The internet is very much like a massive ocean, it’s so deep that it’ll take you an entire lifetime to traverse every nook and cranny.
This is because the internet is broken into three main segments; the Surface Web, Deep Web and the Dark Web.
The surface web is what we have easy access to and can be utilized by the general population, the deep web is the section that deals with legal documents, government resources and scientific reports apart from other secret documents and files whereas, the dark web is a secure part of the world wide web that deals in everything that’s off the books from illegal activities to private comms.
Over the course of this article I’ll break down what the dark web is and how you can access it safely.
But make it a point not to steer off path as the dark web is a notorious place and accessing the dark web can prove fatal to newbies.
How to Access the Dark Web Safely
The thing about the Dark Web is that it’s easy to find. With the right tools and a strong gut, anyone can gain access to the Internets evil twin.
The Dark Web is a section of the internet that operates with an extremely high degree of anonymity. It plays host to harmless content such as sites that provide games and riddles, book clubs that connect readers from across the globe and some may even be related to forums of sorts.
But the Dark Web is more famously known for the illegal activities carried out on it and sometimes for really graphic and disturbing content.
These are the ways by which you can successfully access the dark web safely:
- Accessing the Dark Web using Tor Browser
- Using a secure VPN service
- Remain Anonymous by using hidden email id’s and phone numbers
If you have watched the movie Unfriended: Dark Web then you’d get the gist.
These are a few examples of what you can find on the Dark Web.
- Stolen Data – Whenever a company faces a data breach, it’s possible that a lot of their users data would have been stolen. This information lands on the Dark Web and is normally sold to the highest bidder. You can buy hacked credentials for websites, card information and more.
- Illicit/ Banned Substances – You can find illicit drugs, prescriptions medicines, poisonous substances, explosive materials, and other toxic substances that can cause various types of damage.
- Extremely Disturbing Content – Things here can tend to get ugly really fast. Stuff like Gore, Human trafficking, Hit-man for hire, counterfeit goods, and guns for sale can be found on the Dark Web.
In short, you can find practically ANYTHING on the Dark Web and all you’d have to do is purchase them using Cryptocurrency.
Now that you know the gist, the main question is “Is the Dark Web safe to surf?”
Truth be told, the Dark Web is safe to access only if you’re looking for legitimate content. However, if you go overboard then things can take a turn for the worst.
Here are a few safety issues to keep in mind when surfing the Dark Web:
- Breaking the Law – You can be Prosecuted if you take part in illegal activities on the Dark Web. It’s always best to act responsibly and not search for something that can land you in trouble.
- Criminal Elements – It’s quite possible that you may come across a website that’s run by criminals and apart from selling you their products, they can even exploit you by stealing from you.
- Law Enforcement – Since the Dark Web is filled with people who engage in criminal activities, Law enforcement officials tend to operate the Dark Web under a cloak of invisibility to catch these perps. You may not know who you’re dealing with until it’s too late.
- Suspicious Links – Most of the links available on the Dark Web have one sole purpose, to infect your system with Malware. Clicking unknown or unwanted links can lead to hackers gaining access to all your personal information. Make sure that you DO NOT under any circumstance click unknown links or pop-ups on the Dark Web.
After this, if you still decide to take a trip through the Dark Web it’s best to be selective about the sites you wish to access.
|WARNING: Before you proceed further with the article, it’s important to understand that 90% of the things found on the Dark Web are highly illegal and no matter what precaution you may take, anonymity is something that’s not guaranteed on the Dark Web. Enter at your own Risk!|
Accessing the Dark Web using TOR Browser
TOR is a Dark Web browser which was developed by the United States to safeguard their top secret files and to carry out secret internal conversations. Today, TOR is one of the few secure ways to access .onion websites (Dark Web links).
In short, TOR is a simple browser that is designed around Firefox but allows you to browse the web anonymously.
With the TOR browser, you have pre-enabled security settings which I would not recommend modifying. These settings have been designed for complete anonymity and the browser will even advise you against doing something which can reveal your identity.
For those who are looking to download the TOR browser, can do so from this link. You have it available for all platforms, MacOS, iOS, Android, Windows PC.
The TOR browser uses Onion Routing which lets you remain anonymous and protects you under layers of security by passing your connection through multiple nodes and relays situated around the world.
Though the encryption level is strong, there are still a few vulnerabilities in the network.
Additional Security: VPN
When it comes to accessing the Dark Web, you need to know that security plays a very important role in a number of ways. Because TOR has its own masking system does not mean that it’s impenetrable, it’s code after all and no matter what people say, there’s always a possibility that your data can still be compromised.
Although TOR browsers mask your identity, it does not hide your location which is where VPNs or Virtual Private Networks come into play. These servers help you by masking your IP origin and by emulating locations from other parts of the world.
In simple terms, with a VPN connection you can sit in New York and connect to the network servers in Paris or any other country of the world. This allows you to remain untraceable on the internet and adds a level of protection while browsing the web.
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Choosing the Right Search Engine
Now that you have obtained your VPN, downloaded and installed TOR browser it’s time to decide what Search Engine to use. As you all are familiar with Google as the search engine king of the surface web, it won’t work when it comes to finding sites on the Dark Web as Google does not index them.
Instead, you can try out DuckDuckGo which is a private search engine that allows you to browse .onion indexed sites at ease without any restrictions. You can use DuckDuckGo on regular browsers like Chrome or Firefox but you will not be able to access .onion links as they can only be opened from within the TOR browser.
Some other notable Dark Web portals and Search Engines are:
- The Hidden Wiki – This is an off the books version of Wikipedia that hosts everything you need to know about everything. Think of it like the lost library of Alexander, but in digital format.
- AHMIA.fi – AHMIA is an online indexing site that lets you search anonymously on the Dark Web.
- Torch – Torch is a recognized search engine for TORs hidden searches. It’s famously known as the oldest search engine on the TOR network that is completely uncensored.
Signing up for a Secure Email Address
At this stage you’re practically ready to surf the Dark Web, but you may have to opt for an untraceable email address for the websites you’re about to access.
Owning an untraceable email address can give you safe and secure access to the TOR websites without them being linked to your personal information. Gmail is completely out of the question as many sites require an email address for registration.
You can try out these email services but keep it in mind that they can be accessed only on TOR browsers and not Chrome or Firefox as they have the .onion extension.
Is it Illegal to access the Dark Web?
Truth be told, it’s not illegal to access the dark web, there are certain pages however that are deemed illegal and any interaction with users on the dark web relating to anything illegal can land you in jail.
Can I access the Dark Web using Google Chrome?
Theoretically, Yes. To access the dark web on Google Chrome you will have to download and install the Onion search engine extension. This will allow you to search for content that’s available only on the Tor browser.
Can Tor be traced?
In many instances, Tor’s complicated system of relays make it next to impossible to trace your movements. There are some weak spots within Tor’s services and these can make you vulnerable by exposing your IP address and by letting third-parties know that you’re using Tor.
Browsing the Dark Web can be problematic if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s a place that can really prove helpful if you’re looking for the right stuff but is also extremely dangerous if you go searching for things you’re not supposed to.
Surfing the Dark Web is not a task and can be done in a few simple steps if you know what you’re doing. I only hope that you don’t venture down the rabbit hole by conversing with unknown people or by using your credit card to pay for anything here.
If you carefully follow all the secure steps laid out over this article, you will be well on the way to access the Dark Web in an anonymous, safe and secure manner.
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Daniel Moore is the Founder & Editor-in-chief of Private-Spy, an experienced hacker, lecturer and an all-round fun guy! A writer by day and reader by night, he holds a Master’s degree in Computer applications and believes that privacy is our god given right. Daniel has been known to have published in-depth guides and tutorials that have been used by millions of people across the world.