How to Access and Browse the Dark Web

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In this tutorial, we’ll show how to access and browse the dark web. There is so much of the web hidden from the casual Internet user. Since many of these pages are inaccessible from Chrome, Firefox and other Internet browsers, you simply cannot hyperlink to them. If you visit a dark web link, you will only see a blank screen.

Dark Web Site Inaccesible On Chrome

Within the dark web, you will find exclusive content on cybersecurity, cryptocurrency, anonymous servers and legitimate websites banned by ISPs and governments. You can also send anonymous emails, access P2P links, engage in e-commerce and read scientific research papers, all the while preventing websites and search engines from indexing your private data.

There are a few differences between the “deep” and “dark” web. The former refers to any website not indexed by search engines; the latter to web-like networks which can only be accessed by proprietary protocols or encryption. However, for the purpose of this article, we will use both terms interchangeably.

Disclaimer: the content of this article is for informational and educational purposes only. There is plenty of offensive, uncensored and illegal content on the dark web. Venture at your own risk.

How to Access Dark Web: Precursor Steps

Download and install the Tor browser. It’s only a 54 MB download. The Tor browser masks your IP address and gives you the first layer of privacy while you’re exploring dark web sites.

Tor Browser Homepage

The Tor installation is simple and won’t consume too much space.

Tor Browser Installation

Once done, you must click “Connect” to start accessing sites online. A majority of users can access the Tor site straightaway. However, there are many countries which ban or censor Tor, so you might first need to configure proxy settings.

Tor Connect

While Tor masks your IP address, it is not entirely secure for dark web surfing. Firstly, your ISP knows you’re using Tor, so that defeats the purpose of anonymity. Also, since each server in Tor is under private ownership, you never know who’s behind the relays your data is traveling through.

Always make it a habit to use a Tor browser together with a secure VPN service for the best privacy.

blocked-sites-nordvpn

As an optional step, you might want to cloak your Windows operating system while surfing the dark web. This is because the dark web is a den of cyber-criminals. Many of them are on the prowl for healthy Windows systems. The best way to cloak your identity is to install a virtual machine, such as VirtualBox.

Create Virtual Hard Disk Virtualbox

Once the virtual hard disk is ready for use, install a live Linux operating system to run from your VirtualBox HD. One readily available tool is Tails; it’s very effective with privacy and anonymity.

Tails Operating System

Start Using Onion Links

Onion links are important gateways to access hidden dark web sites.

A casual DuckDuckGo search for onion links in Tor will introduce you to several important onion links. Do remember that many of these link locations are not fixed and keep shifting. As Tor deletes all your information when you exit, you will need to refresh the search each time, a practice that is good for privacy lovers. If you want, you may bookmark your favorite onion links on Tor, but it is always better to stash them away in a secure email service like ProtonMail.

Casual Search Onion Sites On Tor Browser

“The Hidden Wiki” is a good starting point for those looking for a directory of handy onion sites. While we cannot provide a direct link, these are easily available on a DuckDuckGo search.

The Hidden Wiki Search

Ahmia, a Finland-based onion search engine provider, maintains a good list of deep web sites.

Ahmia Tor Service

Torch is another popular onion search engine with a database of over a half million sites.

Torch Onion Search Engine

How to Browse the Dark Web

Now that you have access to the dark web, there is much you can do on your own. Here are a few legitimate applications you will find useful.

1. Access social media sites: while it might seem pointless, you can easily access your favorite social media site on the dark web. For example, I use a legitimate onion site for Facebook (facebookcorewwwi.onion/), which is a good way to avoid being targeted for Facebook ads. As shown below, it is also a digitally-certified secure connection, which is secure and encrypted.

Facebook Digitally Certified Secure

2. Send anonymous emails: there are many good onion email services such as “TorBox,” which allows you to send messages online discreetly. Since the emails are relayed over multiple anonymous servers, they cannot be traced back to the source. Unlike temporary email services, the accounts are free and forever. This has many uses; for example, if you’re doing competitive intelligence on behalf of a company.

Anonymous Emails

3. Independent journalism: one of the best applications of the dark web is that independent journalists can access controversial content for their research. The onion (propub3r6espa33w.onion/) has never been down in years and even won a Pulitzer prize.

Propublica Opt

You can even access onion links for popular news websites, which is just another way to bypass their paywalls.

New York Times Tor Opt

4. Access scientific articles: a lot of scientific research publications on the surface web require access to a university, alumnus network or hefty paywalls. The dark web serves as a great resource leveler, as you can now find all the information you need with a few quick searches.

scientific-featured

5. Cryptocurrency: want to buy cryptocurrency using cash from a local dealer near you or PayPal balance? The Dark Web has you covered. You can always check seller reputation depending on the number of trades the seller has had.

Local Monero

Bitcoins or Monero are the preferred means to transact online on the dark web, as you don’t want to use a credit card or PayPal. Don’t do this even by mistake; the hackers will immediately put your account up for sale!

6. File uploads in the dark web: sharing files on the dark web are relatively safer through Tor hidden services. You can upload and share any content online, and no one will ever get wind that it was you.

Black Cloud File Sharing

7. Copy-paste securely: there are sites like ZeroBin where you can copy-paste anything securely without the server knowing about it.

Zerobin Copy Paste Anonymously

8. Books and videos online: you can access many online titles for free in one of the many online forums on the dark web.

news-amazon-machine-learning-courses-books

Fair Warning Ahead!

Every invention has its pros and cons. With the dark web, the negatives somewhat outweigh the positives. You should really stay away from illegal content. Many such sites are often “seized” by law enforcement and shut down for good. As long as you use the deep web for productive purposes, you have nothing to worry about. It can help you enjoy a network which guarantees privacy and extra access.

Deep Web Site Banned

Conclusion

Rough estimates suggest that the deep and dark web makes up nearly 96% of the Internet. Search engines, including Google, know nothing about these sites. It might seem an urban myth because the number of dark web sites might not be that huge, but there is still a lot of information you won’t find on the surface web.

Have you surfed the dark web before? What was it like for you? Do share your experience in the comments as well as safety tips from your personal experience which will be appreciated.

Image Credits: Dark Web

6 comments

  1. The biggest challenge with dark web is the putrid depth of its criminal associations. It is largely unregulated with cybercriminal punks running amok everywhere. By the way who told you that the search engines know nothing about these dark web onions? Maybe Google doesn’t (you never know) but did you know about the Onion URL repository which is also an NSA surveillance tool. It’s a giant mass surveillance tool to identify would-be crime seekers. Telling the genuine onion sites apart from the honeypots is an impossible task. The dark web does not offer much value except if you’re dealing with non-English onions. The Russian hackers are comfortably ensconced in their corner of the Web. Anyways thanks for sharing.

    1. “The biggest challenge with dark web is the putrid depth of its criminal associations.

      It seem you are a saint.

      ‘The Russian hackers are comfortably ensconced in their corner of the Web,”

      What is the with hate for Russians. Not all hackers are Russian just as not all Americans are ted Bundy. Why single out one group of people for your jaundiced view?

  2. They should not be calling it the dark web, it is more like the secure web because of non interfrence from isps and governments. The criminal portions of the dark web are called darknets and they have nothing to do with the encrypted parts. The part of the “dark web” present on Tor browser is also called Onionland.

    You didn’t mention anything about Freenet, Rendezvous protocol or Garlic routing (you see Garlic: onion). The scope of the darkest web is bigger and wider than what you described. Onions are just a small part of the universe.

    I use Perfect Dark which gives me all the privacy I need. You are right one should not have bookmarks and it is better to save your links on a Protonmail.

    1. Thank you for your detailed insights.

  3. Anyone seeking misadventure on the dark web stands at a great risk exposing themselves to Homeland security. Many criminal organizations came under the sting through piles of Blockchain evidence which these sleuths gathered from anonymous wire transfers. In the US alone there have been hundreds of arrests for dark web thrill-seekers. Europe is more permissive especially countries like Czech Republic and Sweden.

    They may not be able to trace your IP address with a strong VPN but they can still identify your accounts on the Tor exit nodes and there is a team of hackers on alert. I think you need a strong and valid reason to legitimately use the dark web. Certainly not do it on a corporate Internet connection and always proceed with caution.

  4. You did not suggest how to access dark web on phone? I download Tor but I am not sure if it’s any safer. How do you get virtual machine on a phone?

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