How to Safely Access the Dark Web in 15 steps

Woman sitting behind her computer accessing the Dark Web
Click here to get advice on safely accessing the dark web
Gain access to the dark web: safety first

The dark web is fascinating to many people. To get access to the dark web you need to use the Tor-Browser. This is a browser that can be used to browse and access the dark web anonymously. If you want to access the dark web, it is important that you do this safely. For extra protection and privacy online it is highly advisable that you use a VPN connection. To install a VPN, follow these steps:

  1. Subscribe to a good VPN provider
  2. Download the VPN app on your device
  3. Select a VPN server in the country that does not block the Tor browser
  4. Open the Tor browser and surf the dark web safely and anonymously

We recommend NordVPN. This is a trustworthy and fast VPN provider with high privacy standards.

Even with a VPN connection you may be at risk on the dark web. You are never 100 % safe. You may accidentally reveal personal information or click on the wrong link. So always be careful and be aware of cybercriminals.

Would you like more information on how to safely gain access to the dark web? Read the full article below to find out all that and more.

The dark web is a mysterious place. In short, it’s the part of the internet you can’t visit with a regular browser. Often the term ‘deep web’ is used as a substitute for ‘dark web’. However, this is a different part of the internet altogether (depending on the country you’re in). In short, the internet is like this:

Type of webShort description
Surface webThe surface web is the ‘regular’ internet. It consists of all the sites that are accessible via browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari and Mozilla Firefox through regular search engines like Google and Bing. Think of sites like Amazon, Wikipedia or the site of your local bakery.
Deep webThe deep web is the part of the internet that is behind closed doors. This includes files, company networks, and pages that you can only access if you are logged in. This data doesn’t show up in the search engines. Think for example of the inbox of your e-mail or your company’s message board that is only accessible to people who work at a specific company. This is by far the largest part of the internet.

The term deep web is sometimes used as a synonym for dark web, while the two are actually different. Though the term ‘deep web’ is used in some languages instead of ‘dark web’.

Dark webThe dark web is the ‘invisible’ part of the internet that you can only visit using a special browser, such as Tor. Tor is an abbreviation of The Onion Router. Through the Tor browser, you can surf the internet, just like with Google Chrome, for example. However, the difference is that the Tor-browser also gives you access to sites that are not available on the regular web (the surface web). This collection of sites is known as the dark web.

The dark web consists of all kinds of websites, just like the surface web. And even though the dark web is known for ‘illegal’ sites, these sites are only a small part of the dark web.

Although it isn’t very hard to access the dark web, it’s important that you think of your online safety. The dark web is unregulated and cybercriminals could be lurking anywhere. That’s why you should educate yourself and secure your system before entering the dark web. This article will give you advice on safely accessing the dark web.

Want to know how to set up the Tor browser and how to navigate the dark web? You’ve come to the right place. We’ll give you an extensive step-by-step plan with links and tips on how to browse dark web sites as securely as possible. If you come across terms you don’t understand, check out our dark web dictionary for further explanations.

Safety First! Use a VPN

If you want to enter the dark web, we strongly advise you to use a VPN connection. Using a VPN will give you extra privacy and protection online. The Tor network has several vulnerabilities, and a VPN can protect your privacy and data. However, it’s better not to connect to a VPN when using a mobile live OS. You’ll read more about this later.

A VPN ensures that you’re more anonymous, free, and secure on the web. Because a VPN allows you to access the internet with a different IP address, your online behavior can’t be linked to you. Since the dark web is also used by criminals and hackers, it’s good to ensure that no one can trace your identity.

Would you like to try out a fast, simple VPN so you can browse safely, even on the dark web? NordVPN is a good and inexpensive option. NordVPN has fast speeds even on .onion sites. Take a look at our full review of NordVPN to learn more about this provider or download NordVPN on their official website by clicking the button below.

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If you’d rather learn about other great VPN providers, you can take a look at our article about the five best VPNs. For more information about what a VPN connection does and how it works exactly, click here.

How to Access the Dark Web

If you want to access the dark web, it’s important you do so in a safe way. The dark web isn’t the same as the ‘normal’ surface internet. It comes with a number of unexpected pitfalls. To access the dark web, follow these steps:

  1. Download and install the anonymous Tor browser from their official website.
  2. Switch on your VPN for extra online security.
  3. Launch the Tor browser.
  4. Make sure your Tor browser doesn’t allow any scripts to run.
  5. Adjust the browser’s security level to “most secure”.
  6. Go to the dark web website you want to visit. You could, for example, visit The Hidden Wiki (link only works in the Tor browser). This is a page with links to other dark web sites.

If you really want to be prepared on the dark web, you need more than these simple steps. Additional explanations and tips on how to enter the dark web anonymously and safely can be found in our extensive guide below. We will give you tips to help you stay safe when using Tor.

Note: You may have heard that using the Tor network (with a good VPN for added security) is not the only way to access the dark web, which is true. However, it is in fact the only way that’s more or less safe. Nowadays, users can also reach some dark web pages via their standard browser (such as Google Chrome) through another tool developed by Tor: Tor2web. However, even Tor itself indicated this is far more dangerous than using the Tor browser to do so. After all, this way of accessing the dark web makes it far easier for cybercriminals to find out your identity or even infect your PC with hardware. As such, we stress that the use of the Tor browser to access the dark web is really important!

Lady JusticeIn one word: yes. The dark web is legal in most parts of the world. Using the Tor browser is also completely legal. However, if you use the dark web to violate the law, you’re still partaking in illegal activities. We’d strongly advise all our readers to be sensible and avoid illegal activities on the dark web (and beyond) at all times.

The dark web and the Tor browser are tools to protect your right to privacy. That is the intention of the browser and the way in which one should use it, in our opinion. The right to privacy is a human right established by the United Nations. This has been declared in the following articles:

  • United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948, Article 12
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) 1966, Article 17
  • American Convention on Human Rights, Article 11
  • American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, Article 5
  • European Convention on Human Rights, Article 8

Over 130 countries that are part of the United Nations have constitutional declarations on the protection of the privacy of their citizens. Chances are that the country you’re currently in has these declarations as well. Still, local laws can differ a lot. If you want to know more about your right to privacy and the use of the dark web in your location, we’d advise you to consult your country’s laws.

The Complete Step-by-Step Plan to Safely Browse the Dark Web

The dark web can be quite a dangerous place if you do not take the right precautions. You can stay relatively safe with a good antivirus and a decent VPN. However, if you want to be completely anonymous and protect your device you will need a little bit more than that. Below you will find 15 steps that can help you visit the dark web safely. However, do keep in mind that things change quickly and hackers get smarter every day.

  1. Make sure you’ve got basics down
  2. Use a mobile live OS (optional)
  3. Use a VPN to encrypt your internet traffic
  4. Download Tor from its official website
  5. Take security precautions
  6. Change the Security Level and Forbid scripts in the Tor browser
  7. Check if there’s not an IP-, DNS-, or WebRTC leak
  8. Be aware of common dark web myths
  9. Use additional anonymous services
  10. Avoid logins, subscriptions, and payments
  11. Know where you’re going
  12. Use cryptocurrency
  13. Close everything when you’re done
  14. Realize that you are never 100% safe
  15. Consult online guides, blogs, search engines, chat sites etc.

1. Make Sure You’ve Got The Basics Down

This may sound boring. But the dark web is a complex place where a lot can go wrong. It is full of scammers, malware, and phishing websites. Sometimes it is better to learn by doing. With the dark web, however, this is not the best method. You would rather not infect your computer with malware or lose a lot of money before you understand how it all works. There are more than enough people on the dark web who want to abuse ignorance.

That is why it is important to know exactly what you want to achieve on the dark web before you download the software or start browsing. after all, if you know what you want to do or discover on the dark web you can prepare yourself better:

  • If you are just looking for something exciting or unusual: Make sure you know how to stay safe while navigating the dark web.
  • If you are trying to make a profit through Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies: Make sure you understand how cryptocurrencies work, what the blockchain is, and what reliable platforms are for dealing with other users.
  • As a whistleblower, it is important to make sure that you are completely anonymous. Bringing certain things to the light might cost you your job or in some countries your freedom. By trying to stay as anonymous as possible you can prevent blowing your cover.

2. Use a Live Mobile OS (optional)

Anonymity is the most important thing to protect on the dark web. Not because the dark web is illegal (it isn’t), but because the more anonymous you are – the safer you are. Unfortunately, operating systems like Windows 10 are not very well suited for privacy on the dark web. Windows does the following that does not help your anonymity:

  • Your data is continually synced: browser history, open websites, app settings, and Wi-Fi hotspots are all tracked
  • Your device is automatically linked to a unique advertising ID for third parties
  • Cortana collects data such as your keystrokes, search results, microphone audio messages, calendar information, music playlists, and even your online purchases
  • Microsoft can collect all sorts of personal data: your identity, your passwords, habits and interests, user data, contacts, and locations

If a hacker manages to get into your system via the dark web, all of this information can potentially be exploited by that hacker. Many of these settings in Windows can easily be turned off (though not all). You can do this by going through the settings in Windows or by using a nifty piece of software like W10Privacy.

A much better idea than going on the dark web via Windows 10 is to use a live mobile operating system (OS) like Tails, Whonix, ZuesGuard, or Qubes.

Tails, Whonix, ZeusGuard, or Qubes

Tails logoTails (The Amnesiac Incognito Live System) is a live version of Linux OS that won’t leave any trace of your activity or the OS on your computer. This free OS can be downloaded onto a USB flash drive or DVD. You do not have to install it on your computer. You simply plug in the USB flash drive or insert the DVD when you want to browse without leaving a trace and load the OS. It cannot save cookies on your hard drive unless you personally tell it to.

Tails also has the Tor browser pre-installed. The Tor browser is essential for getting on the dark web and installing Tails on a flash drive saves you the trouble of installing Tor on your PC or laptop.

Alternatives for Tails

Alternatives to Tails are Whonix, ZeusGuard (paid), and Qubes OS. All three have their upsides and downsides. It is really a matter of personal preference.

Whonix is much like Tails in that it is a live OS that runs next to your regular OS. In other words, you can use Windows, Mac, or Linux and just use Tails or Whonix on the side.

Everything you do on Whonix is routed through Tor. The difference is that Whonix runs simultaneously to your regular OS through a virtual machine. This makes logging in and out of the dark web much faster and simpler. It arguably also makes it less safe. Their homepage has detailed instructions.

Qubes OS is a single user, desktop operating system with a bunch of virtual machines running inside it. It only has about 30k users. It is arguably your safest option because the OS is comprised of several different virtual machines. Edward Snowden, for example, uses Qubes OS to safeguard his anonymity.

Live OS do not support VPNs

It is very important to note, however, that many live operating systems do not support VPNs. This is for a good reason. These types of operating systems run on isolated virtual machines, meaning there is very little to connect it to your identity or anything else on your computer.

In this case, having a subscription to a VPN might actually make you more detectable than just using the Tor network. This is because VPNs, in this case, would introduce a permanent entry guard or a permanent exit node. This just means that, ironically enough, the VPN introduces a new method for detection.

  • So, when using a live OS –> Use Tor, but not VPN (you can skip step 2 and 3 and go on to step 4)
  • When using Windows, Mac, or Linux –> Use VPN and then Tor (go to step 2)

Of course, not everyone feels comfortable downloading and using an entirely new operating system. If you choose to not access the dark web via Tails, make sure to follow these next steps.

3. Use a VPN to Encrypt Your Internet Traffic

VPN connectionEven if you use the Tor browser, your traffic can still be traced back to you by anyone with sufficient time, resources, and know-how. In fact, the Tor browser was found to have a vulnerability in 2017 that in some instances leaked real IP addresses.

This problem mentioned above was especially serious for macOS and Linux users. If these users had taken the precaution to also have a VPN operating in the background, however, their real IP addresses would not have been compromised.

Therefore, it is highly advisable that you use a VPN in addition to Tor while browsing the dark web.

VPNs encrypt your web traffic and make sure your IP address is hidden from any hackers or government surveillance, even if there is a leak within the Tor network. For more information on VPNs, see our detailed explanation.

Please be aware, however, that not every VPN provider is equally reliable. Free versions often suffer from slow service, data limits, and security leaks. We would recommend using NordVPN as a good VPN that works well with Tor.

NordVPN
Deal:
Only $3.30 a month for a 2-year subscription plus 3 free months!
From
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9.3
  • Excellent protection and a large network of servers
  • Nice and pleasing application
  • No logs
Visit NordVPN

Please take note, however, that many live mobile OS like Tails do not support the use of a VPN. If you are using one of these live mobile OS, you can skip this step of installing a VPN and go straight to taking some extra security precautions.

4. Download Tor From its Official Website

Tor The Onion Router LogoThe mobile live OS such as Tails and Whonix already have the Tor browser pre-installed so you can skip ahead to step 5 if you use those. For Windows, Mac, Linux, or Android users, however, this is important.

The Tor browser is an interesting target for hackers and government agencies. Fake versions of the Tor browser have been created to either breach users before they even access the dark web or monitor the behavior of a user while on the dark web. The latter approach is especially attractive to government agencies.

As such, you should always download the Tor browser from its official website: https://www.torproject.org/
Make sure you always download the latest version of the browser and always keep it up to date. That way, you will ensure you have the latest security safeguards in place.

What exactly is Tor?

Tor is a special browser that you can use to access the dark web. Most browsers, such as Chrome and Firefox, provide access to all regulated websites. All unregulated websites cannot be reached through these browsers.

Although Tor is known for allowing people to visit the dark web, most of their users simply use the browser to visit the surface web (the ‘normal’ internet).

It is therefore important to always download the correct version of Tor from their official web page: https://www.torproject.org/.

Make sure you always download the latest version and always approve updates as soon as they are available. This way, you can be sure you have the safest version of Tor.

.onion addresses

With the Tor-browser you can access any website, as long as you have the address. Many websites on the dark web have a URL ending in “.onion”. If you enter such an address with a regular browser, you won’t see anything.

Tor makes sure that the user can browse as anonymously as possible. All of your requests within the browser go through a network of other computers, and they are constantly being unpacked to get to the destination. Your browsing request goes through a guard node, several relay nodes, and finally an exit node to retrieve what you requested. This way, it is not possible for others to track your browsing behavior.

How Does Tor Work - Network Nodes

5. Take Safety Precautions

Before you open the Tor browser, you should:

  • Close all non-essential apps on your machine, e.g., Netflix, password managers.
  • Stop unnecessary services from running, e.g., OneDrive.
  • Cover your webcam with a piece of paper. It is shockingly easy to gain access to your webcam, even without you noticing.
  • Have a reputable and fully updated antivirus program installed on your device.
  • Install quality and up-to-date anti-malware software. For more general information on malware, see our malware section.
  • Turn off your location on your device. Your location can be found through your IP-address as well as your device itself.
    • In Windows 10, you can turn off your location from Settings > Privacy > Location > Turn off location + erase location history
    • For macOS: System Preferences > Security & Privacy panel > Privacy > uncheck “Enable location Services”
    • For Tails or other live OS: you will not have to worry about your location being leaked.

Safety measures to take once you’ve opened Tor

The dark web is crawling with hackers who will seize any opportunity to exploit any detail you may have overlooked. If a hacker from the dark web manages to hack your system, all the apps and services you have running in the background are open to attack.

Essentially, the best way to stay safe on the dark web is to make sure that a potential hacker has little or no information about you. This means you should not randomly browse around the dark web or give out personal information. Do not click on any suspicious links. Leave as few traces of your presence as possible. These precautions will decrease the odds of you being targeted.

Once you have opened the Tor browser, do not change the size of the Tor browser screen. Oddly enough, this will keep you safer. Moreover, to be on the safe side, never type directly into the Tor browser. Instead, type your search out in a notepad and copy past it into the browser. Advanced methods of tracking can identify your specific way of typing. These things might seem trivial, but they can help in staying more anonymous. It’s like a game of ‘Guess Who?’, the more they know about you, the easier it gets to identify you. The difference with ‘Guess Who?’ is that they don’t look at your appearance, but rather at your screen size, language, and the way you type (among other things).

It also doesn’t hurt to check how well your Tor browser (or your everyday browser for when you’re not on the dark web) is secured against tracking. Cover Your Tracks allows you to check with just one click if your browser is safeguarded against advertisement-trackers, invisible trackers, so-called “acceptable advertisements”, and your digital fingerprint.

6. Change the Security Level and Disable scripts in the Tor browser

You can change Tor’s level of security to ‘Safer’ or ‘Safest’. Naturally, the highest setting is the safest. Unfortunately, this setting does significantly slow down your internet connection and causes some websites to not fully function. The highest security setting will disable most video and audio formats, some fonts, and icons may not display correctly, JavaScript is disabled, and some images may not be displayed properly, among other things.

Changing Tor’s security level

To change the level of security, take the following steps:

  1. Open the Tor browser.
  2. Click on the little shield icon in the upper right corner of the browser.
    Tor NoScript shield
  3. Click on “Advanced Security Settings”.
  4. Scroll down to “Security”, if you haven’t reached this section yet.
  5. No select “Safer” or “Safest”.

The “Safer” option only disables JavaScript on websites that aren’t “https” protected. “Safest” disables JavaScript on all websites. These options also improve your safety in a few other ways, which you can read more about in the menu you come across during steps 4 and 5.

Turning of scripts in Tor

You can also manually turn off scripts in Tor, without changing Tor’s general safety level. This might be a good option for people who prefer a greater level of control over the Tor browser. This is how to turn off scripts manually in Tor:

  1. Navigate to this address with your Tor browser: “about:config”.
  2. Click on the button that reads “I accept the risk”.
  3. Now type the following into the search bar on the page that appears: “xpinstall.signatures.required”.
  4. Double click this bit of text.
  5. Check whether “value” now reads “falls” and “status” is on “modified”. If so, you have successfully disabled JavaScript.

It is important to change these settings because websites often run scripts without notifying you. This is especially dangerous on the dark web as .onion-websites are unregulated and there is a lot of malware going around. By blocking scripts, you reduce the chance of your computer getting infected. However, even blocking scripts doesn’t protect you from all harm. Caution should therefore still be exercised when browsing the dark web.

If you want to disable scripts for everyday use in a different browser, you can best do this through an extension.

Both extensions will enable you to decide which websites can run JavaScript and which cannot. Please take note: both of these extensions can turn off all sorts of regular web functions by disabling JavaScript.

7. Check if There’s an IP,- DNS-, or WebRTC Leak

It is possible that even after all of these safety precautions you are still facing an IP- or DNS-leak. What this means is that through some kind of bug or leak, your IP-address is still traceable for third parties.

WebRTC is incorporated into most browsers to allow real-time communications like voice and video calls. This allows you to talk straight from your browser by using your webcam, microphone, or headset. The problem is that most voice calls are sent through a peer-to-peer connection, which requires your exact IP-address. So, if you are in Google Chrome, for example, and you have WebRTC running, your actual IP-address will be revealed even when you are using a VPN.

This problem above is especially prevalent with Google Chrome. To subvert this feature, you can install this Chrome extension.

To check if your connection is truly anonymized, go to the following websites:

On these pages, you can see if your real IP-address is visible. All of these websites essentially do the same thing. At the top of the page your public IP-address is visible and underneath it is your location. If your VPN is working properly, your real address and IP-address won’t be visible anywhere on the page.

8. Be Aware of Common Dark Web Myths

There are many myths about the dark web. Being aware of them will give you a better perspective of what you can expect and hope to do on the dark web. By being aware of these myths you are less likely to fall prey to a hacker or scammer. These are some of the most common myths:

MythTruth
All cybercrime takes place on the dark webMost cybercrime takes place on the regular web. Phishing and fraud are more prevalent on the surface web than the dark web.
The dark web is massiveCompared to the deep web, the dark web is relatively small. Approximately 250.000 to 400.000 websites exist on the dark web. It is estimated by some sources that the regular surface web contains over 5 billion pages, making it over 12.000 times larger than the dark web.
The dark web is only for Tech geeksIf you take the right precautions, anyone can get on the dark web relatively safely. The Tor browser, VPNs, and Tails or other live OS are available to anyone and are not too difficult to use for a beginner.
The dark web is illegalThe dark web itself is not illegal. The Tor browser that you need to access the dark web; however, uses very strong encryption that is illegal in some countries. As such, the dark web is indirectly illegal in some countries. These countries tend to have more far-reaching internet restrictions anyway. These are countries like China, Russia, Belarus, Turkey, Iraq, and North-Korea.
Anything you can do on the dark web is illegalThe dark web itself is not illegal, nor is everything that happens on there illegal. Whether or not something is illegal on the dark web depends on the country from which you access the dark web. For clarity’s sake: just apply this rule of thumb: if something is illegal in the country you’re in, it will also be illegal to do that same thing on the dark web. So, if it’s illegal to sell drugs offline, it’s also illegal to sell drugs on the dark web. When in doubt, always be sure to find out what is legal and what is not.

9. Use Additional Anonymous Services

Even if you enter the dark web completely anonymously, it is still possible to accidentally give out your personal information by using some online services like extensions, file-sharing, messengers, emails, etc.

Many online services use cookies, trackers, and scripts to gather specific data about you. That’s why it’s better to opt for alternative online services that value privacy. Below you can find a number of services that are good at safeguarding your privacy.

Private search engines

DuckDuckGo Logo SmallFor a good private search engine, you can use the search engine DuckDuckGo instead of Google. While most search engines won’t work on the dark web, DuckDuckGo does. Unlike most other search engines, DuckDuckGo also shows websites that end in “.onion”.

The onion address for DuckDuckGo is: https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/

DuckDuckGo uses the Tor network. This makes it difficult for people to trace your searches back to you.

Alternatives search engines that will work on the dark web are:

Using private search engines is a great step towards a more private internet experience.

Secure passwords

Laptop With PasswordSecure passwords are even more important on the dark web than on the regular (surface) web. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of coming up with a decent password every single time and safely storing them, you can get a good password manager. Two good options are Bitwarden and LessPass. Both are free and open source. The best option is to load these services via their website.

File-encryption

If you are going to download or upload files on the dark web it might be a good idea to get them encrypted. A reliable, free, and open-source encryption tool is PeaZip. This tool supports 181 different file-types. Unfortunately, PeaZip isn’t available to macOS users. An alternative for Mac users is Keka.

Anonymous uploading/sharing

If you want to share files anonymously then OnionShare is a very good option. It is available for Windows, macOS, and Ubuntu. Dropbox and other file-sharing software like it are notorious for not respecting the privacy of its users or data. With OnionShare you can share files of all sizes through a webserver.

Anonymous office services

If you’re looking for an alternative to Google Docs with better security, have a look at Etherpad. This software is completely open-source. Furthermore, you do not even need an account to use it. Another option is Cryptpad. You can use it to write texts, create spreadsheets, or make flashy presentations. Only people who are given the access keys can gain access to a file.

Video calling (VoIP)

For (video)calling there are a number of good services available such as Linphone or Mumble. Linphone is free and open source, it can be used for Windows, macOS, IOS, Android, and GNU/Linux. The software has end-to-end encryption.

Mumble is a little different. It is designed specifically for gaming, doesn’t keep any logs, and doesn’t record any conversations. It doesn’t have any end-to-end encryption though. The software is available for Windows, macOS X, IOS, and Ubuntu.

If you want to know more, you can take a look at our list of the best video calling services.

Sending anonymous messages

Ricochet or Signal provide a more secure means of text messaging than your standard messaging app. Another good option is TorChat. This application is part of Tor and allows you to chat with anyone also using it. You don’t need to register. TorChat automatically assigns you a numerical ID that you have to send to the other person you wish to talk to. You can do this by telling the other person directly (face to face) or by sending your ID number through an encrypted email (see next step). This will allow a great degree of anonymity when chatting you cannot generally get anywhere else.

Sending emails safely and anonymously

A highly praised online email service is ProtonMail. Their mail accounts have standard end-to-end encryption. Emails sent through Gmail or Hotmail are generally easy to intercept and/or decipher. Encrypted email services are a much safer option. These services do tend to have more rigid data limits. So if you plan to exclusively use encrypted email accounts, then you might want to create more than one. Here is a list of encrypted email providers.

It is also possible to create a temporary email address (a so-called burner). The advantage of this is that you can create an online account on any website, confirm your registration and then never worry about getting your inbox bombarded with useless emails from said website. Some well-known temporary email address providers are TempMail and Guerrillamail.

If you really do not want to switch to a different email address for your dark web browsing, then at least make sure your standard email account gets some extra protection through PGP (pretty good privacy). This can be done by adding an additional service on top of your regular email account like Mailvelope. This service works with providers like Gmail or Hotmail and many more. Please be aware this option is less safe than a temporary email address or an encrypted email address. A lot of information about you can be backtracked through your regular email address.

10. Avoid Logins, Plugins, Subscriptions, and Payments

If you wish to browse the dark web safely, anonymity is your best option. Should you choose to log in to certain user- or bank accounts, your anonymity will be compromised.

It is never a good idea to log into your online bank account while on the dark web. Once you are logged into a user account, every activity on that website can be attributed to that profile, Tor or not. Therefore, it is best to not log into any profile or account while surfing the dark web.

However, some websites require you to have an account to get access. In this case, you can create a randomized and disposable email address, create an account that is not in any way identifiable to you personally, and use this account to browse the website.

Creating a user account that cannot be traced back to you means not using your name, birthday, hobbies, interests, location, etc. The more random and anonymous it is, the better. For more help on how to create a secure password, take a look at this guide.

Most people use at least a few plugins in their browsers. Many of these plugins can gather personal and sensitive information about you, your location, and your online behavior. Therefore, it is better not to have these enabled while searching the dark web.

11. Know Where You’re Going

It can be hard to navigate the dark web. This part of the internet isn’t equipped with a regular search index such as Google. On top of that, most websites have URLs consisting of random letters and numbers. This means the only way to reach certain websites, is to have specific URLs ready.

It isn’t wise to randomly click around and visit websites. The dark web contains many dangerous places you should definitely avoid. In order to get some sense of direction on the dark web, you can use a couple of directory sites to guide you. One of the most common places that many first-time users visit, is “The Hidden Wiki“.

Other good places to help you navigate the dark web are:

The Hidden Wiki

The Hidden Wiki gives you access to numerous search engines and pages to visit on the dark web. It makes navigating the dark web a lot easier. To visit the Hidden Wiki, simply paste the following address in Tor: http://zqktlwiuavvvqqt4ybvgvi7tyo4hjl5xgfuvpdf6otjiycgwqbym2qad.onion/wiki/index.php/Main_Page.

Keep in mind that the dark web is less regulated than the ‘regular’ part of the internet. This means it’s easier to accidentally end up on questionable or even dangerous websites. You might find pages that spread damaging malware or partake in illegal activities, for example.

This is important to keep in mind when visiting The Hidden Wiki. It may look like a normal Wikipedia page, but it certainly isn’t. Although it contains references to legitimate pages, it also links to websites with illegal content. This means it’s important to be incredibly careful and really think everything through before you click on a certain link.

12. Use Cryptocurrency

bitcoin

There are several marketplaces on the dark web where you can buy all kinds of things. The most infamous example was “The Silk Road”, although that has since been taken offline by US authorities. Many markets on the dark web sell illegal items, but you can also find legal products there.

On the dark web, anonymity plays a big role. This is also the case with online payments: everyone uses cryptocurrency. If you purchase something through your bank, credit card, PayPal or another regular payment method, companies and governments will know. With cryptocurrencies, this isn’t the case: both buyer and seller remain much more anonymous. If you encounter someone on the dark web who wants to arrange a transaction through a regular bank, you’re probably dealing with a scammer, hacker, or spy.

Bitcoin is the most well-known cryptocurrency, but it doesn’t provide guaranteed anonymity. Bitcoin has a number of privacy issues (address reuse, connected nodes, tracking cookies, and blockchain analytics) that make it possible to link someone’s personal data to a Bitcoin transaction. Even though it’s quite hard to figure out someone’s identity through Bitcoin, a preferable option is to use a privacy-focused coin. Two of the most popular are Monero and Zcash, though there are other options available as well.

If you want to buy something on the dark web yourself, be careful. Since many illegal activities take place on dark web market, there is a chance that you could accidentally get caught up in something criminal. Many marketplaces might sell items that are illegal in your country, for example. That’s why you should be mindful of your country’s laws before purchasing anything on the dark web.

13. Close Everything When You Are Done

When you finish browsing the dark web, make sure to close everything off properly. This includes all of your browser windows and any other related content, the whole Tor browser, and also Tails or any other operating system, if you use that specifically to access the dark web. Shut everything down and go back to your regular OS. To be on the safe side: do a quick reboot of your system.

14. Know That You’ll Never Be 100% Safe

Even if you faithfully follow all of the previous steps, you’re not guaranteed complete safety on the dark web. Hackers constantly find new ways to get around security systems and settings. This means there’s always a chance that you unintentionally give out personal information or click on a corrupted link. Aside from that, once your computer hardware has been infected with some type of malware, any internet use is already compromised and you’re no longer safe. In short, there is a lot you can do to improve your safety on the dark web, but nothing is ever foolproof.

15. Consult Online Guides, Blogs, Search Engines, Chat Sites etc.

Finding your way on the dark web can be quite difficult. That’s why we have collected a few resources you can use to help you further along. Be careful, though. Some dark web sites will infect your device with malware. While the websites in the table below are pretty reliable, they might contain URLs to more harmful platforms. Therefore, it’s important to be vigilant, even on these helpful forums and blogs. Assume that nothing is completely safe and that you can’t trust anyone. Use your common sense, and remain critical.

Site typesLinks
Forums
  • The Hub: http://thehub5himseelprs44xzgfrb4obgujkqwy5tzbsh5yttebqhaau23yd.onion/
Search engines
  • DuckDuckGo: https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/
Blogs
  • Tor Metrics: http://rougmnvswfsmd4dq.onion/
News sites
  • New York Times: https://www.nytimes3xbfgragh.onion/
  • Privacy News: https://privacyintyqcroe.onion/
  • ProPublica: https://p53lf57qovyuvwsc6xnrppyply3vtqm7l6pcobkmyqsiofyeznfu5uqd.onion/

Final Thoughts

With this guide, you can stay relatively safe when visiting the dark web. The level of precautions you should take, depends on what you’re planning to do on the dark web. This assessment of risk is also called a threat model. If you’re only looking to read some forum discussions on the dark web, it might be sufficient to watch out which links you click and use the security measures the Tor browser offers. However, some other users, for example those who are looking to leak confidential information much like Edward Snowden did, will have to take extreme precautions to protect themselves.

Whatever you plan on doing, the dark web remains quite tricky. It can take a lot of effort to access it and once you’re there you might not be able to visit a lot of websites. We recommend reading a lot about the dark web before attempting to visit this part of the internet. Finally, if you’re unsure what to do on the dark web, you might as well stick to websites on the surface web.

Access to the Dark Web: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a quick answer to a question? Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the dark web and how to access it.

To visit sites on the dark web most people use the Tor-browser. This is a browser that allows you to visit special dark web URLs. However, if you want to stay safe on the dark web you also need a VPN.

You can download the Tor-browser just like any other browser from a website. In the case of the Tor browser, this is www.torproject.org.

A dark web website is a website that has a .onion extension in its URL. These are only accessible through the Tor-browser. In the media, they often talk about dark web websites as places where illegal things take place, but this is not always the case.

Most dark web websites have an .onion extension in the URL. These URLs are often very strange combinations of letters and numbers. For this reason many people use the Hidden Wiki or the DuckDuckGo search engine to browse the dark web.

The Hidden Wiki is a page on the dark web that kind of looks like a Wikipedia page. Here you can find several links to dark web websites.

DuckDuckGo is a search engine just like Google and Safari. However, DuckDuckGo doesn’t keep track of your usage and also shows .onion websites in its results. Would you like to know more about this search engine and how it helps to keep you anonymous while browsing? Read this article to find out.

Tech journalist
Tove has been working for VPNoverview since 2017 as a journalist covering cybersecurity and privacy developments. She has broad experience developing rigorous VPN testing procedures and protocols for our VPN review section and has tested dozens of VPNs over the years.
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  1. Can i know the reason why ‘it is advisable not to dive deeply in some parts of the dark web’?

    • Because some sites deal with topics that are illegal and could get you into legal trouble (drug marketplaces, gun marketplaces etc.)

  2. Is there anyone who tutors people locally for a fee in regards to this? If so, how would one find these people? Any ideas, any references?

    • We wouldn’t know about any local tutors, since we don’t (have to) know where you currently are. There are probably some online courses to be found, although when it comes to the dark web, it’s especially important to always make sure you’re getting the right, reliable information. We’d advise you to read guides like the one in this article and go from there. If you want to make sure of the quality, cross-referencing different articles is always helpful. Besides that, we’d also advise you not to dive too deeply in some (especially dark) parts of the dark web. Using the BBC Mirror or other informative or otherwise interesting pages is fine, of course.

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