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.
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.
The Tor installation is simple and won’t consume too much space.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Ahmia, a Finland-based onion search engine provider, maintains a good list of deep web sites.
Torch is another popular onion search engine with a database of over a half million sites.
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.
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.
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.
You can even access onion links for popular news websites, which is just another way to bypass their paywalls.
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.
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.
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.
7. Copy-paste securely: there are sites like ZeroBin where you can copy-paste anything securely without the server knowing about it.
8. Books and videos online: you can access many online titles for free in one of the many online forums on the dark web.
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.
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.