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  • Dean Smith

The Surface Web, Deep Web, and Dark Web Explained

It is important to understand that not all information on the world wide web can be accessed through a simple Google search. Although Google is a significant tool and search engine, and an integral part of our investigations, there is so much more to the internet than what can be discovered on the surface web. ICU Investigators utilize findings from three layers, the surface web, deep web and dark web, to compile our Internet Profile Reports. However, we also want you to know the difference in regard to your identity and identity theft.

Surface Web

The Surface Web is most likely what you utilize to access the internet every day. Websites are indexed using keywords, web addresses, content, etc., and will pop up in your searches on engines such as Google and Bing. Just to give you an idea of just how massive the World Wide Web is, according to an article on, there were approximately 334.6 million web domains registered at the end of 2016, which jumped to over 1.2 billion in February 2017, just 2 short months. However, the surface web is the SMALLEST LAYER.

Deep Web

The Deep Web is where 90% of websites are located, and is approximately 4,000 to 5,000 times larger than the Surface Web, making it the largest layer of the three.

Websites on the Deep Web are not indexed by search engines such as Google or Bing. But you have most likely accessed the Deep Web without even knowing it! But do not be alarmed. Here are a few examples of how you may access the Deep Web daily:

  1. Online Banking Sites

  2. Healthcare Online Portals

  3. Academic Online Portals

For obvious reasons, these can only be accessed via the Deep Web as a means of keeping your personal information out of public view and not as a result in a simple Google search. And although these types of websites are used for legitimate purposes, the Deep Web can also be used for illegal/criminal activity, which is why people would choose to use it to keep out of the public view.

Dark Web

According to, “it’s important to know that the Dark Web is not ‘technically’ its own Web layer. However, many refer to the Dark Web as its own entity because of how different it is when compared to the Deep Web.” Confused? We thought so. To help you better understand Dark Web, think of it in relation to the Deep Web. The Deep Web refers to ANY webpage that does not get indexed by Google, Bing, and other search engines. The Dark Web as an entity is the “DEEPEST” part of the Deep Web.

Check out this infographic:

How can you tell if you’ve accessed the Dark Web? You won’t see URLs that end in the normal .com, .org, .net, etc. Dark Web URLs end in .onion, and can ONLY be accessed utilizing specific web browsers, such as The Onion Router, or TOR for short. TOR, and other browsers like it, will randomize the data coming both to and from your computer or smart phone, allowing for complete anonymity. Therefore, most illegal activity, such as the online black market, is conducted on the Dark Web.

What is the Online Black Market, and How Do I Keep My Information off of the Dark Web?

The Online Black Market is used to “sell” items (currency is Bitcoin, or an online token exchanged for traditional currency) such as stolen data, credit cards, guns, drugs, etc. Since these transactions take place on the Dark Web, they are completely anonymous.

You know all of those “Data Breaches” you’ve been hearing about, where personal and financial information is hacked and stolen? Guess where that information ends up? If you guessed the Dark Web, you’re correct. Criminals sell and trade your personal and financial information on Black Market sites, and the infographic from below shows average prices:

Not only can your data be sold, but it can also be dumped. “Data dumping is exactly how it sounds – criminals take large batches of information and ‘dump’ it online, allowing access to that information for anyone on the Web.”

Now, for the most important part; protect yourself and your personal information by taking the following steps:

  1. CREATE STRONG PASSWORDS, make sure your passwords vary on different online accounts, and change them often.

  2. The number of data breaches appears to be increasing (at least the one’s we hear about on the news). If you are a victim of a data breach:

  3. Identify the information that has been compromised

  4. Check your bank statements and online banking DAILY

  5. Request your credit reports from ALL THREE major credit bureaus

  6. Look into applying credit freezes or adding fraud alerts for further protection

Information is power, and although we utilize the Surface Web and Deep/Dark Web for investigative purposes, we want you to know how to PROTECT YOURSELF in the event your personal and financial information has been compromised. Be proactive and vigilant!

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