By now, you’ve likely heard about the Deep Web and the Darknet – but what are they, and should brand owners be concerned about monitoring and enforcing on the nether regions of the Internet?
The Deep Web, unlike the Surface Web, is comprised of un-indexed webpages, dynamic content pages, and otherwise gated information inaccessible via a regular browsers or search engines. The Surface Web is what we would consider “regular” webpages that can be indexed by search engines. What many people don’t realize is that most of the Internet is actually in the Deep Web, and mainstream browsers will only give you access to 4% of the Internet!
A wide range of information can be found in the Deep Web, including academic resources, subscription information and conference proceedings. Unfortunately, the Deep Web is also where un-indexed sites sell counterfeit or grey market goods, collect user credentials, disseminate malware, engage in false association, and conduct consumer scams. Internet users are directed to the Deep Web through a variety of methods including spam (of all types), advertisements, and cybersquatted domain names.
So then, what exactly is the Darknet?
Technically a small subset of the Deep Web, the Darknet is a network that can only be accessed via the Tor (The Onion Router) browser. Tor was originally developed in the mid-90’s by the United States Naval Research Laboratory to protect intelligence communication– and today, approximately 2.5 million access it on a daily basis. The main purpose for using Tor is to enable anonymous communication and it is used by political dissidents in hostile regimes. It is also appealing to strong privacy advocates who don’t want their online actions to be tracked by advertisers and officials, journalists when searching for dangerous and sensitive information, as well as criminals who want to profit while maintaining their anonymity.
Given how easy it is to download Tor, it’s no surprise that people are accessing the Darknet to visit underground marketplaces where counterfeit, pirated, and illicit goods are sold.
As a brand owner, it is important for you to know how your brand is being represented in both the Deep Web and the Darknet. While monitoring and enforcing against abuse on the Surface Web is a requirement for most companies these days, policing the Deep Web is actually just as important, if not more so, as offenders are actively seeking to evade detection. The good news is that for abuse occurring in much of the Deep Web (not including the Darknet), standard enforcement strategies can be utilized. However, due to the anonymity of the Darknet, it’s imperative to reset expectations regarding enforcement, as the emphasis will be on monitoring and understanding the scope of the problem.