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Avast Blog_Tips & Advices: The dark web: a primer for the rest of us
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Understanding the difference between the public web, the deep web and the dark web.

What is the dark web?

Most of us tend to think about the web as a single destination, available through our browsers on our laptops and phones. But over the years it has evolved into three very different parts: the clear or public web, the private or deep web and the darknet or dark web. In this primer, we explain their differences, what kinds of information can be found in each part, and why you need to protect yourself when you access this content. As you can tell by the fact that we list different terms, there is no hard and fast division among the three pieces. Here is a good[Only registered and activated users can see links Click here to register], which is somewhat outdated but a useful starting point.

The public web is the web that most of us are very familiar with: the sites that are run by the major dot com businesses, the SaaS sites that provide our software for running common office applications and email, and so forth. This is the data that freely flows between our computers every day. These sites are searched and recognized by Google and other search engines. If you have a web security tool, this is the part of the web that is their focus. Most of the security products give the other parts of the web short attention, if at all.

But when we move to the private web, we come to a part of the online world that isn’t easily indexed by the search engines or covered by security tools. This includes private Intranets, instant messaging (IM) services, chat rooms, discussion forums and private databases that are behind various firewalls or that have no public Internet footprint. Until a few years ago, most [Only registered and activated users can see links Click here to register] didn’t focus on using these areas to gain footholds into business networks but that has changed. As IM usage has taken off (with Microsoft Teams, Slack and other services), adversaries have created tools that can leverage the lack of much built-in security across these services. This makes IM a prime target of opportunity for [Only registered and activated users can see links Click here to register]-like attacks in particular. As an example of the increasing [Only registered and activated users can see links Click here to register] that can be found coming from private web sources, just look at the number of[Only registered and activated users can see links Click here to register].

Finally, there is the dark web. This portion of the online world is much more difficult to get our hands around. Like the private web, these sites take pains to not appear on search indexes, mainly because some of them offer illegal goods and services, including drugs, stolen data (such as credit card numbers) and hacking tools. Not all its content is illegal, but there is a lot that could be questionable.

Examples of this dark web content includes:
  • Places where you can hire hackers to break into networks
  • Drugs and other illegal items
  • Lists of username/password pairs taken from data breaches
  • Tutorials on how to use computing tools, especially those that relate to hacking, [Only registered and activated users can see links Click here to register] writing, exploitation and code [Only registered and activated users can see links Click here to register]
  • Financial data on companies that could be available from a public site or data breaches.
  • Compromised sites and suspicious domains for sale
  • Source codes of “undetectable” malware that are for sale
  • Directories of command and control servers for hire for launching [Only registered and activated users can see links Click here to register] and other attacks
  • URLs of [Only registered and activated users can see links Click here to register] file-sharing sites
  • Censored content of all kinds 
...
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