Google returns millions of results dispersed across hundreds of thousands of pages for a single basic query. However, the portion of the internet that we have free access to every day is just approximately 4% of the whole web. The remaining 96 percent is made up of the deep web and the dark web, which are not the same, contrary to popular belief.
The deep web is made up of content that has been blocked for indexing, but that does not mean it is illegal. Your medical records, for example, are part of the deep web since they are confidential and shared in closed contexts that use the internet.
The dark web, on the other hand, is a section of the deep web that is intentionally concealed and only accessible with specialized software.
In general, the dark web is a secure place to visit, but only if you’re looking for legal stuff. Journalists utilize the dark web to share confidential material and do research. Still, security concerns such as the illegal nature of this environment, the questionable content that may be found there, or the fact that it is unregulated in any manner might put your data at risk. This is why users who browse the dark web constantly utilize technologies to keep their data private and anonymous.
Below, we are going to walk you through accessing the dark web in a safe and legal manner so that your personal data remains hidden and protected.
Step 1: Install Tor (The Onion Router)
Tor was created to assist protect US Intelligence internet communications, despite its present reputation as “the Dark Web browser.” It is currently one of the few means to gain access to .onion websites on the Dark Web.
Tor is a modified version of the popular Firefox web browser that allows users to surf the internet anonymously. The browser is meant to prevent or warn users from doing actions that might disclose their identity, such as changing the browser window’s size.
Hackers and government organizations are interested in the Tor browser. Users have been breached before they ever enter the black web, and users’ activity has been monitored while on the dark web due to fake versions of the Tor browser. This means you should always get the Tor browser from the Tor project’s official website.
Make sure you’re using the most recent version of the browser and that it’s constantly up to date. That way, you’ll be certain to have the most up-to-date security measures in place.
Step 2: Get a good VPN
Even if you use the Tor browser, anyone with enough time and knowledge can track your traffic back to you. In fact, a vulnerability in the Tor browser was discovered in 2017 that exposed genuine IP addresses in some cases.
Users of macOS and Linux were particularly affected by the aforementioned issue. However, if these individuals would have taken the precaution of using a VPN in the background, their true IP addresses would not have been exposed.
This is why, to avoid unwanted situations, it is highly recommended that you utilize a VPN tailored for browsing the dark web.
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are services that provide secure servers which allow users to access the internet privately. These servers hide your location and may mimic regions from all around the world. VPN tunnels encrypt any data that goes across them.
Even if there is a breach inside the Tor network, VPNs encrypt your online traffic and ensure that your IP address is concealed from any hackers or government monitoring.
Please keep in mind, however, that not all VPN providers are created equal. Slow service, bandwidth limitations, and security flaws are common in free versions.
Step 3: Create a secure email address
Depending on what you want to do on the dark web, you may be required to use an email address for some inquiries, as well as for registering on some .onion platforms. If this is the case, consider signing up for a new, untraceable address. Gmail, Hotmail, and other mainstream email services are not valid options, as they can be easily traced.
There are quite a few options you can choose from, including TORbox, RiseUp, and ProtonMail. Keep in mind that these providers have a .onion address, which means you need to access them through Tor.
Step 4: Take precaution methods
As we mentioned, the dark web is generally a safe place if you implement some safety measures. The most important are the ones we have mentioned above, but if you want to be sure your identity and personal inquiries are completely hidden, you should consider going the extra mile and consider the following before opening the Tor browser:
- Close your main browser, your music player, and any other non-essential app from your computer before opening Tor.
- Stop all other services, such as cloud storage.
- If you have a webcam, cover it. You’d be surprised as to how fast can one gain access to a computer webcam.
- Make sure your antivirus is reliable, up to date, and turned on. The same goes for your chosen anti-malware software.
- Turn off location, as it can enable access to your real IP address.
Step 5: Use privacy-driven online services
Even if you access the dark web fully anonymously, utilizing internet services such as extensions, file-sharing, messengers, and emails might lead to the disclosure of personal information.
A few services that are good at protecting your privacy are listed below:
- DuckDuckGo: a private search engine that works on the Tor browser and also shows results from .onion websites.
- PeaZip: an open-source file encryption tool that helps you safely download and upload files on the dark web.
- OnionShare: anonymous file sharing service that protects user privacy
- TorChat: messaging app included in the Tor browser, which requires no registration and allows you to chat anonymously.
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