Explained: Difference Between Dark Web, Deep Net, Darknet and More

John Lister's picture

Have you heard of the Deep Web, Dark Net, Dark Web, or Dark Market while surfing the Internet? What is the difference? Is there a difference?

In each case, these are technical terms used to describe various parts of the Internet that are not normally accessible to users using a standard web browser. Below we'll describe the differences using easy to understand key examples.

Deep Web

In the most simplest terms, the Deep Web is any web page that is not indexed by a search engine.

Let's look an example. A Deep Web can be your bank account details, after you've logged in securely to your online banking website. While the online banking site can be seen by the general public (and its website name and address indexed by a search engine), what cannot be seen by the public is the information available after you are securely logged in.

Other examples of the Deep Web include using the TOR Browser to access .onion websites which are neither indexed by Google or available using a standard web browser.

Dark Net or "Darknet"

In its original meaning, the Dark Net refers to any device connected to the Internet which has an IP address, but has no active services running on that IP address.

In terms of total available IP addresses online using IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4), there are 4.3 billion possible IP addresses available for use, while IPv6 has a total of 2^128, or 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456 IP addresses.

Let's look at typical, but technical example of a Dark Net.

The Infopackets website runs on a server located in Buffalo, New York, operated by a web server hosting company. Like many dedicated web servers, this machine has been assigned a subnet of publicly available IP addresses in a CIDR range, denoted by 23.250.11.136/29.

The IP address range is therefore 23.250.11.136 to 23.250.11.143, though the first two addresses (23.250.11.136 and 23.250.11.137) are reserved for the network and gateway, while the last IP (23.250.11.143) is reserved for broadcasting. That leaves a total of 5 IP addresses available for use (23.250.11.138 to 23.250.11.142).

If you were to ping infopackets.com using an administrative command prompt, the Infopackets server will respond with an IP address of 23.250.11.141 because that IP has been assigned to run the apache web server which serves web pages, like the one you're viewing now. Click here to see an example of a ping.

Also assigned is a name server service (responsible for mapping IP addresses to services on the Infopackets server), which operates on 23.250.11.142 and is publicly named ns2.infopackets.com. If you were to ping the remaining IPs (23.250.11.138 to 23.250.11.139), there would be no response because those IP addresses have not been assigned to any services.

With that said, the Dark Net is often used interchangeably with Dark Web, even if this isn't always strictly accurate.

Dark Web

The Dark Web on the other hand refers to a specific section of the Deep Web.

The Dark Web isn't just hidden from search engines, but instead is specifically designed to be inaccessible from most web browsers. Usually it requires special browsing software, which makes it harder to track the path data takes online.

In the early days of the Dark Web, a service called "The Silk Road" was used which allowed users to sell illicit items using a black marketplace, including money laundering, computer hacking, and the sale of drugs. That service has since been shut down in 2013 by the FBI, but there are other, similar services being used online even today.

TOR Network

The TOR Network is the best known software for accessing many sites on the Dark Web.

TOR stands for The Onion Router, which refers to an analogy about onions having multiple layers of skin. In simple terms, data going through the TOR network doesn't take the most efficient route, which is normally the main goal of the Internet.

Instead, TOR traffic is routed through multiple points in a random order, with layers of encryption added or removed at various stages. The effect is that the data takes longer to travel, but it's much harder to track who is visiting which page. The TOR network itself is run by relay volunteers around the globe.

The reasons users want to use the TOR network vary widely.

Darknet Market

A Darknet Market is a site on the Dark Web used for making transactions.

Payment for items is usually done using cryptocurrencies, a form of virtual currency where an accurate record of transactions is available, but the identity of the participants is secret. Most such markets have a rating and feedback system like eBay's. The vast majority of goods and services offered on the Darknet are illegal to buy and sell in many places.

Legality

While rules vary around the world, as a general principle visiting the Deep Web or Dark Web is not illegal. Neither is using deep web technologies such as TOR to anonymize web use. However, anyone using a Darknet Market remains subject to local laws, depending on what you can and can't buy, sell, ship or possess.

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