Looking Below the Surface…

The web is like an iceberg

The Difference between the Deep and Dark Web

The web is like an iceberg – at surface level, we can only see a small portion, but a much larger mass concealed beneath the water, hidden from view. The web has three distinct layers: the surface web, the deep web, and the dark web. When relying on open source intelligence for evidence collection, it’s important to understand where to look for information that could be of value.

Surface Web:

Just like an iceberg, the surface web is easiest to view. It includes any publicly available content that is indexed by search engines like Google or Bing, and shows up in search results. If you found this article from a simple search, then you used the surface web. The surface web makes up about 4% of online content.

Deep Web:

The deep web is just below the surface web, and consists of non-indexed, private information that is not accessible using a search engine. Anything that requires login credentials and explicitly blocks web crawlers from indexing is included. You access the deep web anytime you log into your social media account or make a secure payment online. The deep web makes up about 90% of online content.

Dark Web:

The dark web is encrypted and only accessible only when using specific browsers that offer anonymity and use a virtual private network (VPN). Here, you can find stolen information, illegal goods, and illicit content. Only 6% of the web is considered dark.

Using the Surface Web and Deep Web for OSINT Investigations

The deep web and dark web are not interchangeable terms, and they constitute very different types of investigations. For example, OSINT analysts will often use the deep web for evidence collection and reporting without a need for the dark web, while FBI agents may track illegal activity on the dark web for months to solve a case. Because of the dark web’s encrypted information, many users practice immense discretion and their identities cannot be confirmed online. And because the dark web is so elusive, getting connected can also be costly, and unnecessary for most clients seeking OSINT information.

SMI Aware uses proprietary software and highly trained analysts to discover, collect, and preserve information for investigations using both the surface web and the deep web. We go beyond the scope of the surface web to collect private information and search for your subject using the deep web. We locate and preserve social media accounts, posts, and pictures, public records, and articles within the scope of your subject. Using our Export service, we can preserve the metadata and source code to secure the digital chain of custody, allowing your findings to be admissible in court. And at SMI Aware, we’ll do it all safely, securely, and cost-effectively. Contact us today to learn more and start your investigations!


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