The unseen faces of WorldWideWeb: clear web, deep web and dark web

28 September 2020

In 1989, a British physicist named Tim Berners-Lee, who worked at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, invented an environment where researchers and scientists from around the world could exchange information and documents. He named it World Wide Web or, in short, www.

The first website was published on August 6, 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee himself and described what WorldWideWeb is and how it works. The www technology development gained momentum when, on 30 April 1993, CERN made it available to the public free of charge, without requiring the payment of royalties.

30 years later, the network has more than 1.75 billion websites, of which only 200 million are active, and its founder warns that “The battle for the web is one of the most important causes of our time.”

The difference between the web and the Internet is that the former is a system widely used to access the Internet, while the Internet is a network of computer networks that make the communication between computers and various devices possible.

When you open an Internet browser and enter the web platform, you access what is called clear web.

Also called surface web, visible web, indexed web or lightnet, this part of the web is accessible to the general public and indexed by search engines. Clear web size estimates range from 4 to 10% of the entire www platform space.

But what happens in the rest of the available space? Beyond the clear web are two other worlds, often mistaken for each other: the deep web and the dark web.

Deep web, also called invisible web, contains websites that are not accessible to the general public and are not indexed by search engines. What could be on such pages? Online banking services, webmail, files or the results of your medical tests, scientific papers, military communications, tax information, private platforms, confidential information that can only be accessed with a direct link and password or content platforms for which users pay.

Although hidden, the deep web content can be accessed if you know what you are looking for.

How do you get to the deep web? Either by using a regular browser and a direct URL or an IP address, or by using a password or other security filters, redirected from a clear web website. In fact, any website published on the web has the option of not being indexed by search engines, which makes it invisible and therefore, part of the deep web.

How big is the deep web? Very big! The deep web hosts about 90% of all web content.

There is, however, a portion of the deep web that has been intentionally hidden and is inaccessible through browsers and standard methods. It is called dark web and contains about 6% of the www pages.

Dark web is the dark and strange meeting place for outlaws and criminals, from weapon and drug dealers to paedophiles, terrorists and criminals. It has the power to make anyone anonymous, invisible and untraceable.

To get to the dark web, you need special browsers and networks and the full URL address, with each character and down to the last digit. All dark web links contain apparently random strings, consisting of numbers and letters, followed by the .onion extension.

The dark web websites can be accessed through networks such as Tor or I2P.

Tor is free software that allows anonymous communication. Its name is an acronym that comes from the original name of the project, The Onion Router. Tor encrypts data and directs Internet traffic across multiple layers, over 7,000 networks and network nodes worldwide, to hide the user’s location and prevent their dark web activity monitoring.

I2P, namely The Invisible Internet Project, is a free network that allows anonymous communications, which cannot be monitored or censored. The network encrypts end-to-end user traffic and then passes it through a network of over 55,000 computers worldwide, made available voluntarily.

If you plan to visit the dark corner of the web, make sure you do so using a VPN. Although accessing the dark web is not against the law unless you get involved in illegal activities, your mere presence there raises an alarm. For example, a US Supreme Court ruling says that if authorities intercept even a simple attempt to access the dark web, they have the right to enter your home and requisition the computer involved in browsing.

Installing a VPN is just the first step you need to take in order to access the dark web. However, you will not find the rest of the steps in this article. At SPIA, we tell you the truth! And the truth about the dark web is that you simply should not be there.

Find out from us what is traded in the dark corner: stolen credentials (i.e. usernames and passwords), drugs, weapons, child pornography, identities, crimes, information, fraud and much more. Curiously, you can also find here ordinary electronics for sale, for which however you have no guarantee that they are real or that you will really get them after you pay. About half of these are attempted frauds, which is why it may not be a good idea for you to get excited about the low price. Other bad ideas? To give the home delivery address or to pay online using the card. In fact, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin are used in dark web transactions.

But who created this dark corner and what was the purpose?

The dark Web was actually created in the late 90s by two research organizations in the US Department of Defense to allow American spies to exchange information completely anonymously. This is how Tor technology was created, which was later launched in the public domain, so that everyone could use it.

The truth is that, in addition to facilitating an underground black market where criminals trade illicit goods and services, the dark web provides maximum confidentiality and protection against the surveillance of authoritarian governments, a place where political outlaws, spies or other persons can exchange extremely sensitive information in a sealed environment.

Every day, an ever-increasing percentage of our lives moves or finds a correspondent online. Risks also increase together with this continuous development. As the founder of www himself says, “while the web has given marginalized groups a voice, it has also created opportunity for scammers, given a voice to those who spread hatred, and made all kinds of crimes easier to commit.”

In the end, each of us decides which web waters we choose to navigate: clear, deep, or dark.