This tutorial explains every aspect of the Dark Web, how to get on the dark websites and the precautions you must take while accessing them.:
If you’ve been on the internet like most people on the planet have, then you’ve definitely heard about or are aware of the dark web. The idea of exploring the nether regions of the internet has crossed us all at some point in time.
However, our complete lack of knowledge or fear of the deep web has prevented us from taking that exciting but understandably daunting step into the unknown.
While the it has earned a lot of notoriety over the years because of the activities and content available there, not everything about it is questionable.
In fact, there are parts of the dark web that we would argue are worth exploring. So to feed your curiosity, we’ve decided to explore the concept of both the dark web and deep web in-depth.
Aside from acquainting you with all the nitty-gritty details about the dark web, we will also teach you how to access it safely and recommend a few legitimate dark websites that you can explore with peace of mind.
What You Will Learn:
What is the Dark Web
It is the part of the internet that isn’t indexed by search engines. One requires special authorization or software to get access to such sites. The content available on the dark web is said to live on the darknet, which is basically a part of the internet that is only accessible via specific configurations and special browsers.
The dark web or internet serves the core purpose of maintaining anonymity by encrypting communications and routing content through multiple servers. It is important to note that the dark net only represents a small fraction of the World Wide Web.
According to the report published by Recorded Future, only 8400 from the total of 55000 onion websites were said to be active. Most domains found on the dark net suffer from the constant scrutiny of ISPs and governments. You will find many websites here struggling to maintain a consistent presence, appearing and disappearing without any notice.
History of the Dark Web
The origins of the Dark Web can be traced all the way back to the year 2000 when the Freenet was first released. The Freenet began as a thesis project by Ian Clarke, a student at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. It was intended to be a way to communicate and interact online anonymously when the internet was still in its infant stage.
The release of the Tor network in the year 2002 was what gave the dark web the boost it needed. The Tor network-enabled safe communication on the internet, away from the prying eyes of the government and other authoritarian bodies. Tor’s free license was eventually released with the nonprofit Tor project being conceived.
The dark web was finally made easier to access with the release of the Tor browser in the year 2008.
Deep Web VS Dark Web – The Difference
It is also pretty common for people to confuse the dark web with the deep web. However, they are not the same.
The deep web refers to parts of the internet that are not indexed by search engines. Some shining examples of the deep web would be login pages and payment portals.
Unbeknownst to many, most content that they access, like banking accounts, subscription services, etc. on the internet is part of the deep web as no one wants their private information to be easily accessible on the surface web.
On the other hand, the dark web is entirely configured on the darknets, which are online networks that can only be accessed via special software or techniques. Of these networks, one of the largest and most prominent is Tor aka The Onion Router.
Introduction to Tor
Tor is a special tool that helps users maintain anonymity when surfing the dark web. The Tor browser leverages onion routing, which involves the encryption and routing of website traffic through multiple web servers across the globe, all in a bid to keep an IP address hidden. You’ll notice that all domains on Tor end with ‘.onion’, instead of the typical ‘.com’.
These pseudo domain names are derived from cryptographic keys. None of the .onion sites can be accessed with a normal browser. The only way to access them is via the Tor browser. If you want to explore the dark web, this is the best and the safest option available.
To make your job easier, we’ve listed down 20 .onion sites that you can access after installing the Tor browser on your system.
Before you proceed, please note that every connection made with the Tor browser is end-to-end encrypted by default. You’ll notice that most onion sites do not possess the S that is normally a part of HTTPS. However, that does not mean the site is not secure. The onion browser will instead show an onion sign instead of the traditional lock symbol to indicate that your connection is secure.
List of Onion Websites
The following is a list of all legitimate dark onion websites you can visit using the dark web browser – Tor for safety. We enlist the list with their dark web links below.
Dark Web Search Engines
It is imperative you understand that aside from the Tor browser, you will need a reliable dark web search engine to access websites on the dark web.
Following are some of the most popular search engines you can use for hassle-free access to the dark web:
- DarkDarkGo: A go-to alternative to Google for many, Popular for not logging search activity.
- Torch: One of the oldest search engines on the dark web.
- Ahmia: A search engine famous for indexing hidden sites.
- Haystak: Performs function similar to Ahmia.
- Hidden Wiki: Navigate hidden sites on the dark web.
- ProPublica: The first Pulitzer winning news publication site with a .onion address
- Archive.today: A site that aims to preserve the culture and scientific heritage of the internet.
- Facebook: A .onion address that makes certain uncensored locations on Facebook accessible.
- BBC: The popular British media company released a dark ‘mirror’ version of their website in 2019
- The New York Times: A dark web version of the New York Times that can be accessed in countries with heavy censorship.
- Wasabi Wallet: A bitcoin wallet that encrypts all your data on the Tor browser.
- The Hidden Wallet: Similar to Wasabi Wallet, mixes bitcoins with other users for added anonymity.
- CIA: The official CIA website intended to help people around the world access its resources safely.
- Riseup: Volunteer-operated email provider for activists.
- Proton Mail: An encrypted email service.
- SecureDrop: A good place for journalists to connect with their anonymous sources.
- ZeroBin: An encrypted text sharing service.
- Keybase: Secure end-to-end file sharing and messaging website.
- PrivacyTools: An online directory for top online anti-surveillance tools and materials.
- MegaTor: Free online anonymous file sharing service.
How to Access the Dark Web
Now that you know of the special software, configurations, and onion websites needed to access the dark web, allow us to give you a step-by-step guide to help you easily access it. Simply adhere to the following steps to make your venture into the uncharted terrains of the internet less challenging.
#1) Use and Connect to a Safe VPN
Trust us when we say that you do not want to pry eyes monitoring your every move when browsing the dark web. You must first hide your IP address and encrypt your internet connection. The easiest way to do so is with the help of a reliable VPN. A good VPN will conceal your activities from being monitored by your own ISP and other parties.
#2) Download and Install Tor
When it comes to dark browsers, Tor is undoubtedly the safest bet. This free browser will route your traffic through multiple web servers across the world, making it hard to track your online activity. We recommend you download the browser only from its official website. An unlicensed third-party download may be compromised with malware.
#3) Start Browsing
With the Tor browser now installed and downloaded into your system, you can now access all .onion websites that are available on the dark web. Remember to check each and every site for authenticity. As the dark web is unregulated, you may encounter sites that are not only illegal but also immoral.
#4) Protect Yourself
For added protection, we suggest you use anonymous email addresses and cryptocurrency wallets to communicate or make payments on the platform. Also, make sure you have robust security software installed to protect your device from potentially harmful malware or viruses that the dark web may possess.
Many ISPs and Government bodies treat the use of Tor with suspicion. So if you are using Tor, it is best to use it under the cloak of a strong VPN service. With the above steps followed diligently, you will have no problems getting in and out of the dark web without anyone noticing.
Is it Illegal to go on the Dark Web?
This is a question that we believe prevents several curious users from ultimately venturing into the dark web. It is a tricky question to tackle as the conversation around its legality is seldom nuanced.
However, we will try our best to look at various factors and determine not only the situation regarding its legality but also ponder over the morality of surfing this secret web.
First and foremost, the legality of using the dark web varies from country to country. In advanced democracies like the US, surfing the dark web is legal. However, using Tor can bring you unwanted attention from both your ISP and the government.
Although using the dark web is legal, it goes without saying that you cannot use it with criminal intent. Its core purpose is anonymous browsing and the fact that it is unregulated makes it a tempting place that is ripe for exploitation by unsavory characters online.
It is littered with malware and scams. It is also very difficult to distinguish safe sites from those that are harmful. Suffice to say, the place is festering with cybercriminals.
Certain sites on the dark net promote the selling and buying of ransomware, viruses, and stolen data like bank account details, email accounts, etc. The trading of such information is a major reason behind cases of identity theft that have become quite common recently.
According to the Dark Web Price Index, published by Privacy Affairs in late 2021, the following is just a taste of leaked information being sold on the Dark Web.
|Cloned VISA with PIN||$25|
|Stolen PayPal account details, minimum $1000||$120|
|Blockchain.com verified account||$310|
|Hacked Instagram Account||$45|
|Minnesota Driver’s License||$20|
Types of Threats Commonly Found on the Dark Web
It is recommended to tread carefully when you’re browsing the dark web. The place is full of dangerous threats that can compromise the security of your device and ironically invade your privacy.
Some threats that you should be aware of when browsing are as follows:
#1) Malicious Software
The dark web isn’t exactly regulated. As such, most websites here don’t take measures to protect their users from malware attacks like traditional sites on the surface web do. So users are more likely to be exposed to threats like keyloggers, ransomware, phishing software, and botnet malware.
#2) Government Monitoring
The immense notoriety it has garnered over the years has put it in the crosshairs of governing bodies around the world. Many Tor-based sites that were once safe have now been overtaken by authoritarian parties from around the world. Some have even been turned into police surveillance sites that bait unsuspecting users.
The Silk Road is one such site on the dark web that was busted in 2013 for being an illegal Amazon-like marketplace for buying and selling drugs online.
There are many sites on the this part of the web that promise one thing but deliver something else entirely. For instance, you’ll have sites here that offer hitmen for carrying out assassinations. Although such sites do exist, an overwhelming majority of them are simply there to dupe unsuspecting customers into paying them money.
Protection Against Threats
To surf online safely, you’ll have to pay extra attention to the following two things:
#1) Identity Theft Monitoring
It is ironic how the dark web, which is a place meant to provide anonymity, is also responsible for a mounting number of identity theft cases. It is littered with stolen social media, credit cards, and banking details that are openly sold and auctioned.
Make sure you are using encrypted cryptocurrency wallets and emails IDs for activities on the dark net. Also, make use of a reliable VPN like ExpressVPN or Nord to hide your IP address from ISPs and the government.
#2) Anti-Malware or Virus Software
You’re increasing the risk of your device being infected by ransomware or any other type of malware by hopping onto the dark web. So download and subscribe to anti-virus software, especially those that detect and warn you about suspicious sites on the dark web.
The Silver Lining of Using the Dark Web
Make no mistake, there is plenty about the dark internet that should concern you. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a legitimate use for it. For instance, it has long been a haven for activists, journalists, and whistleblowers trying to expose the corrupt and questionable activities of their government and authoritarian bodies.
The anonymity provided by it is essential in helping these individuals continue to do the work they are doing. It can organize and put information out in countries where free speech is restricted and dissenting voices are unjustly prosecuted.
Just like almost everything else in the world, it can be a force for both good and bad. Its ultimate application depends on how you use it. It is also easier to access today, thanks to special tools and search engines that protect you while you explore the hidden corners of the internet.
The right browser, search engine, VPN, and ethics for good measure are all you need to hop onto the dark web without inviting the ire of your ISP or the government.