Wondering how to access the dark web safely? Well, we’re not surprised, especially since there are many useful dark web websites worth checking out. However, let’s face it – the dark web can be a very dangerous place to visit if you don’t take necessary precautions.
If you want to use the dark web in a secure manner, read on. In this article, we’ll be covering some important measures you need to take when you want to hop on the dark web. But before we begin, let’s revisit what exactly the dark web is so you know what you’re getting into.
What is the Dark Web?
You already know about (and use) websites like Facebook, Netflix, Wikipedia, and YouTube. What you probably aren’t aware about, though, is they only constitute a small portion of the Internet. There’s also a collection of sites hidden from the eyes of the general public, known as the dark web (or darknet).
Since these sites don’t get indexed by regular search engines, you can only gain access to them by using specialized web browsers. The Onion Router (Tor) is the most popular tool to use for accessing the dark web, but you also have other options like Freenet and I2P.
How to Access the Dark Web Safely – A Step by Step Guide
Now, moving to the question “how do I safely access the dark web?,” here’s what you have to do to get started:
1. Encrypt Your Traffic with a VPN
Many users think that they’re safe from Internet service providers (ISPs), governments, and other prying eyes because of how the dark web uses onion routing. But that’s far from the truth! Even when you’re connected to the Tor browser, your Internet traffic can be linked to you by anyone with sufficient time and technical know-how (such as the FBI).
Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you access the dark web using a VPN service. In addition to hiding your IP address, a VPN uses robust encryption algorithms to secure your traffic from snoopers. Learn more about what is a VPN.
2. Download the Tor Browser
With more than four million users across the world, Tor is still the safest and most popular method to access the darknet. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that bad actors have created fake versions of the browser to either breach your device before you even access the dark web or monitor your behavior while you’re on there.
That’s why you should only download the Tor browser from the official website. It’s free to download and use at torproject.org. Also, don’t forget to keep the browser updated as you wouldn’t want to leave yourself open to security vulnerabilities.
3. Implement Safety Measures
The darknet is flooded with bad guys who will leave no stone unturned to get what they want – you really don’t want them anywhere near your device! However, you’re bound to come across them at one point or another, which is why you need to limit the number of attack vectors they can target. Before you open the Tor browser, make sure to:
- Close all unnecessary apps.
- Stop running non-essential services.
- Cover your webcam using a piece of paper (you’d be surprised how easily it can be hacked).
- Have a robust and up-to-date antivirus software installed on your machine.
- Install a reputable anti-malware program and update it consistently.
- Turn off your device’s location (the steps will differ depending on the OS you’re using).
4. Change Tor Browser’s Security Level to High
Tor encrypts your browsing data by default, but you can further increase your security by delving into the settings and increase the security level in the Tor browser. To do this, just click the Tor icon in the top left corner and select Security Settings.
A popup window will appear, allowing you to change the Security Level from Standard to Safer or Safest. Depending on your selection, certain browser features that can be leverage to attack your anonymity and security are going to be fully or partially disabled.
5. Visit Trusted Dark Web Links
It can be difficult to find what you’re looking for on the dark web because it isn’t equipped with a search index like Bing or Google. You need to know where you want to go and have specific links ready, otherwise you’ll find yourself someplace you don’t want to be. There are directory sites that can help you navigate the dark web, such as The Hidden Wiki and TorLinks.
6. Pay Using Cryptocurrency
Want to buy something from one of the many darknet markets? If you do, you should refrain from using anything besides cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Contrary to popular belief, though, Bitcoin is not completely anonymous. Fortunately, you can increase the privacy of your Bitcoin transactions by using anonymous Bitcoin wallets and Bitcoin mixing services.
Related Read: 5 Best Anonymous Bitcoin Wallets to Secure Your Bitcoins
7. Close the Tor Browser Once You’re Done
Once you’re done and dusted browsing the darknet, you must make sure to close the Tor browser right away. By leaving any windows and other connected content open, you might end up exposing more than you mean to.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some commonly asked questions about accessing the dark web:
Who is the owner of the dark web?
The short answer: no one. As with the Internet, the dark web isn’t owned by any individual or entity. However, there are some law enforcement agencies who actively monitor the dark web, such as the NSA and the FBI.
Can Google search the dark web?
Nope, it can’t. Because of the sensitivity of the information provided within the dark web, it isn’t visible to search engines like Google and Bing. And as mentioned earlier, you’ll need to use a specialized browser like Tor or Freenet to access it.
How does the dark web work?
The dark web functions much in the same way as the regular Internet does, but it has two distinct exceptions:
- First, the dark web isn’t indexed by traditional search engines.
- Second, sites on the dark web can’t be accessed using regular browsing software.
Wrapping Things Up
The dark web has many legitimate uses, but it isn’t a safe place to navigate due to its unmonitored nature. By following the guidelines mentioned above, you can access the dark web (and the content available on it) without compromising your security.