What if I told you that the vast majority of what is on the internet is in fact on the Deep Web, and even without knowing, you probably use it every day.
But what exactly is this Deep Web?
Actually, the definition is quite simple.
It is the stuff on the internet that you can’t bring up with Google or your favorite search engine, including everything from private social media profiles to hidden subreddits to medical, scientific and business databases to archives/pages you find on the way-back machine and really just any page that you simply can’t get to without having the actual URL and the permission to access it.
All this stuff really adds up.
Just think of how many Facebook accounts there are, how many companies with sensitive data and cloud storage, and how many private YouTube videos there are of god only knows what.
Although it is nearly impossible to determine exactly how big the Deep Web is, it has been estimated that 99% of content stored on the internet is part of the deep web.
Leading some to compare the internet to an iceberg, with the deep web being the huge mass you can’t see below the surface, except it is made up of corporate secrets and drunken selfies instead of ice.
So, that online weapons dealer that got busted last month, was he operating in the Deep Web too?
Not exactly, there is a lot of confusion between the deep web and the dark web, which is somewhat similar concept but has some very important differences.
Unlike the deep web sites on the dark web are often meant to be publicly accessible. However, you can’t get to these places without special software that usually encrypts and anonymizes your connection in some way.
The best know system that does this is ‘The Onion Router’ or ‘TOR’ which works by encrypting data when its sent and bouncing it through a number of nodes until it arrives at its destination.
Each node only decrypts enough of the message to know where to bounce it next so only the receiving user knows the actual content.
This successive pealing back of encryption layers inspired the Onion name. Because TOR’s high degree of anonymity it earned a reputation for all sorts of illicit stuff like trafficking of drugs, weapons, animals, humans, crime for hire, scams and all sorts of other shady enterprises but believe it or not, TOR wasn’t invented by some group of ‘online mafia’ types looking to make a quick buck .
It was actually developed by the US Navy to protect sensitive military communications. And although the US government is busy trying to catch TOR for nefarious purposes, there are a lot of nobler uses for TOR and other dark nets as well.
They can provide protection to Human rights activists in oppressive nations, people with fringe political views or outside society’s mainstream, those hiding from abusers, whistle blowers, or just folks who want more privacy in an age where people are concerned legitimately about surveillance.
In fact, Uncle Sam actually heavily funds the TOR project to help people who are trying to speak out in authoritarian countries.
So with the continued growth of our social media and cloud storage and an online community that is increasingly aware of threats to privacy, usage of the deep and dark web should continue to climb rapidly.
But, just remember that even the best security can be defeated by someone looking over your shoulder.