Every tech-savvy must have come across two terminologies of web browsers surface web and dark web while exploring the internet. These terms can be confusing if the user is unaware of the type of internet web it is browsing. Both, surface web and dark web are basically two kinds of internet web browsers that are experienced by different kinds of users.

Average users usually experience browsing on the surface web whereas, users like cybercriminals use the deep web and dark web to conduct malicious activities and cybercrimes. Let us proceed further to find out what are these different layers of the internet and how they are accessed.

What is Surface Web?

The portion of the internet that is being listed by search engines is basically the “Surface Web” also known as the “Visible Web”. According to worldwidewebsize.com, currently, in April 2020, search engines have indexed at least 5.53 billion pages. But did you know, these 5.53 billion pages make only 4% of the whole web? Yes, the number of pages may seem to be a lot but it is actually the “surface” of the ocean across the internet.

The surface web has been a part of the World Wide Web since the time of the invention of the first browser in the year 1990. Also, it is the most familiar part of the web which includes various main search engines likes Google, Bing, Yahoo, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Edge, etc., to discover anything over the internet.

The surface web is anything that can be indexed using any of these typical search engines. From daily online news to buying something on the e-commerce website, this is the web browser that is used by average users. Also, it is the section of the web that falls under constant government surveillance across the world.

How to Access Surface Web?

Unlike the deep web and dark web, the surface web is actually accessible to any user on the internet. Also known as “Light Net” or Indexed Web, any user can access the surface web like a cakewalk. It isn’t a no-brainer task unlike the dark web because everything you find on the World Wide Web is the surface web itself.

It contains pages that are allotted under “indexable” to be readily accessible by any search engine’s result page. As a matter of fact, the surface web percentage is only 4% of the internet! But if these search engines primarily access the surface web through web crawlers or website data then what happens to the rest of 96%?

What is the Dark Web?

Earlier we discussed that the internet consists of billions of pages and for a strange reason these billions of web pages are only 10% of the internet that is visible to users. So for the answer to where the rest of the 90% internet lies, it is in the “Deep Web and Dark Web”, inaccessible through normal web browsers.

The dark web is the part of the internet that is inaccessible by traditional web search engines. It is the World Wide Web content that exists only on darknets, overlay networks. These networks are only accessible through the internet with specific software, configurations, authorizations, and often a unique customized protocol. According to experts, it is a subset of the deep web, a part of the internet web which is not indexed by web search engines.

As per the leading online portals, the dark web or darknet is actually the world of the internet where mysterious activities and operations take place. It is more of a cyber-underworld where dark activities and confidential data is sold. A normal or average user cannot access the information or data present on the dark web without the Tor browser. Here the prime focus is anonymity and keeping identities secret.

How to Access the Dark Web? 

Although it is legal to access the dark web, there are various cyber felonious activities and websites which are illegal to visit. The dark web is only accessible through specific kinds of software and tools. All you need to do is, install a dark web browser on your computer system and once installed, it will work like a regular web browser. The user can simply type in a URL and the search results will appear. But one needs to stay vigilant of what to browse because this web is called “dark” for a reason.

Nevertheless, searching for any material on the dark web is comparatively more difficult than using normal search engines like Google. This is because the dark web doesn’t have the index or raking function to search exactly what the user requires. Only search engines like Uncensored Hidden Wiki provide guidance to content search on the dark web. But searching anything might prove to be risky because the dark web is full of illegal websites.

Dark layer of the web
The dark layer of the web

Surface Web vs Dark Web: Key Points of Difference

Imagine a web that is an ocean where the surface web and dark web are the top and bottom parts of the ocean while the deep web lies in the middle of the ocean. The surface web is the part of the ocean that spreads for miles and can be easily “accessible”. And beneath the ocean surface, is the deep web that has an unindexed internet. On swimming deeper to the bottom of the ocean, there is the dark web that is only accessible through special tools and software.

Follow the table given below to understand how surface web and dark web differ from each other:

Surface Web

Dark Web

  1. The prime and accessible part of the internet.
  2. This uses search engines like Google, Bing, Edge, etc.
  3. It has publically available websites and web search engines that can crawl and index to find data from websites.
  4. Only 4% of pages on the internet are indexed by the search engines here.
  5. It contains 19 TB of legal and illegal content on the internet.
  6. Comparative to the deep web and dark web, the small scale of illegal activities take place on the surface web.
  1. The hidden part of the internet that requires specific software or tool to gain access.
  2. This uses the Tor network and search engines like notEvil, Torch, Ahmia, etc.
  3. It has Tor-encrypted websites that cannot be indexed easily to find or read website data.
  4. The dark web is 500x times larger than the surface web and comes in 96% of the hidden internet.
  5. It contains 7500 TB of illegal content that is restricted from normal users on the internet.
  6. Criminals anonymously perform large-scale illegal activities and sell weapons, drugs, including human trafficking and cybercrimes.

Even though the surface web is considered to be a much safer place for users to explore and use the internet, the dark web is actually legal to access but indulging in illegal activities is prosecuted. Even on the darker edge, the dark web can be a beneficial place for users who wish to stay anonymous and work in isolation to find information that is not publicly available.

Government officials and United Nations agencies also use the dark web to protect political dissidents and track criminals. In fact, it was reported that the first major digital media organization that created a website on dark was the New York Times! But before you get fascinated by these facts, it is important to educate oneself with the full knowledge of the dangers of the dark web too because a single mistake can land you in big unexpected troubles.

Similarly, in the facts about the surface web, it is ironically home to the deep web. The downsides of the surface web are trolls, stalkers, data exploitation, pornography, identity theft, hacking, the intrusion of privacy, etc. The Internet is the last safe place where no matter what users do, they tend to leave their digital traces. Don’t be surprised if you find out that Google is aware of your shoe size.

The web is not as safe as it seems
The web is not as safe as it seems

The surface web and dark web, no matter which part of the internet the user accesses, nothing will stay secret or safe at all. Hackers and cybercriminals have been misusing the internet as a tool to spread and deploy cyberattacks. This is why the security of the internet, as well as organizations, is important.

In the world of evolving cybercrimes, industries like cybersecurity and information security play a major role to protect computers, networks, and software from the reach of cyber threat actors. The organizations, on the other hand, have more users of the internet and are highly prone to these cyber attacks.

Therefore, it must be for organizations to educate their employees on the cybercriminal activities that take place on the surface web and dark web. Employees should be well aware of the usage of both sections of the internet and what are the potential risks of not protecting the data or personal information on the internet.

It is essential for organizations to guide their employees with proper cybersecurity awareness training because the lack of knowledge is an easily exploitable vulnerability in the cyber world.

Have more interesting facts about the surface web and dark web? Let us know what you think of these polar opposite sections of the internet in the comment section below!

By Pallavi Dutta

Content Marketer and Team Leader

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