In Brief
  • 90 percent of the Internet lives between the deep web or the dark web, a part of the Internet you can't search through Google that requires a special web browser to access.
  • The dark web's high level of anonymity creates a haven for criminal activity, but whistleblowers have also used it to leak information.

DARK AND DEEP

Every once in a while, you see headlines about the dark web, mostly in relation to a police operation. Or you hear about hackers dumping passwords on the dark web. You even hear stories of how “90 percent of the Internet” is on the dark web. But what is it really and how do you get there?

The dark web is a sector of the Internet you can’t search from Google, and you’ll need special software to access it. It allows users to be anonymous while visiting sites, and require browsers that will hide the IP addresses of the servers that run the site. This level of anonymity makes the dark web attractive to both whistleblowers and criminals.

Now, there is a lot of confusion between the dark web and the deep web. The deep web is simply any site or parts of sites that aren’t indexed in search engines. Sites hidden beneath a paywall or password-protected parts of the Internet are in the deep web. That’s a lot of websites, which is where the 90 percent thing comes from.

HOW DO YOU GET THERE?

Getting to the dark web requires special software. The most prominent is Tor or The Onion Router. It works by zigzagging the path web traffic goes through. Instead of connecting you directly to a website, Tor goes through relay servers and encrypters.

Downloading Tor or using other software to access the dark web is easy. Finding specific websites in the dark web is the hard part. Sites like the Hiddenwiki try to keep a collection of known dark web addresses, but it’s always liable to change, due to the fluid nature of the dark web.

WHAT DO YOU DO THERE?

We cannot stress this enough: The dark web is a haven for criminals. Sites like the Silk Road and its offspring (a cornerstone of the dark web) are marketplaces for drugs, guns, child pornography, and other nasty business.

But there is a lighter side to the dark web. The anonymity makes it a safe place for whistleblowers to leave information. It is also used by groups in autocratic regimes that police the Internet to talk to each other, organize, or simply call for help.