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Journey Through the World Wide Web

By Microsoft in Business Team on July 19, 2016

Filed under Microsoft in Business

The Internet as we know it is constantly changing. Right now, according to Internet Live Stats, there are 1,049,924,556 websites online. Wait, make that 1,049,924,564. By the time you check that link there might be 1,050,000,000. And that’s just the Surface web—websites that you can search via an engine such as Bing or Google. The World Wide Web is actually made up of three layers. Maybe you’ve heard the terms “Deep Web” or “Dark Web.” If you’re a fan of House of Cards, you might remember Lucas Goodwin and his attempt to garner private data from a hacker in the Deep Web. But what’s the difference between the Deep Web and the Dark Web? Why all the secrecy? And where do these areas of the Internet exist? Let’s take a quick journey through the layers of the World Wide Web to clear up some confusion.

Layer One: The Surface Web. This is the Internet as we know it. Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and all the sites you frequent to shop for clothes, food, electronics, home goods, etc. exist here. As of March 2016, there are an estimated 4 billion indexed web pages in this top layer of the Internet. That may sound massive, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. This surface layer of the Internet is made up of just .03% of all World Wide Web pages. That’s a sobering statistic. While this small section of the vast Internet doesn’t include your private information, caution is still a must. When you’re surfing the web, be sure to use a secure, password-protected Wi-Fi connection. And if you’re purchasing goods online, a secure service such as PayPal will help to protect your financial details.

Layer Two: The Deep Web. The Deep Web is filled with web pages that aren’t indexed. Translation: a Google or Bing search won’t turn them up. All of the data that is hidden behind firewalls exists here, in this second layer of the Internet. While the Deep Web often gets confused with the Dark Web, they are entirely different layers of the World Wide Web. Every time you log into your online bank account, or send a private message to a Facebook friend, you’re accessing the Deep Web. An online search won’t turn up sites that exist here though; you’ll need to have the exact URL, login credentials and a password to access these pages. There is a way to search for webpages within the Deep Web, but only within specific websites. In other words, if you are already at your intended website, you can use its search tool to find “hidden” pages.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “big data.” The Deep Web is where much of this raw data lives, stored by government officials, scientists, researchers and the like. The Deep Web is estimated to house 500 times as many web pages as the Surface Web. There isn’t anything inherently scary or illegal about the Deep Web. These are simply pages of the Internet that are blocked from public consumption. If you’ve written a blog post in LinkedIn, for example, but are still drafting and have not yet hit “publish,” that blog draft resides in the Deep Web. Until you publish it; then it becomes part of the Surface Web. All of your financial, social security, healthcare and other personal data is stored in this layer of the Internet. As such, it should be carefully guarded with multi-factor authentication and strong passwords.

Layer Three: The Dark Web. This is yet another layer of the Internet that exists inside the Deep Web. If you think of the Internet as an iceberg, The Deep Web is everything under water. And the Dark Web is the deepest part of that underwater section. Because the Dark Web is completely anonymous, its web pages cannot be accessed by typing in the URL or performing a search. In fact, the only way to get to websites within this deepest part of the Internet is by using special software that disguises your IP address. The most common of these is known as the TOR (The Onion Router) network. The idea that this part of the web is anonymous (along with its ominous name) makes the Dark Web sound like a breeding ground for criminals. And while it’s certainly a hotbed for illegal activities, using TOR to access the Dark Web does not automatically make you a hacker (or worse). Remaining anonymous also prohibits companies from gathering personal data, such as your location or shopping habits. The data in the Deep Web that gets stolen is frequently sold here in the Dark Web. The best way to avoid this happening to you is to ensure that you’re well protected. Fortunately, basic computer hygiene can help you protect against 98% of these attacks. Be sure to address any unpatched vulnerabilities in your software, run the latest version of your operating system and use multi-factor authentication rather than a simple password to secure your data.

Since its inception, the number of Internet users has increased from one percent of the world’s population to more than 40%. As the World Wide Web continues to grow, so too will the number of websites and web pages that make it up. And as more and more of this population dives deeper into the vast unknown areas of the Internet, keeping your private data protected is of utmost importance.

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