When most of us think of the Internet, our thoughts turn to search engines like Google, news sites like New York Times, social networks like Facebook or Twitter, tech blogs like Techcrunch, shopping sites like Amazon, free e-mail like gmail and our employers’ web sites.
But those’re just the most visible parts of the Internet, the proverbial tip of the Web iceberg.
Like a lot of things man made, the Internet too is multi-layered.
When you start peeling the surface layer of the Internet, there’s stuff you would be amazed to know exists.
Broadly speaking, the Web comprises of three layers or in other words the Internet has three Webs:
1. Surface Web – Who amongst us is not familiar with the Surface Web? This visible layer constitutes stuff like news, shopping, social networks, e-mail, business, and government web sites. Although for the most part in the legal domain, the Surface Web also occasionally hosts criminal enterprises or ones that sit on the edge between legal and illegal. The overwhelming majority of users of the Surface Web rely on regular browsers like Firefox, Safari or Chrome and simple mail clients like Outlook, Evolution and Thunderbird.
2. Deep Web – This section of the Internet consists of stuff not easily accessibly by the lay public. Stuff like governmental databases of federal and state tax filings, SSN benefits, pension records accessible only by a few select people, online banking, medical records, and paywall content. What distinguishes Deep Web from the Surface Web is access restriction via strict policies. While some analysts include the third layer, Dark Web, as a subset of the Deep Web, I set it apart. In my view, the Deep Web operates for the most part in the legal domain circumscribed by laws and regulations but the Dark Web is a free for all.
3. Dark Web – Think of Dark Web aka Dark Net as the Mariana Trench of the Internet, the deep, murky parts. Players in this Wild West section of the web include drug peddlers, Mafia, terrorists, government intelligence agencies, pedophiles, gun peddlers, hackers for hire, smugglers, counterfeiters, illegal marketplaces and a grab bag of criminals. A key aspect of the Dark Web is its secretive, hidden and anonymous nature. Dark Web is the shadowy, dark alley equivalents of the Web. Dark Web sites are not indexed by conventional search engines, have esoteric URLs or accessible only by IPs and frequently change their web site address. Except for the hopeless oligophrenic idiots, users of the Dark Web rely on multiple layers of cloaking like Tor and VPNs to navigate the Dark Web.