of the web. This is a figure you’ll commonly hear quoted (along with images of icebergs). While the statement itself is true it’s usually taken to suggest the deep web is full of dark and illegal content, this simply isn’t the case.

Search engines use web crawlers (or spiders) to crawl the net, they don’t see websites like we do but instead have to rely on hyperlinks to navigate sites. That isn’t too big an issue but it leaves areas of sites inaccessible for indexing such as personal account pages and secure databases both of which require a password to view. Thus these areas are not indexed and they are part of the ‘deep web’.

Deep vs Dark

dark web hacker

What about the cool stuff? Of course there’s also the famed hidden sites on the deep web, these are sites that choose to hide themselves from being indexed by search engines (to summarise). They make up a tiny minority of sites but is usually what is being referred to when we talk about the deep web (an admittedly somewhat generic term).

Okay so what about the dark web? This is used to exclusively describe these hidden sites that require special software and configuration to access. The exact usage of the terms differs though as not everyone uses the term “Dark Web” as it implies some kind of  sinister or illegal nature for this reason you’ll see many online and in forums simply refer to everything as the deep web (the article of this title included).

Hidden sites require a framework to run, in order to remain secure and ensuring the anonymynity of their users. There are a variety of different networks designed for this purpose however the main ones are Freenet, I2P, and finally Tor, the most popular by far, so much so that it has almost become synonymous with the dark web itself.

Tor

deep web browsingTor, stands for The Onion Router (believe it or not) which refers to the “layers” of the network, geddit?

The project was originally developed by the US Navy to ensure the security of intelligence communication before eventually being released open-source where the project began in its current form under the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation).

Tor users are kept anonymous and secure on the network by routing their traffic between servers (known as nodes) which are run entirely by the community. Unlike in a conventional web server where there is simply one main connection, the Tor network uses multiple and encrypts the traffic along the way, this makes your connection difficult to track and identify. Even if one of your connections is compromised, your security is not due to the amount of nodes that are being run.

How to access the Dark Web

Each network functions differently and as such requires different methods of connection. If you want to access Tor you can easily do so through the excellent Tor browser bundle, which allows you to download and browse the .onion addresses just like you’d normally browse the web in a regular looking browser. If you’re just doing some casual browsing, you’ll be more than safe, most of the stories you hear are nothing but creepypastas, there are no hackers who are waiting for you to visit their website so they can pounce, why would it be worth their time. That said, if you are really concerned about your security, I’d recommend not running Tor on Windows, as flaws have been found on the OS in the past. Depending on your level of Paranoia you may want to check out some of the specialist operating systems such as Tails which have been created with dark web browsing in mind.

Browsing the Dark Web

What’s online? While there’s plenty of shady content out there such as illegal markets (drugs being a large source of traffic) there’s plenty of interesting things out there too such as documents, political discussions and open libraries. In this sense the dark web is just an unfiltered internet, imagine a web before corporations, that’s the world of .onions. Most sites are simplistic and made by passionate amateurs with community run moderation, a lot of active sites you’ll find have rules in place against gore and pornography in fact (contrary to what the media might tell you). Of course, if you really want to find things disturbing, it’s there to find, but so too is there on the surface web and in real life. Ultimately, stay safe, but don’t be scared of browsing, go out there and explore!

10 comments for “A Guide to the Real Deep Web”

  1. hidden says:

    hum…..Isn’t it illegal to tell them how to do this?

    1. The dark web is far more than just illegal usage – as I tried to point out. Plus, as far as I’m aware there are no laws specifically restricting the usage of Tor and other anonymous networks in any part of the world.

  2. ciphas says:

    As I said on Reddit, great post regarding the deep web/dark web! My one critique is that because of Tor2Web, onion sites are indexed by most major search engines now – although you may not *always* be able to access them.

    Nonetheless, I’d like to reference this post on my blog, http://direclown.wordpress.com. Is that cool?

    1. Duly noted, thanks for the feedback. Feel free to reference, that would be awesome!

  3. #themastermind says:

    hmmm

  4. Dawn says:

    I was interested in the ‘dark web’ because I say a infomercial for Lifelock and they said that people on the dark web are selling medical information to people to use for identity theft. I NEVER believe anything said in ANY advertisement, but I was curious. The site they showed on the infomercial was called Dealeo Market which shows no results in a regular (Google) search. They made it look like anyone cane buy a package of X amount of people’s medical records which include your name, birth date, SS number and other vital info that any identity thief can use, but I find this hard to believe it was as easy as they showed it to be. Any feedback on this?

    1. Thanks for your comment Dawn, I haven’t personally heard or come across such a site but ‘ll give you my thoughts. There certainly seems to be a lot of reports in the media about this and LifeLock in particular have a lot to gain from spreading such information, which makes me immediately doubtful. I tend to take any reports from the media about the dark web with a heavy dose of skepticism. In my experience the media have a tendency to inflate their reports as they know how hard it is for their claims to be verified. That said though there’s certainly no doubt that identity fraud is rife, there’s certainly people who’re willing to take the risk and where there’s a market there’s usually a marketplace to be found somewhere, though as so often with dark web markets I suspect a great many will be scam sites, luring people to pay money for non-existent or fake records.

      So in summary, can identity details be bought online? You betcha.
      Are lifelocks claims true and will they prevent it from happening? Doubtful.

      1. Dawn says:

        THANK YOU for your response! I ALWAYS verify all these stupid claims but just to spend my time (which could be hours) to see that it’s untrue, instead, I thought I’d just ask someone who’s a dark web user – saves me time! And as I said, since it WAS on an infomercial I doubted it’s truth and as you said, too hard for the average person to verify. My mom sends me all sorts of crap and when I ask her where she got it from – was it a reputable source – she doesn’t know! “As long as people will accept crap, it will be financially profitable to dispense it.”

        I ALWAYS research claims that people email me (usually just hoaxes of course) and it kinda pisses me off that others just blindly pass things on w/o verification. It amazes me just how many ignorant, blind sheep are in the world. “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.” Now, my friends will email me the hoax for me to verify FIRST, then I research it and let them know the likelihood of it being true or not, they then don’t pass it on. Someone has to stop the madness!!

        Thanx again and yes, I’m sure there ARE places to buy people’s identities, but not as easy as they make it seem. As long as you don’t stupidly give out your info – especially on the web – you’ll be a LOT safer! Especially w/a SS# and even just a birth date!!

  5. luffi says:

    What was the hacker ..?

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