You might have heard of the dark web before. Most internet users won’t find themselves on the dark web regularly, or even go there at all. Which is understandable because it isn’t necessarily safe. If you are curious, read on and find out everything you want to know about the dark web and how to gain access.
First we’ll introduce you to what the dark web is exactly and what happens on there. Then you will learn about the Tor browser and VPNs and how these tools are essential if you want to travel the dark web. After that we have created a guide that you can follow to get on the dark web. Make sure to check all of our security measures before doing so. Finally, you will find out that the use of the dark web is legal but some practices on there aren’t.
Accessing the dark web is very easy, just keep your safety and privacy in mind. We highly recommend using a VPN to encrypt and anonymize all your internet traffic. This way nobody can intercept your data or monitor your online actions when accessing the internet, or in this case the dark web. Your Internet Service Provider, governments and hackers will all be clueless as to what you’ve been doing online. CyberGhost is a high quality VPN provider, which allows you to protect 5 devices simultaneously. CyberGhost currently offers a competitive deal to protect and anonymize all your internet traffic for only $3,50 per month. This comes with a 30 day money-back guarantee, so you can try it risk-free.
What is the Dark Web?
The web is often described as having three parts: the surface web, the deep web, and the dark web. The surface web is what most of us use every day. It is accessible through regular search engines, like Chrome, Safari and Firefox.
The deep web is the part of the web that houses very specific information that most of us won’t use and isn’t accessible through search engines. Mostly, these are pages or databases that are only accessible for a certain group of people within an organization. You need to know the exact web address (URL) to reach these sites, and in some cases a password.
The last layer of the internet is the dark web. This is only accessible through special search engines like the Tor browser. This part of the web is unregulated and more difficult to get to as the surface web. The dark web is commonly associated with illegal practices.
With the Tor browser you can visit websites on the dark web. It is the only way to gain access to websites with the domain suffix .onion. The “onion” in this suffix refers to the onion routing that Tor uses to secure anonymous browsing. Onion URLs are an automatically generated mix of letters and numbers, so they don’t look like regular URLs. It can be that a website is .onion because they do not want too many people to know they exist. Moreover, the URLs of websites on the dark net change regularly.
What Happens on the Dark Web?
It is very difficult to find out what happens on the dark web. As mentioned earlier, you need to know where you are going and how you can find things. There are a lot of wild west stories about ordering hitmen on the dark web. However, it is unclear if this actually is the case or if this is mere speculation. Other things, like drugs and weapons, are freely available on the dark web. In general, these are some of the things you may find on the dark web:
- Black marketplaces
- Fraudulent websites
- Email services
- Botnet platforms
- Bitcoin websites
The black market has flourished with the existence of the internet. On the dark web there are multiple black market places. The most famous one is probably Silk Road. Websites like this function as a web shop for illegal products that you will not find on the surface web. Examples of things you can find on there are drugs, weapons, and fake passports.
The dark web is also swarming with fake and dangerous websites. For this reason, you should always be careful of the links you click on when you are browsing the dark web. Before you realize it your computer could be hacked and infected with malware. Moreover, the dark web houses all the websites that would not be tolerated on the surface web due to their content. Sadly, you can find things like animal abuse or child pornography there. For this reason it might be wise to stay away from this part of the internet.
The dark web is also used for anonymous communication. Whistleblowers and journalists might use these routes to leak or gain information anonymously. People who want to report a company or government for an illegal act can use the dark web to try and stay anonymous. Journalists can use this part of the web to get in contact with anonymous sources. For instance, the WikiLeaks network and whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden used the dark web to communicate with journalists and leak information. However, criminals and terrorists will also communicate via the dark web to try and stay clear of law enforcement.
A botnet is a network of infected devices that can be operated by the hacker that controls them. The devices that are part of the network were infected with a bot without knowing it. The hacker in charge of the botnet can use these devices to spread viruses, phish for private information, and facilitate DDoS attacks. The botnet is less likely to be discovered or taken-over if it operates on the dark web.
On the dark web Bitcoin is the currency of choice. Because the block-chain method behind Bitcoin creates an anonymous exchange of money it is ideal for shady businesses on the dark web. However, recent incidents show that is might not be as anonymous as some people might have hoped. Other types of cryptocurrency are also very popular. New cryptocurrencies are constantly trying to improve on safeguarding the anonymity of the people using them.
Tor (The onion router) is open-source free software that functions as a browser. But unlike browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Edge, Tor aims to keep its users anonymous. Your searches travel through a network of nodes, and at every node one part of the encryption is peeled off. Eventually your information ends up at the website of your choice. This process of onion routing aims to keep the user anonymous.
Tor is used to access the dark web. As mentioned before this is the only way to access web addresses with the suffix .onion. Tor provides you with access to the whole web regardless if the websites are regulated or not.
Although Tor is used to access the dark web, most of its users still only visit pages on the surface web. Tor is used by most of its users to anonymize their online browsing. Find out more on the topic in our article on Tor.
A VPN will provide you with freedom, security, and anonymity while you are using the internet. It is essential if you want to stay undetected. The anonymity Tor tries to achieve can be guaranteed with a VPN. Moreover, a VPN encrypts all your internet usage, whether it happens in your browser or outside of it. If you are looking for online protection, a VPN can help you out. Read all about this interesting phenomenon in our general article about VPNs, or look at our top 5 of the best VPN providers. Below we’ll highlight one VPN provider which is excellent for securing your internet connection: CyberGhost.
CyberGhost is one of the higher ranking VPN providers when it comes to usability. They offer strong encryption and an array of extra safety measures to choose from. This makes CyberGhost a great provider to use when you venture onto the dark web.
Moreover, they offer good customer support and are very cheap for the quality they offer. Read all about this provider in our full review of CyberGhost.
Additional Safety Measures
You might want to use DuckDuckGo as a search engine within your Tor browser. DuckDuckGo functions just like any other search engine, but they do not track your searches and they make sure websites cannot track you. By adding DuckDuckGo to the combination of a good VPN and Tor you will have the best possible privacy cocktail.
Anti-virus and Anti-malware
It is always important to install a good anti-virus or anti-malware program on your device. However, this is especially important when you want to go on the dark web. This part of the web is a hacker’s playground and criminals are constantly trying to infect your device with malware. Before you know it your device will be hacked.
Accessing the Dark Web
If you would want to go on the dark web, we advise you to take the following steps:
- Install a VPN on your device and turn it on
- Download and install the anonymous Tor browser
- Start the Tor browser
- In the Tor browser: forbid scripts (see below)
- Optional: change the security settings in Tor (see below)
- Go to the hidden wiki by putting in the following web address: http://zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion/wiki/index.php/Main_Page (see below)
You can now browse the dark web, but remember our warnings.
Forbid Scripts in the Tor Browser
To make sure that no websites can run scripts on you, you go to the upper left corner of the browser where there is a symbol with the letter “S”. If you click on it you will get to see an option that says “forbid scripts globally”, make sure to select this.
It is important to change these settings because websites can run scripts without you knowing it. On the dark web this is especially dangerous because the websites are unregulated and there is a lot of malware going around. By blocking scripts you can reduce the chance of your computer getting infected. However, even blocking scripts doesn’t protect you from all harm and you should still be cautious of the websites you visit.
An easy way to check if you’ve managed to forbid scripts, is to check the “S” in the upper left corner and see if there is an exclamation mark next to it or not. If there is an exclamation mark, this means you are still allowing scripts. If there isn’t an exclamation mark, you’re safe.
Change the Security Level in the Tor Browser
It is also wise to change the security level in your Tor browser. You can do so by going to the upper left corner and clicking on the green Tor logo. Once you’ve clicked it your select “security settings”. In the window that pops up you can change the security levels from low to medium, to high. Obviously, the highest setting is the safest but it does slow down your internet connection considerably. Moreover, the higher security settings will disable some of the browsers features. Tor has developed these security features because there are a lot of sites on the dark web that will try to take over your device or spread malware. However, for the unlimited browsing experience on the dark web it is best to keep the security settings on low. Do watch out for weird or untrustworthy websites when you do so.
The Hidden Wiki provides you with links to search engines and websites, so you can get further (or deeper) onto the dark web. It makes it easier for you to navigate the dark web if you do not know where to go.
You can get onto the hidden wiki by copying the following URL into your Tor browser: http://zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion/wiki/index.php/Main_Page . The web addresses on the dark web do change constantly but there are many websites on the surface web that will provide you with the right URL.
Legality of the Dark Web
Going onto the dark web and scrolling through it isn’t illegal in most countries. However, it might make you look suspicious to the law enforcement in your country. Most stuff you can buy on the dark web is illegal. Obviously, purchasing illegal items is prohibited by law.
As you might imagine this dark unregulated part of the web is the perfect place for illegal activity. For this reason it is used by criminals extensively. For drug deals and arms vendors the elusiveness of the dark web is ideal. Moreover, research has found that terrorists use the dark web to communicate and spread their message. All in all, it might not be a place you want to find yourself as a law abiding citizen.
Even though the use of the dark web is legal, the illegal activities on there might pose a risk to your device and you.
We want to stress that we advise you not to use the dark web without the proper safety measures. The curiosity is understandable but it isn’t worth being exposed to the dangers this unregulated part of the web poses to your devices. As you have been able to read, the dark web is mostly inhabited by criminals. If you do end up going there, we advise you to take precautions. A good VPN service and solid anti-malware are essential. Stay curious but also stay safe!