How to Use the Dark Web to Communicate Safely

Two people using tin cans to communicate safely through a Dark Web symbol
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Summary: How to Use the Dark Web to Communicate Safely

Most people associate the dark web with illegal activities. While some people engage in illicit activities on the dark web, it’s also a place that many turn to escape censorship.

There’s a thriving community of people on the dark web — including journalists, hackers, activists, and average Joes — exchanging ideas and information on several issues. It is easy to learn how to use the dark web to communicate and join the conversation.

The following are some of the best dark web forums and live chat websites to help you get started:

  1. Dread Forums – dark web version of Reddit
  2. Endchan – dark web site for memes and images
  3. Reddit – best place to learn about the dark web for beginners
  4. Mega TOR Chat – popular dark web live chat website
  5. MadIRC – place to discuss politics, technology, privacy, and related topics
  6. Ableonion – self-moderating website to discuss various topics

While there are loads of interesting information and other content on the dark web, it’s also riddled with potential threats to your privacy. It’s important to avoid sharing your real name, email address, or any personal information on dark web sites and forums. Also, use a VPN to add an extra layer of protection to your connection.

We recommend a top-rated VPN like NordVPN. Using NordVPN’s Onion over VPN alongside the Tor browser means your traffic is routed twice through the Tor network. You also benefit from AES 256-bit encryption and other state-of-the-art security features.

Keep reading this article to learn how to communicate on the dark web safely.

Despite the alarming myths about this part of the internet, the dark web isn’t just a place for problematic or illegal activities. In fact, the dark web has many legitimate uses, just like the surface web (the portion of the internet we access every day). Whistleblowers and journalists often use the dark web to communicate anonymously. It can even be useful if you’re in a country with strict censorship laws.

The multiple layers of encryption on dark web browsers like Tor allow users to send and receive messages anonymously. But how can you make sure you’re actually staying safe?

In this article, we’ll show you how to communicate on the dark web safely and highlight some of the best apps, forums, and web-based chat services for this purpose.

Tools You Need to Communicate Safely on the Dark Web

Before diving into the leading platforms to communicate on the dark web, let’s discuss the tools you need to access the dark web safely. It’s easy to download an infected file or inadvertently leak your personal information online. Using these tools creates a barrier, protecting you from various threats.

1. Use a VPN

Connect to the Dark Web with a VPN iconA virtual private network (VPN) is arguably the most essential tool you need to safeguard your privacy on the dark web. It encrypts your internet traffic and changes your IP address. This makes it nearly impossible for anyone to track your online activities or unmask your identity.

You may be wondering why a VPN is needed if you’re using a dark web browser like Tor, which also encrypts your traffic and hides your IP address.

For context, the Tor browser routes your internet traffic through the Tor network. The network is comprised of nodes that are run by volunteers worldwide. When using the Tor browser, your internet activity is sent through three nodes and receives a new layer of encryption at each node.

How Does Tor Work - Network Nodes

However, the security of the Tor network is not foolproof. Your data could potentially be exposed when it leaves the exit node. The moment your traffic leaves the Tor exit node to the destination website or online service, it loses the protection of the Tor network and is vulnerable to hackers and other snooping eyes.

The National Security Agency’s (NSA) breach of the Tor network, which Edward Snowden exposed in 2013, depended on this exploit.

Using a VPN in addition to Tor adds an extra layer of encryption to your internet traffic, so you’re protected at all times.

We recommend using NordVPN to communicate safely on the dark web. This VPN provider has over 5000 fast servers and advanced security features. NordVPN’s Onion Over VPN feature merges the privacy of the Tor browser with the security of a VPN.

Using NordVPN’s Onion Over VPN and the Tor browser means your data gets routed through the Tor network twice, and you also enjoy the benefits of cutting-edge VPN technology.

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Note: Using NordVPN’s Onion Over VPN feature and the Tor browser may slow down your connection, but we believe the comprehensive security it provides is worth it.

2. Sign up for a secure mail service

When communicating on the dark web, you must ensure your personal information is not exposed. A secure and anonymous email service goes a long way to safeguard your privacy. Below, we’ve listed some of the most secure dark web email services available today.

Our top pick: ProtonMail

ProtonMail screenshot with logo

ProtonMail is an encrypted email service that allows you to send and receive emails privately.

Developed by a team of scientists at the CERN research facility in Switzerland, ProtonMail uses trusted encryption standards like AES, RSA, and OpenPGP to keep your correspondence safe. The fact that its global headquarters is in Geneva, Switzerland, is also positive as the country has privacy-friendly laws. ProtonMail has a no-logs policy and offers features like self-destructing messages.

You can use ProtonMail to send and receive emails anonymously on the dark web. This is particularly useful when communicating with someone you’ve just encountered or don’t completely trust.

It’s important to avoid sharing your personal information with strangers on the dark web and using a regular email service like Gmail may expose some personal data. Not only is ProtonMail anonymous — you don’t need to provide any personal information to sign up — but it also lets you send encrypted mails to addresses outside the Tor network.

ProtonMail is the best secure email service to communicate on the dark web.

Onion Link: https://protonmailrmez3lotccipshtkleegetolb73fuirgj7r4o4vfu7ozyd.onion/

Not a fan of ProtonMail? The two Tor-only mail services mentioned below are excellent alternatives.

A good alternative: Elude

Elude mail captcha message

Elude is a Tor-based mail service that offers full disk encryption. It hides your IP address and other metadata so you can send emails anonymously on the dark web.

You don’t need to provide any personal information to sign up for an Elude account. Hence, you can sign up completely anonymously.

Elude also provides a secure crypto wallet and mixer, allowing you to send and receive cryptocurrencies anonymously.

Onion Link: eludemailxhnqzfmxehy3bk5guyhlxbunfyhkcksv4gvx6d3wcf6smad.onion

A free option: TorBox

Torbox mail homepage

TorBox is another Tor-only mail service that supports secure, anonymous communication. Unlike ProtonMail and Elude, there is no surface web version of TorBox, and it only supports mails to Torbox-certified mail providers.

TorBox service is free, but only 25 MB of storage space is available. You can get more storage space by making a bitcoin donation.

Onion Link: torbox36ijlcevujx7mjb4oiusvwgvmue7jfn2cvutwa6kl6to3uyqad.onion

3. Use a messaging app with end-to-end encryption

While we use emails to communicate on the dark and surface web, most of our conversations happen on messaging platforms like WhatsApp and iMessage. We use these apps to send lots of sensitive data. Hence, it’s important to use a messaging service that offers solid encryption, especially when you want to remain anonymous.

Top Darkweb Messaging App: Keybase

Screenshot of Keybase website

Keybase is a full-featured messaging service that allows you to send messages anonymously. It protects your messages with end-to-end encryption using state-of-the-art protocols. You can use Keybase on the dark web and surface web.

There’s more to Keybase than just messaging. Keybase Files lets you share files and documents securely. The Teams feature lets groups of people collaborate, and it also comes with a wallet service that allows you to send and receive cryptocurrencies.

The Keybase app is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. You can also use it via the web portal.

Keybase makes it easy to communicate with others on the dark web using your phone. However, there is a risk of granular tracking when you access the dark web on your phone.

Overall, Keybase provides a secure and intuitive experience, making it our top pick for communicating safely on the dark web.

OnionLink: keybase5wmilwokqirssclfnsqrjdsi7jdir5wy7y7iu3tanwmtp6oid.onion

Best Alternative: Signal

SignalSignal shot to popularity after WhatsApp’s privacy policy change in 2021. The change allowed data sharing between WhatsApp and other Meta apps, like Facebook and Instagram. This caused privacy-conscious users to shift to Signal instead of WhatsApp.

Signal is one of the most secure messaging apps. It is run by the non-profit Signal Technology Foundation, which is less likely to monetize your data.

Signal uses the open-source Signal Protocol, which makes it virtually impossible to crack. “We can’t read your messages or listen to your calls, and no one else can either,” the company explains on its website.

Like Keybase, you can create group chats with up to 1000 people on Signal. It also supports video calls with up to 40 people.

However, unlike Keybase, Signal isn’t available on the dark web. This is the only reason it isn’t our top pick for communicating securely on the dark web. With that said, it’s useful when you have to take your interactions away from the dark web.

For alternatives to Keybase and Signal, check out our article on the best encrypted messaging apps.

Websites for Communicating on the Dark Web

Do you have burning questions that you feel other dark web users can provide answers to? Perhaps you don’t personally know other people on the dark web. There are popular forums and live chat websites on the dark web that you can visit to interact with others.

Note: Not everyone on these sites is trustworthy, and you should always keep your guard up.

Forums

Topic-based dark web forums are pretty popular. Think of them as dark web Reddit-style forums. We highlight some of the most interesting dark web forums below.

Note: Remember to use an alias and not your real name when posting on these forums. Also, don’t provide your actual email address while signing up. Our article on the best temporary email services contains some excellent email services that could come in handy.

1. Dread Forums

The Dread Forum on the dark web

Dread Forum has been dubbed the dark web version of Reddit. It is one of the largest forums on the dark web, with posts discussing various topics. Its popularity spiked after Reddit banned all subreddit dedicated to dark web drug markets.

Many threads on Dread Forums are dedicated to drugs and illegal substances. It is easy, for instance, to find comprehensive guides on manufacturing drugs and weapons. There is little to no content moderation, so these threads aren’t censored.

While you can discuss virtually any topic on Dread Forum, offering products for sale is banned, as is revealing personal information.

Dread Forums is a frequent target of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and uses a DDoS defender. The defender requires visitors to enter a CAPTCHA, and it can be tricky to figure this out sometimes.

Onion Link: http://dreadytofatroptsdj6io7l3xptbet6onoyno2yv7jicoxknyazubrad.onion

2. Endchan

Endchan homepage on the Dark Web

If you’re interested in photos and memes, then Endchan is the dark web forum for you. The site was created in 2015. Endboard is an “anonymous imageboard that values ideas over identity,” the website reads.

The site features threads on topics ranging from news to technology and anime. Boards are divided into safe for work and not safe for work, making it easy to avoid explicit and potentially disturbing content.

It is important to note that a lot of the content on Endchan can be considered racist or white supremacist. Many jokes have racist undertones, which can be disturbing for most people. While the moderators are committed to removing illegal content, much of it seems to pass through unchecked.

Note: While accessing imageboard websites like Endchan is not harmful, be careful of what you click on.

Onion Link: enxx3byspwsdo446jujc52ucy2pf5urdbhqw3kbsfhlfjwmbpj5smdad.onion

3. Reddit

r/Onions on Reddit

Yep, you read that right. Reddit continues to be one of the most popular forums for dark web users to share experiences and discuss topics. Although subreddits related to dark net marketplaces have been banned, others dark web subreddits continue to flourish.

Some of the most popular dark web subreddits are:

If you’re new to exploring the dark web, Reddit is one of the best places to get started. These Reddit forums contain useful information and tips about how to navigate and communicate on the dark web safely. The absence of drug-related content makes these forums more suitable for everyone.

Live chat websites

Live chat websites are relics of the early years of the internet. However, get continue to exist, and we daresay thrive on the dark web. You can join a chat thread and interact with people from across the world.

Below, we highlight some of the best dark web websites for live chat.

1. Mega TOR Chat

MEGO TOR Chat homepage

Mega TOR Chat is one of the largest live chat websites on the dark web. Some of its leading chatrooms, like Dark Onions and Torrents + Links, have more than 5000 participants. There is no moderation on these chatrooms, and you’re free to express what you like, although illegal and obscene content is frowned upon.

Accessing the chat rooms requires registration. You’ll need your email ID to sign up. Remember not to use your personal/work email ID when signing up.

Onion Link: ylmjp76zk4ndvgpncbtgzrfsrzpblvlzgtuoduqgygwdlexou64iwfqd.onion

2. MadIRC

Screenshot of MadIRC chat website

MadIRC is a chat website primarily dedicated to technology, politics, privacy, networking, Linux, and other related topics. There is a strict rule against sharing links on the platform or talking about illegal things.

All you need to join the MadIRC chat is to choose a username or continue with the suggested one. You can join the group chat or chat with individuals.

Although there are usually just under 20 people on MadIRC at a time, the conversations are cordial — unlike some dark web chatrooms which can be hostile and openly share explicit content.

MadIRC started out as a dark net website but is now also available on the clearnet.

Onion Link: http://wbi67emmdx6i6rcr6nnk3hco3nrvdc2juxrbvomvt6nze5afjz6pgtad.onion/

3. Ableonion

Screenshot of Ableonion dark web chat website

Ableonion is a popular dark web chat website. It supports both group chats and one-to-one interactions. Ableonion describes itself as a “non-profit organization supporting freedom of speech without limits.”

Ableonion is “self-moderating.” As a result, you may find people speaking about inappropriate sexual and sometimes illegal topics. The good thing is that you can censor the website and eliminate conversations you don’t want to appear on your screen by typing the “/ignore” and the username of the person you want to block.

To access the website, you need to pick a username and complete a CAPTCHA. There are usually a lot of people on Ableonion at any given time. So, the chances are that you’ll find people interested in the same topics as you.

Onion Link: http://notbumpz34bgbz4yfdigxvd6vzwtxc3zpt5imukgl6bvip2nikdmdaad.onion/

Apart from the websites we’ve highlighted above, there are many other equally remarkable dark web sites for live chat.

Dangers of the Dark Web

There are numerous threats on the dark web. Often, people are unaware of dark web dangers and fall prey to them. For starters, you must remain vigilant when browsing or communicating with others on the dark web.

Infographic showing common threats to watch out for on the Dark Web

Below are some common threats to watch out for on the dark web.

  1. Phishing and other scams: The unregulated nature of the dark web makes it ripe for all kinds of scams. Phishing is prevalent on the dark web. Hackers often set up fake pages and profiles to lure users into sharing confidential personal or financial information.
  2. Malware: You’ll find a lot of software available for download on the dark web. However, these files are rarely ever scanned for viruses and can infect your device with malware. It’s not advisable to download anything from the dark web. If you must, use a device or system that does not contain important files and has an antivirus scanner installed.
  3. Illegal Porn: The dark web is a hub for illegal porn and other explicit content. It is easy to come across disturbing dark web content, such as bestiality and child porn. Be extra careful when looking for porn or browsing the dark web, as accessing such content can land you on the wrong side of the law.
  4. Malicious exit nodes: The exit node is the last node from which your data is sent to websites on the dark web. If this node turns malicious, it can track and leak your browsing activity. This nullifies the anonymity that the Tor network provides. Using a VPN helps deal with malicious exit nodes, as it adds a layer of protection.

Interested in Learning More About the Dark Web?

There are many perks to knowing how to communicate on the dark web. You can use this hidden part of the internet to share and access information when censorship makes it impossible to do this on the surface web.

However, the lack of moderation means there are several dangers lurking on the dark web. It’s important to use a VPN and take other precautionary measures — like those we’ve highlighted above — to safeguard your privacy and access the dark web safely.

Interested in exploring the dark web? We have some insightful articles to help you get started:

Check out the dark web section of our website for more content related to this peculiar section of the internet.

How to Use the Dark Web to Communicate Safely: Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have questions about communicating safely on the dark web? We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions in the section below.

The dark web is a space where people can communicate anonymously and escape censorship. People go on forums and live chat websites to discuss a range of issues, including political and economic topics. Some popular dark web forums and live chat websites include Dread Forums, Ableonion, MadIRC, Mega TOR Chat, and Endchan.

Check out our article on how to communicate safely on the dark web for more information.

ProtonMail is arguably the best dark web email. It uses solid encryption standards like AES, RSA, and OpenPGP. You don’t need to provide any personal information to sign up, and it allows you to send emails to addresses outside the Tor network. Check out our review of ProtonMail to learn more about the perks of this emailing service.

Yes, it’s possible to access the Tor network and dark web from your mobile device. You’ll need to download a browser that connects to nodes on the Tor network. Such browsers are available on Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. Our article on accessing the dark web with your phone contains more information.

Tech journalist
Mohit is a legal and public policy researcher whose work focuses largely on technology regulation. At VPNOverview, he writes about cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies and sports events.