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What’s the Difference Between the Deep Web and the Dark Web?

Dark Web vs Deep Web

You might have heard the terms dark web and deep web used interchangeably in the past. While the two have similarities, there is a slight difference between the dark web and the deep web. And we are here to clear the confusion for you once and for all.

The deep web vs dark web would not be a fair comparison because the dark web falls under the umbrella of the deep web. And while one is not completely different from the other, there are similarities between the two.

Allow us to help you understand what the dark vs deep web is in thorough detail. To properly understand the difference between the dark vs deep web, you will first need to understand what each term means. So, without wasting any more time, let’s dive in:

Updated 2024: This blog has been updated with new information about the dark web and deep web differences. In addition to informing readers about the deep web and dark web differences, it now also educates them about the prominent threats associated with the deep web vs dark web.

What is the Deep Web?

The deep web is that part of the web protected by an additional layer of security. You might say that the standard web is the ocean’s surface, and the deep web is the water beneath it. And you have only touched the ocean’s surface if you have visited the common web.

On the other hand, the deep web is the entire ocean beneath the surface that might even require certain tools to access it. The deep web is not indexed or crawled by web crawlers either.

Additionally, you will need to create accounts to access the sites present on the deep web. While the deep web is rather difficult to use, it is not the same as the dark web, and it is completely safe and legal to access the deep web.

What is the Dark Web?

The dark web, in contrast, is a sub-category of the deep web mostly used for shady and illegal activities. And if you are not careful when accessing the dark web, you could end up in serious trouble.

The dark web is that section of the deep web that requires specific dark web search engines, browsers, and tools to access it. It might even be safe to assume that the portion of the dark is even smaller as compared to the standard web that we use every day.

For the deep web, you might merely need specific login credentials to access the sites. However, to access the sites on the dark web, you will also need the right browser and a combination of additional hardware and software.

You should also know that while the deep web is completely safe to use for everyone, the dark web is a relatively dangerous place (just like the name suggests as well). The dark web is mainly used for illegal activities. And while the dark web can offer better anonymity than the deep web, it is, without a doubt, not the place for a standard web user.

Key Differences: Dark vs Deep Web

The difference between deep vs dark web is not merely one being legal while the other is illegal. The difference between the dark vs deep web is a bit more technical. Unless you understand these key differences, you will not be able to distinguish between the dark web vs deep web, which is as follows:

Operations and Scope

When talking about the dark vs deep web, the first you need to know is the difference in scope between the two.

The deep web is a significantly broader category of the web that encompasses a vast number of websites that are not crawled by web crawlers. And you cannot use your everyday search engines like Google or Yahoo to access the sites on the deep web.

Additionally, the deep web hosts legitimate sites that are safe to access. However, they are present on the deep web to ensure the privacy and safety of the users. The deep web may contain private databases, paywalled sites, and other pay-to-access sites.

The deep web is exponentially greater than the surface web. Some experts even claim that the surface web is merely 1% of the entire web, meaning that the remaining 99% is the deep web.

Now, the dark web falls under the category of the deep web. And it is mostly used for malicious and illegal activities. Similar to the deep web, the dark web is also not crawled by web crawlers.

The dark web, however, will require help from specific software and hardware to access the sites on it. And the sites on the deep web may be there for privacy concerns, but that may not always be the case for the dark web.

Moreover, sites on the dark web do not have the usual URLs ending with “.com” or “.net”. Dark web links have unique URLs that end with “.onion”. And even if you have the correct “.onion” URL, you will still need the right tools and browser to access the onion sites.

The dark web offers greater anonymity for the users as well. The people on the dark web may have their IP addresses masked, making it virtually impossible for others to unmask them. One could be sitting in the United States, while their IP address might be showing them present in France.


Next, you must know the difference in size if you want to clarify your confusion between the dark vs deep web. The deep is the larger of the two sections. And it is safe to say that the deep web comprises a significant portion of the web, which includes the surface web, deep web, and the dark web.

The deep web hosts more than 200,000 websites, requiring usernames and passwords to access them. And the data present on the deep web is around 500 times more than the data available on the surface web. And people visit the deep web daily and legally in large numbers.

On the flip side, the dark web is a significantly smaller section of the entire web, maybe even smaller than the surface web. The dark web also happens to be a sub-section of the deep web. This means that you will at least need all the tools required to access the deep web to access the dark web.

Still, the actual size of the dark web is yet to be known accurately. Some experts believe that the dark web is a total of 5% of the entire web.


Access is where it gets complicated to understand the difference between the dark vs deep web. One cannot unintentionally stumble upon a dark website. Unless the person has access to the necessary tools, browser, URLs, and more, they cannot access any site on the dark web.

Furthermore, even if a person is a victim of a cybercrime, the chances of that cybercrime originating from the dark web are zero to none. The cybercriminal may have sought help from a few tools acquired from the dark web. However, the crime itself may have been committed via regular web applications such as email or social media platforms.

One would need a Tor browser or the Invisible Internet Project (I2P) to access the dark web. Without these tools, accessing the dark web is impossible. The Tor browser works on The Onion Routing protocol, thus the name Tor browser.

This browser allows users with onion links and the right hardware and software to access the dark web. When a person accesses a dark site via a Tor network, their communication travels through an encrypted tunnel. That comprises encrypted servers known as nodes.

Still, the deep web is useful for cybercriminals. The cybercriminals could be using the deed web to extract sensitive information about the users, which can then be used to commit serious cybercrimes.


The application of each web technology is another thing you need to understand between the dark vs deep web. The deep web offers added privacy and security to those who visit it. But it is still visited by a vast majority of people every day.

The deep web may be used on intranets. And by that, we mean organizational networks that want outside access completely restricted. A company may have set up a private internet network that they want only their employees to access.

Or, it could be for an educational institute, where the public is not allowed access. Such networks could possibly be accessed via certain VPN services that the organization or institute may have employed.

The dark web is a much more private and anonymized version of the deep web. Whether you are a visitor on the dark website or a person hosting one, you would still be subject to the same anonymity on the dark web.

The dark web exists to sustain shady websites to conduct business and make it possible for illegal activities to be conducted without being traced. Unlike the surface web, the activity on the dark web cannot be tracked so easily.

Furthermore, one could also utilize the dark web for legal causes. For instance, whistleblowers could use the dark web to voice their concerns without fearing for their safety. By exposing sensitive information through the dark web, they can somewhat minimize the risk of being exposed.

Still, one must do so with extreme caution if one decides to visit the dark web. The dark web can be perilous, and if one is not careful, the consequences could be devastating.


When discussing the security between the dark vs deep web, it is safe to conclude that the deep web is safe and legal to access. You might have even accessed the deep web in the past without having any knowledge of it.

Still, the security and privacy protocols on a site on the deep web are relatively more strict than those of the surface web. The sites on the deep web may likely contain private data that is only meant to be accessed through legitimate login credentials. And not just anyone is supposed to access these private sites.

On the other hand, the dark web is a hazardous and frightful place to be. One wrong step on the dark web could cause you to spiral down the worst digital hole imaginable. That is why the dark web cannot be accessed unless you have access to the right onion link, the proper Tor browser, and the additional tools needed to access the dark web.

The dark web is where black market deals tend to occur. Personal data that can be sued for identity fraud, phishing scams and financial fraud is often sold on the dark web.

Even if your intent to visit the dark web is not malicious, you could still end up in deep trouble if you have the misfortune of making even one wrong move. Cybercriminals could still happen upon your data, which could then be used against you in the worst possible manner imaginable.

Why and Who Uses the Dark Web?

The dark web is a risky place. And that risk may be faced by people with criminal and illegal intentions. As discussed earlier, the dark web offers users strong anonymity and enhanced security protocols.

In layman’s terms, people who want to indulge in malicious activities visit the dark web to conduct their business. That being said, people who do not wish to conduct illegal activities but still want to stay anonymous can benefit from the dark web.

One typical example of a person visiting the dark web for legal intentions is a whistleblower leaking information on the dark web while staying anonymous.

Applications of Dark Web

One could be using the dark for several reasons. Still, most dark web users are there to conduct illegal activities while staying anonymous. Here are a few of the most common applications of the dark web:

Illegal Activities

The dark web is the place to be for all cyber criminals. Such people can get their hands on the right tools needed to conduct frauds and scams. Illegal activities on the dark web can range from identity theft to phishing, credit card scams, and much more.


No matter the reason for visiting the dark web one might have, one thing is for sure: they would genuinely be anonymous. The dark web can be visited by encrypted servers on the Tor network. All people using the dark web have their IP addresses masked, thus making it almost impossible to detect their physical location.

Accessing Hidden Contnet

One could also be using the dark web to access hidden services, or in other words, onion services. In this dynamic, the user’s and the website host’s anonymity is established via the Tor network. These sites can only be accessed with the help of unique onion links. This is put in place to ensure that not just anyone can stumble upon the content on these platforms.

Moreover, these hidden services can be both legal and illegal. A person could be using these hidden services for whistleblowing or to commit a crime. The choice belongs to the user.

Why and Who Uses Deep Web?

As mentioned earlier, the deep web is the majority of the entire web we use. The web we access daily is the surface web and is only a fraction of the whole web. The deep web is where the majority of the data lies.

The deep web is used for the primary purpose of maintaining privacy and security. Organizations and educational institutes use the deep web to prevent people outside from accessing it. Additionally, one would need access to specific tools, such as a VPN service, to access the networks on the deep web.

Applications of Deep Web

Unlike the dark web, the deep web merely ensures added user privacy and security. But that does not mean the deep web cannot be used illegally. The deep web primarily enables the following applications:

Enhanced Privacy

Even though publicly accessible, the deep web promotes privacy for the users and hosts. Sites on the deep web are protected by usernames and passwords, which prevents the public from accessing them. The deep web could host private databases for a bank or a local network for an educational institute. This way, only the bank’s clients or employees and the educational institutions’ employees or students can access the networks.

Why You Should Not Use the Dark Web?

As you might have already figured out, the dark web is a place where cybercrime is at its boom. The dark web is where one could commit fraud and scams and could also easily become a victim if proper precautions are not taken.

While the dark web does offer anonymity, it is no place for the everyday web user. Your personal information could be threatened here, and you could lose everything you own, or even worse.

What is Onion Routing?

Onion routing is a technique that allows for anonymous communication. A Tor browser and no other may only access the onion routing technology. Information that travels through an onion route is encrypted on several layers, like an onion. Thus, the name Onion.

The Onion route or the Onion network ensures that all traffic traveling is hidden from the public eye. Unless a person has the necessary tools and the right username and password, they cannot access any site on the Onion route.

What is Surface Web?

The surface web is the standard web that we use every day. Every everyday activity is on the surface web, whether streaming on YouTube, searching for answers on Google, or visiting social media profiles. However, the surface web is merely a fraction of the entire web. Most of the web is the deep web, which further contains the dark web within. The surface web is the harmless portion of the web that the typical person uses daily.

What is the Tor Project?

Shortened as Tor, The Onion Routing Project is a non-profit organization based out of Seattle. The organization claims to have a goal of developing free software that offers privacy to users. The Tor Project has put forth a browser that works on the principles of onion routing, known as the Tor browser. This browser can access the dark and deep web, provided that one has the right onion link and the necessary tools.

Best Practices for Using Dark Web

Though you ought to stay away from the dark web because it is dangerous for the typical web user. Still, if you must visit the dark web with good intentions, you must take the necessary precautions to safeguard yourself from threats. Here are a few things that you should keep in mind:

Use a VPN Service

People might not give it much importance, but a VPN service is a remarkable tool that can create a safe environment for you online. A VPN service primarily offers enhanced privacy and security by masking your IP address and replacing it with a virtual IP address from a different geographical location. Thus, your physical location will stay hidden when you access online content.

Ivacy VPN is exactly the VPN service you need to make it all possible for you. It offers all the necessary security features you will need while browsing on the dark or deep web.


Avoid Installing Add-ons

It would help if you also stayed away from third-party add-ons. Since the Tor browser is based on Mozilla Firefox, the add-ons that work on Mozilla Firefox will also work on the Tor browser. These third-party add-ons can often track your activities online. Moreover, they can also store logs of your sessions online that contribute to exposing who you are.

Use an Operating System that Focuses on Privacy

Another thing you must do when you intend to visit the dark web or the deep web even is switch to a different operating system. Everyday operating systems like Windows are not highly focused on privacy.

On the other hand, operating systems such as Linux make much more sense. Linux and other operating systems based on Linux offer complex privacy and security features that can help you browse the dark web in a relatively safe environment.

Threats Associated with the Dark Web and Deep Web

The dark and deep web are a portion of the internet that is not indexed by conventional search engines. It is accessed through anonymity tools like Tor, which can harbor various threats due to its inherent anonymity and lack of oversight. While not all content or activity on the dark web is malicious, there are significant risks associated with using it. Some potential threats on the dark web include:

Illegal Activities

The dark and deep web are known for hosting illegal activities such as drug trafficking, illegal weapons trade, counterfeit currency, and human trafficking. Engaging in or even inadvertently stumbling upon such activities can lead to legal consequences.

Fraud and Scams

Scammers can operate on the deep and dark web, offering fake services, stolen data, or counterfeit products. Users might fall victim to financial fraud or identity theft.

Hacking Tools and Services

Malicious actors offer hacking tools, services, and tutorials that can be used to compromise systems, steal data, and launch cyber attacks.

Stolen Data and Personal Information

Stolen data, such as credit card information, personal login credentials, and personal information, can be bought and sold on the deep and dark web. This data is often obtained through data breaches.

Malware and Exploits

Malware, ransomware, and other malicious software can be acquired on the dark web, enabling cybercriminals to infect systems and demand ransom or steal sensitive information.

Illicit Content

The dark web can host disturbing and illegal content, including child pornography, extreme violence, and hate speech.

Phishing and Social Engineering

Phishing scams and social engineering tactics are used to manipulate individuals into sharing their personal information or performing actions that compromise their security.

Counterfeit Products

Counterfeit goods, including fake pharmaceuticals and counterfeit luxury items, can be found on the dark web.

Extortion and Threats

Criminals might use the dark web to threaten individuals or organizations with exposure of sensitive information or other harm unless a ransom is paid.

Espionage and Leaked Documents

Sensitive corporate or government documents may be leaked on the dark web, potentially exposing classified information.

Botnets and DDoS Attacks

Cybercriminals can rent or sell access to botnet networks of compromised computers to launch large-scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

Privacy Risks

While the dark web offers anonymity, users may still be vulnerable to attacks that compromise their anonymity, such as traffic analysis attacks or exit node monitoring.

Disinformation and Propaganda

The dark web can be used to spread false information, extremist ideologies, and propaganda.

Unreliable Services

Not all services offered on the dark web are legitimate. Users might be scammed when purchasing products or services.

Health and Safety Risks

Illicit substances and medications obtained from the dark web can pose serious health risks due to unknown origins, quality, and dosage.

It is important to note that while the dark web can be a source of many risks, it does not exclusively host malicious actors. Legitimate and ethical uses, such as journalists communicating with sources, activists in repressive regimes, and individuals seeking privacy for legitimate reasons, also exist. However, navigating the dark web requires extreme caution, and individuals should thoroughly understand the risks and legal implications before exploring it.

Summing It All Up

We are confident that the discussion above will once and for all clear the confusion between the dark vs deep web for you. The deep and the dark web both offer enhanced privacy and anonymity to the users, but you ought to tread more carefully on the dark web. And in either case, you ought to rely on additional security tools, such as a VPN service, to help pave the way.


Frequently Asked Questions

What the dark vs deep web is?

The dark vs deep web is not a fair comparison. The deep web is the majority of the web that offers added privacy and anonymity for the users. And it is entirely legal and safe to use for everyone.

The dark web is a sub-section of the deep web that is hidden by additional layers of security. This is often used for criminal activities, and one would need access to unique tools to access it.

Which is deeper–the deep web or the dark web?

The dark web is much deeper than the deep web. Since the dark web is a sub-category of the deep web, the two are not entirely unrelated. You will have to go to the depths of the deep web to access the dark web.

Deep web vs dark web vs shadow web – What’s the difference?

The comparison of dark vs deep web vs shadow web is probably one of the most confusing among hardcore web users. And while we may have clarified your confusion regarding the dark web vs deep web, you still ought to know about the shadow web.

The shadow web is said to be the layer beneath the dark web and is believed to be even more dangerous than the dark web. The shadow web is supposed to be the darkest part of the web where the most dangerous criminal acts are performed.

Is the deep web safer than the dark web?

Yes, if we compare the dark vs deep web, the deep web is completely safe and legal to use for everyone. In contrast, the dark web is a dangerous place known to be used by cybercriminals for illegal activities.

Deep web vs dark web vs surface web – What’s the difference?

The answer to the comparison between the surface web vs deep web vs dark web can be explained using the concept of an iceberg in the ocean. The visible part of the iceberg above the ocean is the surface web. This is only a fraction of the entire web that everyone commonly uses.

The remainder of the gigantic iceberg under the ocean is the deep web hidden from the typical user. It has enhanced privacy and anonymity as well.

And a small portion of that deep web is the dark web which is even more secure and anonymous.

How Do You Get on the Dark Web?

One would need special software and tools to unlock the dark web to get on to the dark web. This will also include using the Tor browser and a unique onion link to the site.

Is It Illegal to Access the Dark Web?

Visiting the dark web itself is not illegal. You could be visiting the dark web for whistleblowing or several other good reasons. That being said, the dark web is a dangerous place that is known to be the place where cyber criminals conduct illegal activities. So, one should take extreme precautions if it is necessary to visit the dark web.

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