So you want to go to the dark web? Do not worry; we don’t judge. There are plenty of perfectly legitimate reasons you might want to access all of this seedy content.
Jokes aside, if you want to know how to access the dark web in a secure and anonymous way, read on. There are a few crucial steps you need to take if you want to get into the dark web.
1. Always use a VPN to access the dark web
We won’t go into any further detail about what the dark web is or how it works. Suffice it to say, just because the darknet uses onion routing technology, too many users think they are safe from the prying eyes of ISPs and governments.
That is not true. Even if you’re using the Tor browser, your traffic can be traced back to you by anyone with enough time and expertise (ex example, the FBI!).
And remember that the Tor browser fell victim to an IP leak in April 2018. The bug, nicknamed “TorMoil” allowed a user’s operating system to connect to a remote host and bypass the Tor browser entirely. MacOS and Linux users were most at risk.
Ergo, you should also use a VPN when connecting to the dark web. It encrypts your web traffic and ensures it is hidden from snoops, even if there is a similar repeat of last year’s problems.
2. Download the Tor browser from the official website
Tor may have had its security issues in the past, but it’s still the safest and most popular way to get into the dark web.
Given its leading position in the market and the type of content you can access when using it, it should come as no surprise that there are a lot of bad players out there. These people are trying to fake the app and trick you into downloading a compromised version instead.
Hence, you should never download the Tor browser from any source other than the official website. You can find it under torproject.org. The browser is free to download and use.
You also need to make sure that your dark web browser is always up to date. Otherwise, you could be vulnerable to security problems. Check out our list of tips for using Tor safely for more information.
3. Take safety precautions
The dark web is a popular hangout for hackers, cyber criminals, malware creators, and other unsavory guys who you really don’t want to have near your computer.
Unfortunately, the nature of the dark web means you’re likely to encounter it at some point. Ideally, you need to make yourself as small as possible by reducing the number of attack vectors they can use.
Therefore, before opening the Tor browser, you should close any other apps on your computer, keep unnecessary services from running and cover your webcam with a piece of paper.
And be sure to read our article on Dark Web Myths Debunked so you know what is true and not before you visit.
4. Install TAILS
The Amnesiac Incognito Live System (TAILS) is a unique Debian-based version of Linux that leaves no traces of user activity – nor the operating system itself – on your computer. The operating system can be used free of charge and boots live from a USB stick or DVD.
TAILS cannot save cookies or files on your hard drive without asking for them directly. You also don’t run the risk of browsers copying page-out data to your hard drive (most browsers do this for speed and efficiency).
In addition, the Tor browser is preinstalled with TAILS; You don’t have to worry about additional steps after commissioning.
All web traffic on a TAILS computer is automatically routed through Tor. If the operating system detects non-anonymous connections, it automatically blocks them.
And yes, TAILS also has built-in productivity tools like a word processor and email client so you can do more than just browse the web on the fly. You can download TAILS from tails.boum.org.
5. Know where you are going
When you access the dark web, you don’t have the luxury of having Google cleanly index search results for you to search them. As a result, it can be difficult to find what you’re looking for. You could easily stumble into a place you really don’t want to be.
So we recommend using one of the many directory pages to help you decide which pages to visit before opening Tor.
The dark web itself also has many dark website directories. One of the best starting points for both novice and experienced users is The Hidden Wiki. You can access it by pasting the following link in the Tor browser:
You should also check out our article on How to Find Active Onion Pages – we have listed some of the best dark web directories out there.
6. Use cryptocurrency for all of your transactions
If you are looking to buy something from one of the many dark web marketplaces, there is no way you should be using anything other than cryptocurrency. In fact, you will find that most sellers don’t accept regular credit card payments.
Of course, there is a great temptation to use Bitcoin – it is the most widely used cryptocurrency in the world and many people think that it is completely anonymous. This is not true in practice. Issues like address reuse, connected nodes, tracking cookies, and blockchain analytics mean there is a very good chance that someone could link your personal information to a transaction.
You could use a “bitcoin mixer” to anonymize your tokens, but they are expensive and require you to trust an otherwise undetectable third party.
Instead, you should use a privacy-conscious coin. The two most common are Monero and Zcash.
7. Close everything
When you are done surfing the dark web, don’t be lazy. Make sure you have closed all browser windows and other content that may be connected.
When you have used TAILS, exit the operating system and start again in your usual user interface. If you’ve used Windows or macOS, restarting your computer is a good idea.
Stay safe on the dark web
If you carefully follow the seven tips we’ve given you, you’ll be well on your way to accessing the dark web securely and anonymously. There will be risks too, but as long as you stay vigilant you shouldn’t run into problems.