Imagine an iceberg. The visible part, already humongous, is the web, the “web surface” or “world wide web,” the one you use in particular by going through Google or any other popular search engines. The rest, much more extensive but immersed in darker and darker waters as we sink, is the deep web and the dark web.

What is the dark web?

Also known as darknet, the dark web is a parallel Internet. Its content is not accessible via conventional search engines such as Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.

The dark web does not work with a central server but thanks to peer-to-peer (P2P) networks with hidden IP addresses, which allow several computers to communicate directly with each other.

Networks (Tor, I2P or Freelance) are organized into nodes, successive encrypted layers, like an onion, to make it almost impossible to track Internet users. And communication data flows randomly through these nodes located around the world.

Additional tools allow the user’s IP address and geolocation data to be changed regularly, always to preserve the user’s anonymity.

Is there a difference between dark web and deep web?

Often confused, dark web and deep web do not mean precisely the same thing. The deep web remains a mystery for many, even though it gathers about 95% of the Internet’s content.

The deep web includes unindexed content or content that requires a significant number of clicks to access it. These are invisible pages because they are not very interesting and remain very far away in the search results. But it may also be a choice of some content owners not to reference them on search engines. Thus, to access their pages, you must first know the URL and/or access them with a password.

Thus, if we can consider that deep web includes darknet, the two terms are not synonymous.

How to access the dark web?

There is nothing illegal about sailing on the dark waters of the darknet unless you want to buy humans or illegal drugs.

Tor allows you to browse the referenced web anonymously, but also to access.onion sites. You will need to use a version of Firefox configured for Tor, Tor Browser or Tails. But it is also possible to access the dark web via I2P (Invisible Internet Project) and Freenet.

Once the tools are mastered, all that remains is to access sites visible only on the dark web, and this is probably the most challenging part. Because as mentioned earlier, they are hidden. You must therefore either know the URLs in advance, consult collaborative directories or specific search engines.

Dark web users have different profiles. There are those who do not want to make their data accessible to Gafa (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, …). It is also used professionally by criminals and offenders, political dissidents, whistleblowers (such as Edward Snowden) to communicate with the media, investigative journalists (The New Yorker or The Guardian have created a SecureDrop on Tor to communicate with whistleblowers and receive documents) and investigators, of course.