People talk about the “deep web” the same way they do an urban legend. They make the deep web sound like a criminal-ridden wasteland of the Internet that only the most technologically gifted can access.
None of this is true.
Yes, the “deep” web is an area of the Internet separate from the “clear” net (Google, Bing, etc.), but it’s not as nefarious as people make it seem. Oftentimes, the deep web contains documents and resources that weren’t indexed into clear net search engines, such as academic documents or government resources.
So what about the “dark” web? The dark web is the shady, seedy area of the Internet—an area home to cybercriminals and scammers. On the dark web, you can find sites selling drugs and weapons. You can find forums dedicated to things that would be banned on Google. Scammers sell account info on the dark web.
Not everything on the dark web is dangerous, and some users go to the dark web to retain anonymity not granted to them on the clear net. But the dangers lurking on the dark web can’t be ignored.
The Dangers of the Dark Web
Malware, Malware Everywhere
Since the dark web being separate from the clear net, where search engines and governments can set rules and standards, the malware runs rampant on the dark web. Just like the clear net, clicking the wrong link, or downloading the wrong program can infect your device with malware. But the chances of it happening are greater due to how the dark web works.
Criminals Selling Illegal Information and Services
Illegal shops run rampant on the dark web. Drugs, guns, malware tools, stolen account information: all types of criminals come together on the dark web to sell shady, illegal resources.
Stumbling onto these shops is quite easy since there are plenty to be found. The most popular example of a dark web market is the infamous Silk Road, a drug trafficking site that lasted a few years before the owner was arrested, and the website shut down.
Fortunately, none of these sites and markets will affect a user unless they decide to actually try to sign up and place an order. Some criminals, however, may try to coax you into buying what they’re selling.
How to Stay Safe While on the Dark Web
Don’t Click on Anything You Don’t Know
Navigating the dark web requires preparation on your end. If you don’t take proper precautions, you risk not only your device’s health but your personal information.
The first thing you need to do before jumping into the dark web is to remind yourself that strange/unfamiliar links and programs should be avoided. The dark web operates differently and requires you to research links you want to visit—you can’t simply look up “gun shop” and find a gun merchant.
Don’t let your curiosity force you to visit an unsafe site. Only visit sites you know won’t be harmful to you or your device.
Tools like the Tor Browser, a required tool for access to the dark web, promise full user anonymity, but only as far as they are concerned. It is still up to the user to maintain said anonymity. This means no sharing of personal and financial information, no unnecessary communications with strangers, and vice versa.
Some sites on the dark web—and even the deep web—will lure you in and attempt to pry information out of you—information that can lead to identity theft and fraud. Learning how to identify these sites and refusing to humor them is vital to exploring these areas of the Internet.
Take Advantage of Other Security Software
While the Tor browser gives users anonymity, it’s not perfect. The promise of full user anonymity only goes so far, and promises are not synonymous with guarantees. For this reason, users wanting to go on the dark web will want to take advantage of modern security software.
People use anti-virus software for prompt responses to malicious software, a VPN for improved protection, encryption software to secure your files. Taking advantage of these security tools will make your dark web experience much safer.