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The enigma & the benefits of the deep web

How to safely access the deep web yourself from home and precautions to keep you safe

Published: July 27, 2021 By Rakesh Naik

Title image for the enigma & the benefits of the deep web. How to safely access the deep web yourself from home and precautions to keep you safe showing an ice berg representing the surface web vs deep web

Image source - Shutterstock

The Deep web is and always has been an enigma to regular users of the internet. The deep web is almost like the oceans of Earth; while only 10% has been explored so far, what is unexplored is even more shocking and vast.

The deep web is mostly known as the worst place for internet users to visit due to the myriad of crimes and illegal activities that can take place to victimise these users. The deep web is where governments hide secrets that they don’t want anyone to uncover.

But, recently, a good side of the deep web has begun to show up; a twinkle of light in the otherwise dark world.

In this article, we explore this aspect of the deep web, where it can be used to your advantage without causing any harm to yourself or the people around you. I also detail a few steps through which you too can access the deep web from your own computer, along with a few precautions for you to follow.

 
Disclaimer:
This article is purely for educational and informative purposes. The concepts explained in this article should only be followed if you have good experience with it and with utmost precaution. Neither I nor the website takes responsibility for any harm or damage caused by you trying to use these concepts in real life.

Breaking the enigma of the deep web

The deep web basically means all the content that isn’t accessible to regular users and isn’t indexed by normal search engines web crawlers such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. In order to get access to such content, you will be required to use special browsers, search engines and possess some information or links.

A conceptual view of the deep web displaying a few hidden websites and links

Image Source – “Accessing the Deep Web:
Attempting to locate and quantify material on the Web that is hidden from typical search techniques” scholarly paper
[By Bin He, Mitesh Patel, Zhen Zhang, And Kevin Chen-Chuan Chang]

The deep web is the largest source of structured data with publicly accessible information and produces results dynamically based on the query submitted by a user. Below listed are a few facts about the deep web:

  • Publicly accessible information (also OSINT) is almost 550 times larger on the deep web than that on the regular, surface-level internet
  • There are over 550 billion individual documents on the deep web, which along with other forms of data amounts to over 7500 terabytes of data compared to the under 30 terabytes on the surface web
  • The total amount of content on the deep web is almost 1000 times larger than the content on the surface level internet
  • Almost 95% of the deep web is publicly accessible information and open-source intelligence (OSINT), which doesn't incur any costs to be used.
  • The deep websites regarding a topic will be narrower and deeper compared to their surface-level counterpart
  • The interconnection between sites on the deep web is higher through links, and they also receive almost 50% more traffic than the surface level websites
  • Almost all sites on the deep web are highly topic-specific and also relevant to whatever category as required by a user when compared to the surface level websites

Comparison of the growth rates of Deep Web vs Surface Web using 100 randomly chosen sites

 Image Source – “White Paper: The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value” scholarly post
[by Michael K. Bergman]


The deep web issues

When you say deep web, what is the first thing that comes into your mind? A group of hooded dark side figures typing away on a computer and trying to attack your personal data?

Well, you aren’t entirely wrong in thinking that way. If you aren’t careful on the deep web, about what sites you visit and whom you interact with, you can get into really DEEP trouble. A malicious user on the deep web could literally track your IP and find your home address if you aren’t careful enough.

The deep web is also a source for all things illegal, including stolen credit/debit cards, stolen identities, illegal weapons, drugs and even hitmen. But the stolen data is what the deep web is mostly known for.

Stolen data is sold on the deep web at a variety of prices depending on the owner of the credentials, type of credentials, and how much money can be made from the credentials.

  1. Stolen credit cards
    You could pay as little as $9 to get stolen credit card numbers that could be used to make malicious payments to purchase illegal items by impersonating another person.

  2. Payment data
    Payment data to receive payment are used by hackers to receive money from any form of malicious activity. These could be purchased for as little as $270 to receive thousands of dollars from illegal activities like selling illegal items, ransomware payments, and much more.

  3. Illegal software to steal passwords
    The most common way of accessing your sensitive data is by stealing your passwords. Stealing your passwords could be done by recording your keystrokes, copying them from your clipboard, etc., which is known as keylogging.
    Software to perform such keylogging attacks is available on the deep web for as little as $10, which could then be deployed against you to steal your passwords and sensitive data.

  4. Illegal passports
    Illegal passports and other forms of identity are very popular commodities on the deep web that can be used to impersonate you or travel illegally. Scanned copies of such documents are available for as low as $2 on the deep web, which could then be easily printed out to look real.
    The ones I have mentioned above are the most common data trading services on the deep web and are very common. Besides these, the deep web also has much more illegal data such as illegal pornography, hitmen, illegal weapons etc.


Deep web: A new hope

 

 

The distribution of sites on the deep web based on the topic and area expertise

Image Source – “Relevance of the Deep Web to Academic Research” scholarly article
[by Eyo Essien]

Despite all the dangers and issues the deep web poses, it, however, has a few redeeming qualities that make using the deep web worthwhile. The deep web offers a platform for free education, research, free speech, freedom of expression, and even anonymity to people who otherwise can't have any of these.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of speech and expression isn't a universal right. In countries like China, India, a few Arab countries, you can be arrested for expressing any views contradicting the ruling party and even prosecuted.

There have been instances in the past where such governments restrict individual opinions and expressions made even on social media.

The deep web is a sanctuary for such people, who have no other platforms to express their ideas, opinions and criticism without endangering their freedom. The deep web allows for anonymity by hiding your identity while expressing your personal ideas and opinions.

On the deep web, you won't be constrained by national boundaries either, making national censorship and regional restrictions not applicable to the content you browse.

Research and education

On the deep web, you can also share your ideas and research without any forms of government censorship and restrictions. You don’t need to be part of any organisation or even follow tedious application processes to get your research published on the deep web.

Quality of documents: Deep web vs surface web


Query
Surface Web
Deep Web
Total
“Quality”
Yield
Total
“Quality”
Yield
Agriculture
400
20
5.0%
300
42
14.0%
Medicine
500
23
4.6%
400
50
12.5%
Finance
350
18
5.1%
600
75
12.5%
Science
700
30
4.3%
700
80
11.4%
Law
260
12
4.6%
320
38
11.9%
TOTAL
2210
103
4.7%
2320
285
12.3%

You can also access various information related to topics you’re interested in, without paying any fee, on the deep web. These could even include data and research that the government might not want you to see.

In short, you can use the deep web for free resources for your research and education without having to pay obnoxious amounts in fees and also on topics that might not be approved by your country.

Privacy from snoopers

Anonymity and privacy are one of the vital reasons for users to start using the deep web over the traditional surface-level web. Most deep web browsers allow for end-to-end encryption that also protect the content that you access on the deep web.

Using the deep web also prevents conglomerates from collecting your data in order to give you "personalised ads", in turn earning them revenue from your private data.

Although privacy on the deep web is a double-edged sword, you being anonymous means that anyone who tries to cause harm to you will also be anonymous. So you should tread really carefully on the deep web and not associate yourself with anyone or anything that seems fishy.

There are more benefits of using the deep web, such as political activism, open-source intelligence etc., but since they are in a moral grey area, I shan't be discussing them here.


How to access the deep web

Finally, it's time to learn how you too can access the deep web and explore a whole new world of the internet.

However, I can't stress enough how careful you have to be while accessing the deep web. Neither do I take any responsibility for any sort of harm or damage caused to you on the deep web, nor can I help you with any trouble that you run into on the deep web.

Step 1 – Download and install Tor

Download and install the Tor Onion browser on your computer that you will use the deep web from

The Tor Onion browser download options for different operating systems and platforms

 Image Source – torproject.org

The Tor onion browser works using an overlay network with more than 6000 relays that ensure the secrecy of user location, making it very difficult to trace a user. The Tor browser also comes with a default search engine known as DuckDuckGo that protects user privacy and doesn't store user data to "personalise" the search results.

Step 2 – A VPN for extra privacy and protection

Download and install a reliable VPN software that has a large selection of servers to choose from. It necessarily doesn’t have to be a paid tool, but just ensure that it is reliable.

The VPN that I am using in this article is the NordVPN; you don’t have to use the same one, but can make do with any VPN, as long as it is reliable and secure. I would recommend NordVPN or CyberGhost VPN, which are currently the best.

The Nord VPN download options for different operating systems and platforms

Image Source – nordvpn.com

While the Tor browser protects your location, VPN software protects your data. A VPN software encrypts all the data that flows to and from your computer. This ensures no one listening in on your network traffic will be able to view the sensitive data that you manage, websites you visit etc.

Step 3 – A few precautions

Now that we are ready and have installed all the tools required to access the deep web, I would want to list out a few final precautions that you must abide by while using the deep web.

  • Don’t interact with anyone who seems fishy on the deep web
  • Don't give out any personal information to anyone on the deep web, such as name, ID numbers, email address, home address, phone numbers etc
  • Don’t use your credit card, PayPal or any other regular payment methods to buy anything on the deep web
  • Don’t click on links that seem fishy
  • Don’t download any files or data on the deep web unless you have specialised sandboxing environments

Step 4 – Accessing the deep web

Finally, after going through all that trouble of installing the software and going through all those precautions, it is time to access the deep web. For this, first close all applications, including web browsers, media players, or text editors running on your system.

Now, turn on the VPN and choose a suitable server with enough ping and rating.

NordVPN connected to a Mexican server

Once the VPN is connected to your required server, launch the Tor Onion browser.

Launching the Tor Onion browser

The Tor Onion browser launched – default page

Once the Tor onion browser is open, you can use the default search engine, DuckDuckGo, to visit sites and links on the deep web. All searches and browsing you do now will be double protected; location protection by Tor browser and data protection by the VPN.

The DuckDuckGo search engine opened in the Tor Onion Browser

Unfortunately, this is where our deep web access adventure ends as I shan’t be giving you any links that you can use on the deep web for both your and my safety. You can simply search for a deep web link wiki on the DuckDuckGo search engine, and it should give you some basic links to start off with.

However, please keep reminding yourself of the precautions mentioned earlier and adhere to them every time you use the deep web.


Conclusion

The deep web, which still remains a mystery to many users on the internet, while extremely dangerous if used without caution, can have quite a few advantages and benefits if you use it right.

It can be a platform for freedom of speech and expression, free education and resources, and also privacy from malicious snoopers and hackers.

In this article, we explored the enigma that is the deep web and looked at a few problems it can cause. We went on to look at a few benefits you could have from the deep web and finally concluded by explaining how you could, too, access the deep web from your very own computer.

If you have any questions or interesting stories about your own deep web experiences, please let us know in the comments below.

Tags: 
Security
Author
Rakesh Naik
Freelance Cyber Security Analyst and Writer practicing in Infosec Assessment.

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