ClearNet, Deep Web & DarkNet – What are They and What’s The Difference?

I am willing to bet that up to 99% of “normal people” in society have no idea that there is a secret layer of the internet that they have never seen before. It’s not so much that people aren’t allowed to access it, so much as it requires a certain level of knowledge or skill to find – skills that most people never bother to learn or acquire. It also certainly doesn’t help that all of the most popular search engines and web browsers aren’t configured or programed to allow access to some of the ‘deeper’ recesses of “the internet.

So, what is the DarkNet and what sets it apart from the regular internet? Some people think that this topic is rather “taboo” these days, so before we continue you are going to have to make a choice…..

For those of you who took the metaphorical red pill and will continue reading, I commend you.

ClearNet

Right now you are on something known as “The Surface Web,” or “ClearNet.” Quite simply, the surface web refers to any portion of the internet that is regularly accessible by standard search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc) and standard web browsers (Internet Explorer, Chrome, Mozilla, etc).  Considering that Facebook and YouTube have billions of users/accounts around the world and Google search results seem endless at times, you might think that the surface web would represent a large majority of all the pages on the internet, but you would be mistaken.

The surface web is called the surface web for a reason, it represents only 4-10% of all the information you can find in the ocean of data that is the internet. In other words, when you are on Google, YouTube or Facebook, you are only scratching the surface of what “the internet” fully encompasses.

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Deep Web

The Deep Web consists of web pages that are not indexed by standardized search engines, for any reason. People always wonder how the deep web can possibly be so large when the surface web already hosts so much information?

To try and explain it simply, think about any person whom owns an online banking account. While I can search Google for Bank of America’s web page, I can not search Google for all the pages associated with each customers account – just think of how many pages you can click through on your account once logged in. Our banking and financial records exist on the internet all the same as any other web page, they are just not indexed to be accessible by everyone in the general public – get it?

Just think about all the archived records stored on various Cloud Services, lets use Microsoft as an example. All of the different pages contained within the Cloud exist on the internet and Microsoft needs an internet connection in order to browse through their archives, but all the contents of the Cloud will never be indexed by search engines or open to the public for obvious reasons.

Lets use another example to help you understand, just think of how many different web pages exist within your personal email account. Every single one of these pages exists somewhere on the internet, but a random person cant search Google to find all the URL’s or content associated with everyone else’s Gmail account(s).

Outside of archives and records like those described above, other examples of pages found on the Deep Web include sites which require a certain type of software in order to access – such as the Tor Browser. Believe it or not there are a ton of web pages hosted on the Deep Web through various software outlets, be it Tor, I2P or Freenet – not all of them illegal or taboo. There are different ways to go about finding Tor specific websites, but I am not going to get into that here.

DarkNet

Ever wonder what James Bond is doing on his computer with all those weird spy pages you see in the movies? He is on the DarkNet!

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The DarkNet consists of web pages that have been intentionally configured to hide in plain site, whilst existing on the internet. This simply means that the URL Address of these web pages have been encrypted with a randomized sequence of letters and numbers. This is a strategy often employed to make un-hackable passwords, but DarkNet users do this to encrypt or hide the URL Address to access their web pages.

Not only is the Uniform Resource Location (URL) encrypted/randomized, but you will also need a certain type of software such as Tor to access. Then, even if you have all of that, in order to gain access to the contents of the web page itself, you are more than likely going to need to enter a password or credentials first. This makes DarkNet pages virtually impossible to stumble across, find or enter into by accident. Basically, if you have not been given the specific URL of a DarkNet web page and the password to it from someone who already has access to it, you will never be able to use it – theoretically.

It is important to note that while the vast majority of DarkNet pages are hosted for illegal activity, some of them are hosted for legitimate reasons. For example, if you want to leak something to a publication like The Intercept or Wikileaks, they have each configured pages on the DarkNet to do so. Other pages on the DarkNet are set up temporarily by a small group of people in order to organize events or coordinate communication for specific causes that they want to keep private, such as national protests.

Most importantly, the DarkNet was first invented by Government Agencies for acts of international espionage and private communications between agents/operatives and offices – like James Bond and MI6.

In a much broader sense, the DarkNet could also be considered web pages on content management systems such as WordPress. For example the article you are currently reading, but as it existed in the past. Now that this article has been published you can find it on any search engine, but while I was writing it as a draft, though it technically existed somewhere on the internet, no one would ever be able to find it. An individual draft on any web page is impossible to search for because it exists behind the password protection of a site and the specific URL needed to access it, which is based of the title of that article, could theoretically change any number of times as it is being written.

That concludes this article, I hope you now understand that the Deep Web and DarkNet are not nearly as extreme or scary as a lot of people who don’t know any better try to make it out to be.