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How Much of the Internet is the Dark Web in 2023?
Updated · Jul 05, 2023
After getting a master's degree in Literature, Publishing, and Mass Media, Teodora spent most of her... | See full bio
Even hearing the words ‘dark web’ can conjure up sinister connotations. In fact, our image of this part of the web is likely to be seedy. You may recall horror stories involving drug lords, people trafficking, and major fraud on the dark web as you browse your favorite news site.
The truth is, however, that the dark web also has its fair share of good, including activists and whistleblowers who seek justice and freedom.
But how much of the internet is the dark web?
Now’s the time to learn everything you need to know about the dark web in 2022.
Alarming Dark Web Statistics
As already mentioned, the dark web can be a rather disturbing place. So why is this?
- The country whose population has the largest per capita usage of worldwide darknet platforms in India.
- Credit card numbers cost as little as $9 on the dark web markets.
- Payment data costs as little as $270 on the dark web.
- The Dark Web accounts for roughly 48% of the internet.
- The most commonly listed guns on the dark web are pistols, making 84% of category listings.
- Terrorism statistics on the dark web reveal that 50,000 extremist groups exist there.
- 8.1% of listings on darknet marketplaces are for illicit drugs.
- ‘Empire’ is one of the largest darknet marketplaces listing over 6,000 products.
How Big Is the Dark Web?
So how much of the internet is the dark web?
Imagine an iceberg floating in the ocean. The smallest portion above the water is what we call the ‘surface web’. It only represents around 4% of the entire internet.
Dive underwater, and you’ll see the deep web which makes up most of the internet. Search engines don't index those sites but you can access them with a standard web browser.
Right at the bottom of the iceberg sits the dark web, representing only a tiny percentage. Here are some more stats about the size of the surface, deep and dark web.
1. DDark web statistics in 2022 show that the market share of the dark web is around 6%
It consumes about 75K terabytes of data and is home to 3K hidden sites. And by the way, that’s just a rough estimate. The net is so vast that no one can tell the actual figure.
2. In 2022, hackers exposed social security numbers belonging to 250K professionals on the dark web.
(Source: Government Technology)
Online criminals compromised a Department of Licensing database early this year. The breach affected a quarter of a million business and professional licensees.
The hack was discovered after two of the victims learned their data was on the dark web.
3. The "surface web" represents only 4% of the internet.
(Source: Visual Capitalist)
“Surface web” is the portion of the internet that is indexed by search engines and can be traced easily. Compared to the deep web which stores around 7,500 TB of data, the surface web stores a mere 19TB which is equivalent to around 980,000,000 websites. With this in mind, the number of sites stored on the dark web must be huge!
4. Statistics about the dark web tell us that 60 of the biggest websites on there are around 750TB in size.
(Source: Visual Capitalist)
Compared to all of the websites available on the entire surface web, the deep web alone is actually 40 times larger than this.
5. Most people don’t understand the Dark Web.
(Source: ID Agent)
Research found that around 30% of people in North America frequently visit the Dark Web. Two fascinating reasons as to why include a need to remain anonymous online and the ability to access geo-blocked content. You can do the same with a VPN service though.
That said, darknet stats also show that the rest of the population is widely unaware of the dark web.
This is a big issue in more ways than one. The most glaring problem is that the average employee who is oblivious to the sizable market for company and customer information is less equipped to protect this data.
Dark Web Crime Statistics
Weapons and dark web drug statistics are truly alarming. Just take a look:
6. Although only 1% of listings on the dark web are for firearms, the most commonly listed gun on there are pistols, making 84% of category listings.
Pistols are the most commonly listed gun within the firearms category, making up 84% of total listings. This is followed by rifles at 10%, and then sub-machine guns at 6%. While as much as 60% of firearm products originate from the US, Europe has, in fact, the largest market for such weapons. So much so that it generates around 5 times more revenue from them than the US.
7. The selling of illegal drugs makes up around 8.1% of the dark web marketplace, according to dark web drug statistics.
Historically, the marketplace most famous for selling illegal drugs was ‘Silk Road’. However, it's long gone, closed down back in 2013.
Since then, a number of other marketplaces have also closed. But the biggest ones - Empire and Nightmare - still remain, according to reliable dark web drug trade statistics.
8. Illegal financing takes up around 6.3% of all dark web markets.
Although 6.3% seems like a small figure, there is no shortage of activities taking place within this category. Based on statistics of the dark web, some of the most popular include:
- Phishing - a good example of this is when an attacker tries to gather someone's card details by encouraging them to input them into a fraudulent form as part of an unsolicited email.
- Skimming - commonly achieved by placing a device on a card reader which steals valuable data from a credit card when it is swiped.
- Malware - it’s software that a user is tricked to download to their computer, which then steals their personal information.
9. Activities within the ‘non-illicit’ or ‘unknown’ category of the dark web make up about 22.6% of total activity.
(Source: Daniel Moore &Thomas Rid)
These include things like secure drop sites, websites relating to politics or ideologies, or repositories of information. Some of these can sometimes be legitimate. This in itself goes to show that not all sites on the dark web are ‘bad’.
Dark Web Danger Statistics
The dark web, in general, isn’t a safe place to be. Around 50,000 extremist terrorist groups exist there. If this alone hasn’t put you off, people hunt for malware on there too. In fact, according to various dark web identity theft statistics, many high-profile malware attacks and tools originated there.
That said, should you choose to enter it, equip yourself with the best antivirus software. Additionally, some of the best VPN services can also help you protect your identity. Last but not least you can get an ID theft protection service which is the most reliable method.
Don’t believe us? Take a look at the stats below.
10. Demand for malware on the dark web outstrips supply up to three times.
The current massive demand for malware has resulted in criminals now developing and sourcing new tools to improve the supply chain. One of the most popular includes ‘malware as a service’ or ‘malware distribution for hire’, as dark web statistics on malware show.
11. Terrorism statistics on the dark web reveal that there are 50,000 extremist groups on this part of the internet.
(Source: Wilson Center)
Terrorists started using online platforms in the late 1990s. Back then it was the surface web. However, after high profile and devastating events, such as the attacks in Paris during November 2015 took place, terrorists decided they want anonymity. And so, they turned to the dark web to remain hidden and safeguard their content from hacktivists.
12. In 2021, a hacker posted 700M LinkedIn records on the dark web.
Dark web crime statistics show the LinkedIn data breach exposed 92% of LinkedIn users. The hackers put the records up for sale and even posted samples to show they were serious.
They contained details like:
- Full names and profile URLs
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Related social media accounts
13. Hackers breached 230 487 files belonging to Service Employees International Union staff.
Dark web statistics also show that in early 2022 230 487 records belonged to school service workers, maintenance crews, food handlers, and window cleaners. The expose contained their social security numbers, names, and addresses.
How Many People Use the Dark Web?
India is the country with the most users of the dark web and in contrast, Australia and South America are the least popular.
But how many people use the dark web?
Read on to find out.
14. The population of India has the largest per capita usage of the darknet than anywhere else in the world.
This is based on dark web users statistics taken from 23,227 respondents. They indicate that India has the highest percentage of the world population using the dark web, making up 26% of all countries.
15. Contrastingly, Australia and South America have the lowest usage per capita.
Between both countries, this stands at 11.8% according to the dark web usage statistics. We can understand why these figures represent such a low amount.
Especially for Australia - they have a low population density and are not as advanced in network infrastructure, compared to other countries.
16. 70.6% of all dark web users are male.
So, when it comes to people on the dark web statistics show that the number of females using the dark web is just 29.4%. The rest - 70.6% - are males.
Princeton University carried out a study about it, using a combination of semi-structured interviews and online surveys.
17. Almost 70% of dark web users are aged between 18 and 35.
Most users of the dark web are young. In fact, 35.9% of them fall into the 18 to 25 category, followed by 34.8% who are aged between 26 and 35.
In contrast, only 16.8% of those aged between 36 and 45 admit to using the dark web. Mere 3.1% of 56 to 65-year-olds claim to use it. Over 65’s use the dark web the least with only 0.6% of them surfing it.
Dark Web Market Statistics
Ever wondered what kinds of stuff can you find on the dark web?
Check out those darknet stats to find out.
18. There are eight key category listings that exist on dark web marketplaces.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, most listings tend to be for weapons and drugs, followed by hacking and malware. Other categories that can be seen on various dark web marketplaces are fraud and counterfeit, guide and tutorials, and a category named ‘other’.
19. Statistics on the dark web show that 59% of listings on marketplaces were for illicit drugs and drug-related chemicals.
Out of this 59% of listings, 48% are for illicit drugs, and 11% for drug-related items meaning that 59% of listings were drug-related. The remaining 41% of listings were for other categories like firearms (1%), hacking (2%), guides/tutorials (11%), fraud (17%), and pharmaceuticals (3%). There’s also the category ‘other’, representing 7% of listings.
20. Fraud and counterfeit listings were the next major category, accounting for 17% of marketplaces.
(Source: Statista; Fraud Conference News)
Why is this dark web fact so high? It’s probably because of the fact that people give their personal information out so readily. Then, of course, there’s the wide availability of tools to allow data breaches as well. The dark web is a totally anonymous environment in which people can engage in illicit behavior without being caught.
21. Empire is one of the largest darknet marketplaces listing over 6,000 products.
(Source: Darknet Lists)
Over 50% of listings on this platform are for drugs. Bitcoin, Monero, and Litecoin are accepted forms of payment. Once you pay, the goods are shipped to the buyer through a middle man who can be contacted by either party. Selling items on Empire actually requires a membership fee of $100.
22. 1.5% of Tor browser traffic visits the dark web.
You’d expect a more significant percentage of Tor users to be dealing in shady dark web business. But less than 2% visit such sites. Instead, most people use it to access censored content on surface websites.
How Much Does Your Data Cost on the Dark Web?
Statistics of transactions per day on the dark web reveal that your personal data can be sold on for as much as $270 on the dark web.
Wanna see more statistics indicating money made from the dark web?
Here they come:
23. For as little as $9, stolen credit card numbers can be purchased.
(Source: Positive Technologies)
Cards featuring unique, one-time payment methods are also available for low prices.
You might be wondering how hackers actually manage to acquire these numbers in the first place. One of the most common techniques involves placing a device on an ATM machine or card reader which captures information from the card itself. Bank card details sold on the dark web containing hundreds or thousands of dollars are available for as little as $250, according to recent dark web statistics.
24. Payment data can be obtained for as little as $270 on the dark web.
(Source: Positive Technologies)
The most common way hackers obtain payment data is through various ransomware trojans, which in recent years have caused severe damage to several high-profile companies. In fact, the total damage from such attacks is believed to have exceeded $1.5 billion.
25. A stealer, costing around $10 can be used to steal your valuable passwords.
(Source: Positive Technologies)
So how do they achieve this?
Various dark web statistics show that the most common ways include stealing your passwords from your clipboard, copying your keystrokes, or saving the title of a window as you are typing. That's called keylogging. Some hackers are also capable of disabling your antivirus software. It’s a profitable industry. In fact, revenue generated from an attack is typically 1000 times greater than the actual cost of the attack.
26. The average cost to obtain a scanned copy of a passport is just $2.
(Source: Positive Technologies)
However, passports aren’t the only personal documents criminals are after on the dark web. Driving licenses, credit history reports and other types of financial documents are also popular targets.
So why do criminals find personal data so valuable? It’s because it enables them to register with online services, allowing them to essentially commit fraud by using someone else's details.
Dark Web vs the Deep Web
Ever wondered what the differences are between the surface web vs the deep web vs the dark web? Here’s some much-needed insight.
The deepest layer of the internet is called the dark web and accessing it requires special search engines. It largely contains illegal information like pornography, black markets, and hacking instructions. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some people use it for activism and promoting free speech.
The difference between the deep web vs the dark web is that the deep web is the next layer above the dark web. A much more substantial part of the internet, but once again, isn’t indexed in search engines. According to facts about the deep web, information stored there isn’t illegal, and usually includes things like legal documents, academic information, or medical records. Although deep web stats are uncertain of the exact number of sites contained on the deep web, what we do know is that it holds around 7,500 TB of data across all the deep web websites contained there.
The layer above it is known as the surface web. This is the smallest proportion of the web at just 10%. Here, all sites are indexed by major search engines and are easy to access.
Dark Web Stories
We’ve already looked into how much of the internet is the dark web.
Now it’s time for some real-life stories within the surreal world of the dark web.
1. ISIS makes use of the dark web to protect members, spread propaganda, and safeguard content.
(Source: Terrorism Research Institute)
When attacks occurred in Paris during November 2015, ISIS became increasingly concerned about highly privileged information getting into the wrong hands. In fact, a mysterious and anonymous hacker collective shut down several of their websites available on the surface web through the ‘OpParis’ campaign.
Terrorism statistics on the dark web show that there were various sites set up by ISIS on the dark web to help them spread news and propaganda while also safeguarding their content from hacktivists. As part of this effort, their own media outlet ‘Al-Hayat Media Center’ posted explanations and links on how to access the sites on an ISIS forum.
In tandem with this, ISIS also adopted Telegram, an encrypted platform enabling the sending of messages on various mobile devices. The people behind the platform were so confident in its security that they actually offered a $300,000 reward to any person able to break its encryption. Messages sent here could contain links to ‘.onion’ sites linked to the dark web.
2. Edward Snowden revealing secrets about mass surveillance programs by the NSA.
Edward Snowden is a former intelligence community officer, best known as a whistleblower. He revealed a number of highly classified NDA documents along with information about a secret mass surveillance program after leaving his Infrastructure Analyst job back in May 2013.
Snowden leaked large amounts of information that others could access using passwords or codes via the dark web. He gathered the information from direct contact with various journalists and it couldn’t be searched for using search engines. It had all kinds of details of NSA’s mass surveillance programs, which the public wasn’t aware of. It also happened to be outside the limits of the US constitution. One of the biggest information leaks, according to dark web crime statistics.
Snowden's charges consisted of theft of government property and espionage, each carrying a ten-year sentence. He is now taking residency in Russia, where he can remain for three years.
To this day, journalists are still releasing documents from Snowden, revealing the many hidden surveillance systems used by the government.
3. Operation Onymous closes down a number of illegal dark web sites.
Operation Onymous was a joint venture between the EU Intelligence Agency Europol and FBI to address crimes such as darknet markets, botnets, malware, and the selling of illegal drugs. The latter also involved the participation of the US drug enforcement administration.
The venture was a success, with up to 400 major drug markets being closed down from the start of November 2014. Facts about the deep web show that 17 other arrests were also made in relation to contraband and money laundering sites in 17 other countries.
Perhaps one of the largest triumphs of the scheme was the shutting down of a second version of the notorious Silk Road marketplace, resulting in the arrest of a 26-year-old software developer in San Francisco. After only a couple of hours of the second version being closed down, yet another version of Silk Road was discovered shortly after, swiftly being removed from public use.
Despite this happening, other large illicit markets like Evolution and Agora still remain. The actual number of sites shut down turned out to be hugely elevated. The true number is around 27. Although a far cry from the figure of 414 that was originally published, it still remains impressive considering how much of the internet is the dark web.
5. The rise and demise of Ross William Ulbricht and Silk Road.
(Source: The Guardian)
Ross William Ulbricht had a vision. To create a free marketplace offering anonymity to its users who could buy and sell products as long as they wouldn’t cause anyone harm. He began working on this idea in 2010 as a side hustle to his main book business. His project - the Silk Road site, was active until his eventual arrest in 2013.
Although he was using the online pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts, he was eventually discovered by IRS investigator Gary Alford in 2013. This led to Ulbricht's arrest in October 2013 at the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco public library.
This in itself was an eventful affair. Ulbricht was distracted by a staged display of two agents posing as arguing lovers who were in fact members of the FBI. While this was occurring, another agent grabbed the laptop that Ulbricht was working on and quickly copied important files onto a flash drive as vital legal evidence against him. Various deep web websites are also likely to have helped the FBI in its mission to take down Ulbricht.
In February 2015, Ulbricht was charged with hacking, money laundering, and drug trafficking through the internet. The result was a double life sentence with the addition of 40 years and no chance of parole. With subsequent appeals being unsuccessful, Ulbricht is now being held at Tucson Penitentiary.
So. How much of the internet is the dark web?
Almost half of the internet. From financial fraud to pornography and drug trafficking, it seems like the worst parts of humanity have found themselves a home there.
But sometimes, just sometimes, the dark web allows good things to happen and shines a light on the truth.
Still, proceed with caution or best, avoid it overall.
Is it dark web or dark net?
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Updated · Sep 11, 2023
Updated · Sep 05, 2023