How to access the dark web safely

In this article, you’ll learn how to access the dark web safely. I’ve included step-by-step instructions, with screenshots which help you understand the steps better.

Despite sounding technical, the process is no harder than installing a few tools and clicking on a few icons!

I’ve been a deep web enthusiast for the last 10 years or so. That has given me not just the technical know-how, but, also the legal aspects which need to be covered.

Point being, by the end of this piece, you’ll be accessing the deep web with complete anonymity and without any legal consequences!

Things you’ll need to access the deep web safely

There are three basic (and mostly free) things you’ll need in order to access the deep web safely.

  • Tor Browser
  • NordVPN
  • The .onion address of the deep web site you wish to access.

Obviously, I’ll explain each of these in detail so you know exactly why you need any of this.

The Tor Browser

The name is an abbreviation for “The Onion Router”. As the name suggests, it’s a web browser. It’s the most popular browser for accessing the deep web. Also, it’s free and open-source!

You need a special browser because most deep web sites are on the Onion network. They have a .onion extension instead of the normal .com/.net/.org etc.

These websites can’t be accessed with your normal browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera and so on.

In simple words, Tor hides your identity, location, system information and other sensitive information from the internet and the websites you’re trying to visit.

Let’s get into the technicalities a bit? So, the Tor browser is a volunteer-run browser. It takes your internet connection, encrypts it, and then routes it via various “nodes” which are run by volunteers. 

Imagine each volunteer to be a different person, with his/her own IP address. By doing this, Tor places multiple nodes between your original request, and the final exit node which relays your request to the website you’re trying to visit.

In other words, the website you’re visiting never sees “you”. It sees the exit-node as the system/person trying to access the website.

how to access the deep web

But, won’t your identity be compromised to these nodes? Well, not really. Any given node only knows its previous and future node, not the other nodes connected to the chain.

It may sound complicated, but Tor is basically a Mozilla replica (minus all the privacy issues). So, as a user, all you have to do is download Tor as a normal browser.

Download Tor Browse

If you’re bored, or you already know the basics, you can scroll down directly to the exact steps on how to access the dark web safely. But, I suggest you keep reading, it’ll be worth it.

A VPN (And, why it’s not “optional”)

I’m pretty sure you already know what a Virtual Private Network is. Apart from the fancy technical name, it’s basically just a software which changes your IP address and encrypts your connection, right?

But, isn’t that what Tor does anyway? It does. But, Tor isn’t 100% secure. In fact, it has been hacked by the FBI, there have been major security bugs (e.g. Heartbleed) as well as attacks (Bad Apple Attack). All of which revealed user identities.

Tor has come a long way since, but, it still isn’t 100% secure.

What I’m trying to say is, a majority of deep web surfers make this major mistake of putting all their faith in Tor. The only way to be secure when on the deep web is to bring in additional protection, such as a VPN.

So, a VPN alike Tor masks your IP address. However, it does so differently. The VPN company has servers. These servers are like computers, which have their own IP addresses.

The VPN lets you connect to any of these IP addresses. This IP address is then used to browse the Internet. In this case, you’ll first connect to a VPN, then connect to TOR and then to the website!

With Tor, your traffic is just “routed” via nodes. Your actual IP address still exists on the chain. It’s not deleted or hidden.

With a VPN however, your actual IP ceases to exist on paper (if you go with a “no log” VPN). The VPN deletes your original IP address from its records which is being used to connect to the VPN-IP.

Hence, even when your Tor relay is linked back to the original IP address, this original IP address will still be the VPN-IP and not your real IP.

Because there are no logs, nothing exists which can be traced back to you personally. Your VPN can’t help govt. agencies or anyone else identify you even if it wanted to.

Now, the question is, which VPN should you go with? Let me be honest? Majority of the “no log VPNs” aren’t actually “no log”. They secretly keep logs. UFO VPN, Hide My Ass and even established names such as Pure VPN have shared IP-logs with the FBI in the past!

This is why I’d recommend you go with NordVPN. I’ll give you a few solid reasons why:

The most important reason being, its “no log policy” isn’t just a sentence on the website. It actually has been verified by an independent third-party: PricewaterhouseCoopers AG. It’s a company which has verified NordVPN’s claims and that it truly doesn’t store any logs.

Secondly, it has a specialized feature for deep web access called “Onion over Tor”. (I’ve covered the exact steps on how to use that later in this guide).

Third, the VPN is based in Panama, a privacy-heaven compared  to most other countries. US/UK and most other countries do not hold any jurisdiction over data and companies in Panama.

Fourth, Tor browser reduces browsing speed significantly due to all the encryption and routing. NordVPN is literally “the” fastest VPN I’ve ever used. Most other VPNs when coupled with Tor result in a speed that’s just not practical for the deep web.

Fifth, NordVPN costs less than your monthly Netflix subscription!

Download NordVPN

The .onion address

The .onion address is just the website URL you wish to access. Just like on the clearnet (normal internet) it’s www.something.com, on the onion network it’s http://some412342thing.onion.

Why the jumbled URL? Well, the .onion URLs generally aren’t as straight forward as clearnet URLs. They’re generally a mix of alphabets and numbers. This is due to the technicality of how they’re “created”. But, let’s not get into that for now.

So, once you have the Tor browser, and the VPN, you’ll need the .onion address you wish to access.

If you’re asking how to access the dark web safely, I assume you already have a URL you wish to access?

Just in case you don’t, you can always use darknet search engines. These are just like normal search-engines, however, they give you .onion URLs for your keywords. I’ve included a few more trustworthy sources in the next section.

Ahmia is one of the best darknet search engines you can use. It can be accessed on the clearnet, but, it shows .onion URLs for the search queries.

Steps on how to access the dark web safely

Before we start, make sure you have the Tor browser downloaded, NordVPN, and the address of the website you wish to visit.

First and foremost, launch your VPN. Be sure not to launch Tor before connecting to the VPN.  

Step #1: Launch NordVPN and choose the “Onion over VPN” server. You can also simply click on any country from the map (or select a name from the list.)

how to access the dark web

Step #2: Launch your Tor browser. We need to amp up Tor’s security. By default, it’s set to a “less-secure” mode of browsing. While this makes the browsing experience aesthetically better, it’s not as safe.

Step #3: On your Tor browser, click on the little “shield” icon on the top-left and click on “Advance browser security”.

Step #4: On the next page, select “safest” as your security preference.

Done!

All you have to do now is paste the .onion address of the deep web site you wish to access on Tor.

how to access dark web

In the above example, I’ve opened Facebook’s deep web version. It’s on the onion network, and has no way of tracking/tracking me.

Done. You can access any deep web site now as long as you have the right URL.

Understanding how and why you connected safely to the deep web

If you’re interested in some background action, here’s what’s happening. First, you’re connecting to NordVPN. NordVPN doesn’t store your original IP address. It gives you a secondary IP address which you’re using now.

Access deep web safely with VPN

You’re using this new IP address to connect to Tor browser. Tor browser then routes your connection via its nodes. Finally, some exit-node decrypts your entire connection and relays your request to the website you’re accessing.

Why you’re safe? First, the website thinks the “exit-node” is you. It has no idea of your actual existence. Then, the exit-node has no idea who or where you’re from. As far as it’s concerned, you’re just the “previous node” it got the connection from.

Finally, just in case you offended someone real bad, they may trace you back to the original IP address you used to connect to Tor. Now, this IP address belongs to NordVPN.

NordVPN doesn’t know what your original IP address or account was (because it doesn’t store logs). So, it can’t help them connect the IP to “you”, not legally, technically, or in any other way. Anonymity achieved.

Accessing the deep web safely on Android devices

Not all of you may wish to do this on your computers, right? Fortunately, you can access the deep web with utmost safety even on Android devices.

Step #1: Download NordVPN for Android.

Step #2: Download Tor browser from the PlayStore.

Step #3: Launch NordVPN and connect to any country of your choice (should be different from your actual country of residence.)

Step #4: Launch Tor browser on your Android device and enter the URL you wish to access.

How to find deep web site URLs safely?

A major problem on the deep web is that the URLs aren’t straight-forward. They’re often long and not easy to remember.

As a result, it’s easy for people to not notice that https://www.facebookcorewwwi.onion/ is not the same as https://www.facebookc0rewwwi.onion/

As a result, you can often end up getting hacked. Or, on a more serious note, you may end up on completely illegal dark web sites. This may even lead to legal consequences.

So, how do you find URLs which are deep web URLs but also are safe?, Well

at https://darkweblinkssites.com/, we keep updating working .onion sites URL with a descriptive description. Bookmark this to browse deep web so that you never need to look further for deep web links.

You can also use darknet search engines. Phobos is one of them.

Phobos – http://phobosxilamwcg75xt22id7aywkzol6q6rfl2flipcqoc4e4ahima5id.onion/ It can only be accessed on the Tor browser. It too displays .onion results. 

Also, just be sure not to use links from social networking sites, e-mails or posted by random people on forums. They’re most likely fake URLs with hidden agendas.

Difference between the Deep web and the Dark web

This is more of an optional read for you. Although, going through this will help you understand the deep web much better.

A majority of the people who discover the deep web newly have two major misconceptions:

  • The deep web and the dark web are the same.
  • The deep web is bad and illegal.

I’ll clear the second misconception in the next section. However, the first needs to be addressed right away.

Let’s start with what’s the deep web. In the simplest of words- “unindexed web pages”. It’s nothing that’s “underground” or “secret” or even bad or evil.

There’s just some content which our normal browsers do not index. This also may be information which requires passwords for accessing the data.

E.g. your school records, bank records, social media profile, or things as simple as a personal cloud storage. All of that’s deep web content. And, all of that’s legal as well.

That’s anti-climactic, isn’t it? Not very “exciting”?

That’s because what you’re looking for is the “dark web”. This is also content not indexed by traditional search engines, but, the prime difference is that it’s mostly illegal. Some examples may be darknet markets, illegal porn sites, hitmen/hacker for hire services, weapon markets and the list goes on.

Also, the dark web is primarily on the Onion network.  The Onion network, put simply is basically a part of the Internet which is less-censored, more anonymous and liberal than the clearnet.

The dark web is actually what most people are talking about when they talk of the deep web.

Another difference is, simply “deep web” content also exists on the clearnet as is clear by the above examples. However, dark web content is mostly only on the onion network. That’s what you learnt how to access today.

Now, deep web content (bank data/ personal files etc.) can’t be accessed because it’s generally password-protected, hidden or basically “not for you”. If you can’t access a page, you probably aren’t authorized to access the page, right?

The dark web however is just a bunch of normal websites on the onion network which can be accessed by anyone. In fact, the primary goal on the dark web is to share/distribute or make commercial gains from illegal content.

Following the steps mentioned above, you can access the dark web safely. Just be cautious and have a moral compass while doing so.

Is it illegal to access the dark web?

Let’s address the Elephant in the room? The dark web is portrayed by the media and the govt. as something illegal. Is it so? Yes, it “is” illegal. But, is accessing it illegal?

No.  Accessing the dark web kind of a grey area, although it’s largely legal.

Understand that the deep web and the dark web are two sides of the same coin. The deep web, as explained earlier, is just a bunch of unindexed pages. Even on the Tor network, the .onion websites aren’t always illegal. One example is the Facebook URL mentioned above.

Moreover, BBC, The New York Times and even the CIA have a .onion deep web version of their websites. This tells us that deep web in general is legal.

The deep web is largely used just to publish controversial information, exposing governments, sharing conspiracy theories and other “restricted yet not illegal” content.

On the other hand, dark web sites are mostly illegal. However, Dark Web only becomes illegal when you do something that’s illegal in general. E.g. it’s legal to browse a darknet market, but, it’s illegal if you order guns from the market.

So, you can access both the deep and the dark web legally as long as you’re not involved in any illegal activity directly.

How to stay safe on the dark web?

Tor and your VPN can only do so much.  There are still loopholes you need to be aware of.

The most basic precaution is, never share or use “real, personal information” on the deep web.

E.g. when registering on forums, social networking sites or even darknet markets; be sure to enter a username and password which you don’t use anywhere on the clearnet.

Also, do not use your real-life nicknames, or the name of your loved ones. Basically, everything that you enter on the deep web should be as detached from you as possible.

Needless to mention, never use your clearnet or normal e-mail ID. It’s best if you get yourself an anonymous e-mail ID. You can use:

  • ProtonMail
  • Or Tutanota.

These are free and anonymous e-mail providers.

Additionally, you can generate a 100% complete virtual identity using this URL- http://elfq2qefxx6dv3vy.onion

You’ll get every single aspect of a human life generated for you (including fake car number, model, favourite colour and everything else).

And, this information is randomly generated and is legal to use. You can then slap this everywhere you wish to sign up, or when talking to strangers on the deep web.

Summing up how to access the dark web safely

Hey, technically, it’s just 4 steps! Download VPN > connect VPN > Download TOR > Up TOR security > go browse the deep web.

Obviously the other minor details are what make the difference between you being and not being “safe”.

The key here is to not consider the VPN “optional”. That’s like the biggest and yet the most common mistake you can make.

As long as you’ve got NordVPN and Tor, you’re as untraceable as you can be without spending millions.

Disclaimer

This guide on how to access the dark web safely is purely for purposes of education and research.

You aren’t allowed to use this guide for any illegal purposes. You also accept that any and all actions, both legal and illegal, which may or may not be a direct or indirect result of this article or any content found on this website are 100% your own responsibility.

The creators, controllers, distributers or anyone else associated with this article in any way can’t be held responsible for your actions. With that being said, I hope you’ve learnt how to access the dark web safely, go do just that!