What is the difference between Deep Web and Dark Web?

Posted on 06/03/2020

Share this post

The terms ‘dark web’ and ‘deep web’ are used a lot when it comes to cyber security, but what do they actually mean? Are they the same thing? Are they both engrossed with illegal content? And can they really affect your organisation? Continue reading to discover the differences between the dark web and deep web, and the impact they can have on businesses if unmonitored. 

Before we can outline the differences between the deep web and the dark web, it’s important to understand exactly what they are and how they both work.


What is the deep web?

Put simply, the deep web (also known as the invisible or hidden web) is part of the internet that is not indexed by standard search engines.

Search engines have two key functions: crawling and indexing. Crawling is the process of  robots (sometimes known as crawlers or spiders) browsing the web to find code and content. This content is then processed, stored and indexed, enabling web users to perform searches and find websites through search engines such as Google.

However, it’s possible to prevent certain content from being crawled and indexed by search engines – and it’s this inaccessible content that makes up the deep web. In this case,  webmasters will set pages to ‘noindex’ meaning that this content is unable to be found on the web. It’s this collection of pages that are not indexed which forms the deep web.

It’s worth noting that many pages and sites within the deep web are perfectly legitimate. For example, private login pages or websites still under development will often be made invisible to search engines to prevent unauthorised users from finding them. Medical records, government reports and legal documents can also all be stored on the deep web.


What about the dark web?

The dark web, also known as the “darknet”, is the deepest layer of the internet. Like the deep web, the dark web is not indexed by search engines and is therefore invisible to everyday users of the internet. However, unlike the deep web, the dark web is focussed on illegal content and criminal activity.

Highly encrypted and untraceable, dark web sites can only be accessed using specific browsers and software. Rather than regular internet browsers. ‘The Onion Router’ (otherwise known as the ‘Tor Browser’) must be used, and sites can be identified by the ‘.onion’ domain. With high levels of encryption built into the dark web, the identity and location of users is kept anonymous. With the identity of users hidden, the dark web is a marketplace for illegal goods such as financial and private data.

One of the most well-known cases of uses of the dark web is the launch of Silk Road. In 2011 Ross Ulbricht launched Silk Road, an online black marketplace best known for selling illegal drugs. A fixed fee was charged to become a seller on here, and revenue generated from the site was estimated at $1.2 billion. Two years later the site was shut down by the FBI, and Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison.


What’s actually on the Dark Web?

There is an air of curiosity surrounding the dark web, not only around how to access it, but around the content and services that are actually available.

Alarmingly, the dark web and its black markets are host to a range of illegal activity and information, including:

  • Identifiable information and credentials such as passport details, email address, phone numbers, usernames and passwords
  • Bank details such as account and credit/ debit card numbers and sort codes
  • Illegal and prescription drugs
  • Firearms
  • And other serious criminal activity and dark content.


So what’s the difference between the deep and dark web?

The difference between the deep and dark web is clear – both in terms of accessibility, and the nature of the content that is housed within them.

In short, the deep web refers to the wider collection of pages that are not indexed on the web, whereas the dark work refers to pages within this collection that are related to illegal activity. The deep web is not all dark web, but all of the dark web is within the deep web.

dark web ari sec image


Should my business worry about the dark web?

With information that could seriously impact your business and staff readily available to criminals, the dark web poses a serious cyber threat to all organisations operating in the digital landscape.

Stolen business credentials that are trafficked on the dark web can be purchased by cyber criminals and used to gain access to your company network, leading to data theft and identity theft, as well as for financial gain through fraud.

Using a dark web monitoring service helps to prevent exposure of credentials and other personal data to malicious individuals, keeping your business and employees safe.


Protect your business today

If you’d like to find out how your business could benefit from our expert dark web monitoring services, please get in touch with our team of experts today.

Share this post

Similar posts you might like

Find out how our Cyber Security specialists can help...