How to access the dark web

Learning how to access the dark web is not as secret and illegal as it is often portrayed. In fact, you may have very legitimate reasons for accessing the dark web. While its use has its potential drawbacks and you should be careful about the type of websites you visit, it is perfectly legal and relatively safe if you follow the correct steps.

Here’s how to safely and easily access the dark web.

Warning: It is crucial to be careful when exploring the dark web. Only visit trusted websites with URLs maintained by a trusted source. There are many legitimate websites on the dark web worth visiting, but there are also absolute extremes of illegal material, such as pornography, illegal substances, and blood. Don’t browse random links to sites you don’t know or are unfamiliar with.

How to access the dark web safely

Step 1: Download Tor Browser from the official website and install it like any other app. It is a free Firefox-based web browser that gives you relatively safe access to the dark web. It uses an onion router to bounce its signal between other Tor users around the world, making it pseudo-anonymous when accessing the dark web.

If you want to further improve your security, you can also use a VPN at the same time as Tor. For the more security conscious, you can even install Tails OS on a flash drive and run Tor from there. It’s not completely necessary for your first access to the dark web if you’re just curious, but it does provide additional layers of security that are worth considering if you continue to use the dark web in the future.

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Step 2 – If you use the dark web, you probably don’t want your activities monitored – privacy is a key component of Tor Browser and the dark web itself. Make sure you don’t have any apps open that could track what you’re doing. It also doesn’t hurt to unplug any microphones you have, as well as your webcam, or use physical privacy covers or switches if you have them.

A Lumina webcam with a privacy cover mounted on top of a Toughbook laptop.

Step 3 – You can now launch Tor Browser and start exploring the dark web. But be warned, it’s not as easy to use as the typical Clearnet sites you access. There is no Google for the dark web, and if there was, you probably shouldn’t trust it.

It is not easy to find what you are looking for on the dark web, especially if you want to do it safely. You should only access websites that you know to be safe because they have been verified by websites or other sources that you already know to be safe. Good places to start are the Onion Directory and the Hidden Wiki. Check out the pages these directories have put together and see what topics interest you.

However, keep in mind that there are sites for absolutely everything, from the most benign to the most illegal. There are some websites that can get you into legal trouble even if you visit them, so proceed with the utmost caution.

While visiting any of the web pages you find on these Wiki pages, please do not maximize your browser, as it may help to identify you by the resolution of your monitor. Please do not enter any identifying information about yourself. Do not upload images or documents of any kind.

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Step 4: When you’re done, close Tor Browser and shutdown/reboot your computer completely. Pay attention to the reboot and if everything seems to be working normally, you can re-enable your microphone settings, webcam and other features. If you want to be doubly sure of your security, run an antivirus scan.

Is the dark web illegal?

Not intrinsically, no. In principle, the dark web is just a version of the Internet that can only be accessed through the Tor browser and where it is almost impossible to identify the users and owners of the websites on it. However, because it is almost completely anonymous, there are many illegal images, information, products, and services on the dark web. Even trying to see them can be illegal in many countries and states, so stay away from them if you want to keep a clean record and conscience.

Is the dark web safe?

If you are careful and use a combination of Tor Browser and common sense about the sites you access on the dark web, yes, the dark web is safe to use. However, if you browse illegal sites and services or do not practice good operational security by providing personal information or attempting illegal activities, it is highly unsafe. You may be targeted by law enforcement, exploited by hackers, or threatened by criminals using the dark web for nefarious purposes.

To use the dark web safely, use as many privacy-enhancing tools or programs as possible, and never identify yourself with anyone for any reason.

Should you use a VPN and Tor?

If you want to be more secure, routing your connection through a VPN and then accessing the dark web using Tor Browser provides more security than Tor itself. You can also use the Tails operating system to further protect yourself. It all depends on how confident you feel you should be. If you’re just browsing the dark web out of curiosity, Tor or a Tor and VPN setup is safe enough. If you’re trying to hide from an oppressive government or want to be a whistleblower about something illegal, take whatever steps you can to keep yourself safe.

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