Deep web vs. dark web: What’s the difference?
April 27, 2022
Like the world as we know it, the internet too has a few layers to it. You might think of it as a glacier floating in the middle of the Arctic. There’s the surface web that most of us use or see every day, the deep web nestled right below, and then the dark web buried even farther down.
Deep web and dark web sites can have bad reputations, but that’s partially because they’re surrounded by so much mystery, leading to confusion and a trail of misinformation. In fact, these sites make up around 96% of the internet and some even serve as cybersecurity measures to improve your online privacy.
For more perspective, dive into our breakdown of the deep web vs. the dark web, including the purpose of each and how they differ from one another. You’ll also find best practices for deep web and dark web browsing, as well as answers to frequently asked questions about surfing deep and dark web websites.
What is the deep web?
Simply put, the deep web describes all web pages hidden from the search engines we use every day. Website owners do this to protect websites not meant for public viewing, like email and banking accounts, private social media pages, and electronic health records. Imagine if someone were able to Google your name and have your email account and/or health records pop up instantly.
The deep web works by requiring you to have a specific password or link that will give you access to the private site you’re trying to enter. This way, prying eyes will run into trouble trying to access your personal information.
Some mainstream sites are only accessible via the deep web because of how they customize each page to the user. Streaming platforms are a great example of this, requiring you to enter your login credentials immediately before you can continue to watch your beloved TV shows and movies.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is a more guarded subspace of the deep web, hosting encrypted websites for its users. However, these sites are only accessible with certain web browsers. People like to use this encrypted space as a means to help protect their identity and online privacy, but some hackers like to use these features to carry out illegal activities.
Some crimes you might come across include:
- Arms trafficking
- Drug trafficking
- Cryptocurrency scams
- NFT scams
- Phishing scams
- Sale of stolen credentials and data
With the help of the Tor Project and other similar dark web browsers, anyone can surf the dark web and communicate with others without having their IP address, search history, cache, or cookies tracked. These are unique search engines designed specifically for accessing the dark web. And contrary to what you may think, the dark web offers a lot of sites that aren’t involved with illegal work.
What are the differences between the deep web vs. the dark web?
Now that you know what the deep and dark web are, seeing their differences may be a bit easier. But just to make sure you have a clear picture, we’ve outlined them for you below.
Uses of the deep web vs. the dark web
People use the deep web and dark web for different reasons. Check out the main differences between their user’s intentions below:
Uses of the deep web:
- Protect online accounts and personal information
- Safeguard databases
- Interact on social media
- Access educational courses
- Use subscriptions services
Uses of the dark web:
- Perform illegal activities
- Conduct military/police investigations
- Hold political protests
- Surf the internet anonymously
People often use the dark web to keep their online activity anonymous. And this increased protection is what can motivate cybercriminals from using the platform to take part in illegal activity.
Pros of the deep web vs. the dark web
In the digital age, there’s good and bad aspects to everything, but let’s start by taking a look at some of the benefits of using the deep web vs. the dark web to know how each may improve your cybersecurity.
Pros of the deep web:
- Enhanced privacy
- Secure website connections
- Password and/or link protected information
Pros of the dark web:
- No censorship
- Platform for political activism
- Anonymous browsing
Now, let’s look at some of the cons associated with the deep web and dark web.
Cons of the deep web vs. dark web
Just as you might expect, there are some downsides to surfing the deep web and dark web that you should be aware of.
The deep web may be great for helping protect personal information, but that doesn’t mean it's unhackable. Cybercriminals often use tactics like credential stuffing and password spraying to get ahold of the details needed to steal and/or expose your data.
Sure, the dark web offers a kind of anonymous browsing not available on the deep web or surface web, but there are even more threats you might encounter as you browse. Hackers use this domain to carry out illegal activities that could implicate you and your information if you stumble across the wrong site.
Best practices for deep and dark web browsing
If you do choose to browse the deep and dark web, here are a few best practices to keep in mind to help keep your devices and information secure:
- Use Tor Browser
- Never share personal information and/or passwords
- Steer clear of illegal websites
- Use a VPN
- Avoid downloading files
- Cover or disconnect your webcam
- Don’t enter your actual email address
- Download antivirus software
Now that you know the differences between the deep web vs. the dark web, you can see how each may benefit and/or endanger your personal cybersecurity. Use the information and best practices provided to help you keep your devices and network safe if you choose to surf the deep and dark webs.
Deep web vs dark web FAQs
Have more questions regarding the deep web vs. the dark web? We have answers.
Who made the dark web?
The U.S. government created the dark web in the mid-1990s to allow spies to exchange confidential data anonymously.
Is it illegal to access the deep web or the dark web?
No, it is not illegal to access either the deep web or dark web.
What are the main dangers of the dark web?
There are a number of dangers present on the dark web from child pornography and drug trafficking to illegal arms dealings and cryptocurrency scams.
What is Tor Project?
The Tor Browser is an encrypted network used for surfing the dark web. The level of encryption provides anonymous internet browsing for all users.
Can Tor be traced?
The encrypted network the Tor Browser uses to access the dark web is very hard to trace.
What happens if you go on the dark web?
Those using the dark web disconnect from the public servers used for everyday online browsing and connect to a dark web browser that provides increased privacy and security.
Cyber threats have evolved, and so have we.
Norton 360™ with LifeLock™, all-in-one, comprehensive protection against viruses, malware, identity theft, online tracking and much, much more.
Try Norton 360 with Lifelock.