It’s perplexing to consider that the 80 billion websites we access online make up only a small fraction of what’s actually available on the Internet. Realistically, what’s below the surface consists of about 500 times more content than what we gain access to, through a typical browser like Chrome.
You may vaguely recall a time when you watched the news, or learned from a documentary, that the dark web is fertile ground for illegal activity. But if you stay away from browsers that allow you to access more hidden content, you should be fine, right?
We’re going to briefly outline the characteristics of the dark web, and then tell you how it still applies to you when it comes to protecting yourself- even when you don’t identify as a user of the dark web.
What is the Dark Web?
All of what we see, when using browsers like Chrome and Firefox, is surface content that anyone can access. This is often referred to as the “surface web” or “visible web.” Think of the regulated, indexed content that you view every day through platforms like YouTube or Netflix- even Google searches.
The deep web is any content that can’t be crawled by search engines. For instance, this can be content like movies that haven’t yet been released, or our bank account information once we’ve securely logged into our bank’s website. This is the kind of stuff that you access on the deep web- not completely concealed, but won’t appear on a search engine.
The deep web is a term used interchangeably with “dark web.” But consider “deep web” an umbrella term that encompasses anything that can’t be found through the use of search engines. They are usually password-protected pages, or pages that don’t have direct links.
The deep web also consists of content that requires a special browser for access. A browser like The Onion Router- or TOR, for short- gives you entry to webpages that have been hidden from search engines by masking their IP addresses, otherwise known as the “dark web.”
The dark web requires anonymity for access, and a browser like TOR provides this through voluntary networks that send encrypted traffic to multiple servers before retrieving content. Unfortunately, because criminals like to operate under anonymity, this makes the dark web a site of many illegal operations.
How this Applies to You
Some of the criminal activities in the dark web involve the sale of stolen identity information, like credit card information, user account credentials, and social security numbers. In fact, a there’s an entire economy built around purchasing these stolen pieces of information, giving hackers more reason to accumulate as much data about you as possible for monetary gain- even if they aren’t using your identity themselves.
So how do you protect yourself? The best way to reduce the chances of having your data ending up on the dark web is to make it harder for cybercriminals to acquire your information. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Limit how many places you store your information
- When transferring data, use secure and encrypted methods of transfer
- Enable two-factor authentication to your accounts when it’s offered to you
- Monitor your accounts for identity theft in case you find they may have been compromised
- Secure your devices, especially your mobile phones
- Opt to use your phone’s data instead of public Wi-Fi networks
- Make sure your servers and clouds are secure
There are a plethora of reasons that the dark web will continue to accumulate more personal information as hackers become more sophisticated with their approaches. Do all that you can to ensure your data isn’t included in the information they find. Resolve to be steadfast in your efforts to be safe.