Dark. Obscure. Shady. Shadowy. Dismal. Spooky. These are just a few of the adjectives that may pop into your head when you hear the term “dark web.” Feel free to add crooked, underhanded, devious, fishy and disreputable to that list. The dark web is a hidden layer of the internet where scammers make illegal deals and shadowed hackers buy or sell your personally identifiable information (PII).
Access to these hidden parts of the web generally requires special browsing tools, but we don’t suggest you visit this underground marketplace. Nasty consequences could follow.
The Good Crawl
Some search providers utilize web crawlers that only access public web addresses. Web spider is another name for the crawler. Whatever you call these programs, they scramble all over the public-facing internet to gather info or update data and index their discoveries. Sorting allows a search engine to quickly grab the most relevant response for a search.
The dark web is part of the world wide web, but it is not scanned or “crawled” by automated data collectors. Search engines like Bing and Google won’t spit out links to dark web sites. The automated process of scanning the web for new public additions does not dip into these areas.
Dark or Deep
The dark web is different from the deep web, although the two names are often applied interchangeably. However, the deep web should not be confused with its shady cousin.
Envision it as the middle layer of an iceberg. The tip of the iceberg sits above the waterline. This is the layer we refer to simply as the internet or the Surface Net. Just below that is the deep web, where data is accessible via normal channels but not indexed by the automated web crawlers always searching for new data. It may include subscription access areas, medical records, and other data that users do not make public.
The bottom of the iceberg is the high-risk zone. Here the dark web lurks, shrouded in anonymity. If you could peek behind that curtain, you might discover miscreants exchanging tips on how to avoid detection or arrest. Chat discussions could include data scraped from recent breaches or leaks found in cloud storage. Stolen login credentials circulate freely; numbers for sale reportedly tally in the billions. These username/password combinations are bought or traded and used for credential stuffing attacks and accounts takeover.
Bad things can happen in the dark. The recent Facebook data leak of 500 million phone numbers was first offered for sale on the dark web. Later, as interest from buyers dropped, the list was sold for just $2 per download and soon copies popped up everywhere on social media. The 32 million Americans whose digits were leaked can expect a big bump in text scam messages known as smishing.
Underground markets or bazaars are common. Silk Road was one infamous market the government hammered. Last fall, a group of government agencies including the FBI shut down an illegal drug operation in a sweep named Operation DisrupTor. TOR’s the name of one browser to access the dark web. But new collectives emerged to fill its role.
Other evils include complete identity change kits, terrorist manifestos, major firearms sale sites, child pornography and even a website claiming to let visitors experiment on humans in captivity – for a fee. The depravity of the dark web is horrifying if what these websites claim to offer is true. Such reports are obviously impossible to confirm.
Don’t go there. Curiosity is powerful, but the dark web is not a smart destination. You could easily stumble upon websites geared to wipe out your cryptocurrency and other accounts. Further, many of the sellers there will take your currency and never deliver. If you must, you should consider dark web monitoring.
IDShield members should double-check to make sure all their PII (personally identifiable information) is recorded on our website. We constantly scan all levels of the internet and can alert you if your data is exposed.
IDShield is a product of Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. d/b/a LegalShield (“LegalShield”). LegalShield provides access to identity theft protection and restoration services. For complete terms, coverage, and conditions, please see an identity theft plan. All Licensed Private Investigators are licensed in the state of Oklahoma. This is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations.