Stories of government surveillance and hacker attacks move many people to seek methods of online anonymity. Various services proclaim the ability to protect online identities and activities.
All web users benefit from knowing the levels of visibility on the web and where one is most susceptible to police scrutiny.
Three levels of web activity
The surface web is open and easily accessible. People access surface websites with standard browsers and search engines. Social media also exists on the surface web. Law enforcement can easily monitor the activity here from the logs of an internet service provider. This part of the web is equivalent to walking about outside in public.
The deep web describes portions of the internet that an individual can only reach with a username and password. The phrase encompasses anything below the surface web. Web activity here compares to entering a members-only establishment. Authorities may receive information by requesting it from website owners but often require search warrants and cooperation.
The dark web is the deepest section of the deep web. The dark web is not illegal, but it harbors much illicit activity, such as terrorism, sex trafficking, extortion and money laundering. People must use unique tools to access the dark web, which offers the most significant level of anonymity.
Police investigation on the dark web
Investigators must build a conclusive case to accuse someone of dark web crimes. Law enforcement cannot simply request a warrant for an activity log from third parties. Still, with persistent investigation, police go undercover to collect evidence. Intelligence measures help authorities to build a case, and their work leads to arrests and prosecutions.
While activity on the dark web is not necessarily illegal, many pitfalls exist. Dark web activity is not impenetrable protection against pursuit by the authorities.