What is the dark web?

It sounds mysterious, slightly sinister and is becoming more widely understood, but how much do you know about the ‘dark web’? Although you may have a vague idea of what it is and what goes on there, you perhaps feel it’s not something you need to concern yourself with. However, it could expose you to a heightened risk of fraud. So, let’s cast some light on this dimly lit corner of the internet.

Demystifying the dark web

To put it in as simple terms as possible, the dark web is made up of a series of websites that are hidden from normal view. You won’t come across these sites by searching with Google. In fact, you need a special browser to access them. The dark web offers anonymity to users and therefore has become associated with criminal online activity.

What goes on there?

The dark web has a pretty bad reputation. It offers its users secrecy and makes it very difficult to track their activities. This has led to it becoming a marketplace for selling drugs, stolen data and weapons.

Is the dark web illegal?

The dark web and the browsers used to access its sites are not illegal. Alongside the bad things are lots of normal online communities and social networks which break no laws. It is also a space where people, such as journalists, who hold sensitive information, can share it while shielding their identities.

The deep web is not the dark web

If you’ve heard of the dark web and the deep web, it’s important to know these aren’t exactly the same thing. The deep web is made up of sites that won’t show up on internet searches. For example, your work intranet or other member-only websites. The dark web adds another layer of secrecy to this, in that you need a special browser to access sites there.

Why you should care

But you’re not an arms dealer, or a journalist looking to break a controversial story, so why does any of this matter to you? Well, if your personal information is stolen in a hack, those details may end up on the dark web. To reduce the chances of this happening, here are some quick tips to avoid falling victim to identity theft:

  • Never respond to unsolicited emails and phone calls
  • Use different passwords for different accounts – particularly for your email account and online banking
  • Use strong passwords made up of three random words. Also, substitute some letters for numbers (for example an S could be changed to a 5)

If you’re a victim of fraud

Experian CreditExpert, our paid service, could help to find out if your details have been compromised. We help you protect your identity by scanning the internet, including the dark web, for your personal details and letting you know if we think you're at risk of fraud.

If you have been affected, we offer dedicated support from an expert who can contact lenders to help get everything fixed on your Experian Credit Report. Once you have joined, we can then continue to monitor and send alerts if we find anything concerning.