What is the Dark Web? How to Access It Safely?

Gannicus Oliver  - Tech Journalist
Last updated: February 20, 2024
Read time: 39 minutes

Wish to have robust dark web safety? This guide tells you all there is to know about the darknet and how to access both the deep web and dark web safely.

As per several studies, the hidden internet is so vast that it is impossible to know precisely how many pages or websites are active simultaneously.

This web was once the haunt of hackers, special forces, and criminals. However, thanks to new technologies, such as encryption and anonymity tools like a VPN or Tor browser, it is now possible to delve into it if desired.

So, are you looking to get into the dark web? Whatever your reasons, you must learn to access the dark web anonymously and safely.

Accessing Dark Web securely – Quick guide

Use the following steps to access the dark web securely and anonymously.

  1. Install a Tor Browser – Use the Tor browser to access the dark web instead of Chrome or Firefox. It is safe and easy to use. 
  2. Use a VPN – A VPN will encrypt your internet traffic and conceal your IP address to protect you from dark web threats. 
  3. Install TAILS – This is a custom Debian Linux version that will remove your information that could be used to track your dark web activities. 
  4. Take extra security precautions – A general rule of thumb is to reduce the vectors malicious actors can use to attack you on the dark web. 
  5. Only use cryptocurrencies for transactions – Never use traditional payments, like credit cards, on the dark web. Instead, use cryptocurrencies to stay safe and anonymous. 
  6. Know where you visit – Use good dark web directories to get secure pages of what you want to access on the dark web.
  7. Close everything once done – Close all browser windows when ending your dark web session for optimum safety.

Best Dark Web VPNs – Quick list

  1. ExpressVPN – Has a high connection speed and unbreakable encryption. It enforces a strict no-logs privacy policy and has a .onion web version that allows users to sign up anonymously.
  2. Surfshark – An affordable option that prioritizes privacy and anonymity without compromising speed. For anonymity, it accepts crypto payments.
  3. NordVPN – It is highly customizable and has an Onion over VPN feature to give you high anonymity when exploring the dark web.

What is the Darknet, and how does it work

But what’s the dark web anyway?

Let’s start by pointing out the fact that what we can typically see online is about 4% of what the internet contains.

So, where is the rest of the content? On the deep web.

The deep web is simply the internet section that is not indexed by search engines.

Therefore, it means that it can only be accessed with special anonymity tools like Freenet, I2P, and the famous The Onion Router (TOR) bundle.

Unfortunately, the deep web is usually confused with the dark web (I’ll explain the differences later).

Personal records/information and government documents are kept on the deep web as they’re not meant for public view.

However, they’re mostly connected to the internet as part of the information that forms an ecosystem for most surface web applications.

The deep web is often run on networks of private servers, which allows communication via specific means only.

Therefore, that way, it enables a top-notch degree of anonymity and makes it even more difficult for authorities to shut down – a reason why most illegal activities occur on the dark web (a part of the deep web).

Even though Darknet is famous for hosting illegal activities, it is a safe haven for activists, journalists, and others who need to preserve their identity.

What is the difference between the dark, deep, and surface web?

The Internet is an extensive network of millions of servers, databases, and web pages that run continuously. However, it’s more than what meets the eye. Think of it as an iceberg, with only a tiny part visible above the surface. If you dig deeper, you’ll discover the mysterious world of the deep web and, for the brave ones, the foreboding dark web.

The open web or surface web

It is also referred to as the visible web. This portion of the internet can be accessed using search engines such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo. It includes websites, databases, and other online resources indexed by search engines and is easily discoverable by users. The open web makes up less than 5% of the internet, which is just the tip of the iceberg of the entire internet.

All websites on the open web can be accessed through standard web browsers such as Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Google Chrome. These publicly available websites are labeled with registry operators such as “.com” and “.org.” The websites are easily found because search engines can index the web through visible links. This process is called “crawling,” where the crawlers follow links to different websites and index them for future reference.

The deep web

This is below the surface web and accounts for about 90% of all websites. It includes all web pages not indexed by search engines. This portion includes academic journals, private databases, and other content hidden from the public for various reasons.

The deep web includes both legal and illegal content, including the portion known as the dark web. While many people use the terms deep web and dark web interchangeably, a large part of the deep web is safe and legal. Some of the largest components of the deep web include;

  1. Intranets: These are internal networks businesses, governments, and Learning institutions use to communicate and manage aspects privately.
  2. Databases: They can be privately or publicly protected and only searchable within the database.

If you are curious about accessing the deep web, you are likely already using it daily through pending website redesigns, blog posts under review, and pages accessed during online banking. These pages are hidden for various reasons and do not threaten your computer or safety.

Some of the files hidden from the open web include;

  • Legal files
  • HIPAA-sensitive information like medical documentation
  • Private enterprise databases
  • Email and social messaging accounts
  • Financial accounts like banking and retirement

While much of the content on the deep web is harmless, users can accidentally access dangerous content by navigating through tangential pathways, leading them to piracy sites, radical forums, or violent content. For this reason, users should be cautious when using their browsers.

You’ll find the more dangerous content and activity at the dark end of the deep web. This is where Tor websites are located, deemed the ‘dark web,’ and can only be accessed by an anonymous browser.

The dark web

A small portion of the deep web is not indexed and can only be accessed through specialized web browsers. It is often associated with illegal activity and is known for trading sites where users can purchase illicit goods or services. The dark web has several anonymity layers, making it difficult to access. These layers include;

  • It cannot be accessed through traditional browsers
  • Lack of indexing by surface web search engines
  • A randomized network infrastructure that creates virtual traffic tunnels

The dark web has gained a reputation for being associated with criminal activities and sites where illegal goods and services can be bought and sold. However, some legal parties also use the dark web.

What does the dark web boast

Now, you might be wondering, what’s on the dark web?

Privacy and anonymity are the core values of the dark web, and it hosts both harmless activities and illegal content.

While some dark web websites may contain such content as complex riddles or some eBooks, one thing will always remain; the dark web is for dark material.

It means that the dark web contains illegal and disturbing content. Some of the foul stuff that you can find on the dark web includes:

Illicit substances

On the dark web, you’re expected to find illegal and prescription drugs (including Marijuana). Also, some toxic chemicals are peddled on the dark web that may cause severe damage to the targets.

Stolen information and fake IDs

Whenever a data breach occurs, the information will likely end up on the dark web for sale.

The information can be of any kind, either social security numbers or even bank card numbers (the bank/credit card information is usually sold in bulk).

Moreover, you can purchase things like hacked Netflix accounts, login credentials, and more on the dark web.

Interestingly, darknet sites also offer stolen documents and passports from around the globe. For example, you could find a passport from a UK citizen there for under a million dollars.

Dangerous and disturbing services and items

Many things you think are dangerous for a second can be found on the dark web.

One can buy anything on the dark web at the right price, including stuff like counterfeit goods, mercenaries for hire, child pornography, and body parts. Also, human trafficking businesses are run on the dark web.

Basically, you can get your hands on anything on the dark web, including some things you’d better not imagine.

Mostly on the dark web, financial transactions happen via cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, making it possible for parties to do business anonymously.


In a world where almost everything can be bought, it is no surprise that uranium ore can be processed into weapons that can also be obtained from the Darknet.


As you might have guessed by now, almost everything criminals are after can be found on the Darknet.

Among other things, some darknet sites offer explosives.

Alongside C4 plastic explosives, one can purchase rocket launchers and numerous other weapons on the Darknet without much trouble.


People can contact assassins on the dark web who are ready to kill for money. However, researchers believe most of them could only be scams.

Deadly Poison

Not too long ago, the case of a young man becoming wealthy by producing and selling ricin hit the headlines in the United States.

Ricin is a protein obtained from a milkweed plant that kills human cells quickly and is lethal even in tiny amounts. Almost all such deadly poisons are said to be available for sale on the dark web.

In 2015, a computer programmer named Mohammed Ali was jailed for eight years after he tried to buy ricin poison from the Darknet. The guy reportedly got inspired by the hit US TV series Breaking Bad.

The story hints at why taking dark web safety measures is essential, even if you are jumping into the dark side of the internet only because of some curiosity.

Fake university certificates

For a long time, the Darknet has been famous for fake university and college certificates.

Malware and viruses

Almost all sorts of computer viruses and malware get spread from the dark web, so it is needless to say that they are very commonly available on it.


There are reports of illegal services on the dark web, ranging from paid assassinations to the trafficking of sex and weapons. However, some of these alleged services, such as professional ‘hitmen,’ may be scams designed to defraud willing customers.

While some threats on the dark web are well-known, others may use its notorious reputation to trick users into paying large sums of money. Additionally, some users on the dark web may attempt phishing scams to steal personal information and extort victims.

Government monitoring

There is a significant risk of being targeted by the government simply for visiting a dark website, as many Tor-based sites have been taken over by police authorities worldwide. Even if a person does not make any purchases on illegal marketplaces like the Silk Road, custom software used by law officials can analyze activity and identify user identities.

This can lead to incrimination for other activities later in life. In some countries, exploring new political ideologies can be considered an imprisonable offense, and those who visit restricted websites could be placed on a watchlist or targeted for jail sentences. China, for example, uses the “Great Firewall” to restrict access to popular sites to prevent citizens from evading government restrictions.

Unverified content and Hoaxes

Reports of hitmen for hire and crowdfunded assassinations on the dark web are believed to be hoaxes. The indie game Sad Satan was claimed to have been found via the dark web, but inconsistencies in the reporting cast doubt on the story. Ross Ulbricht, the creator of Silk Road, was arrested on suspicion of hiring a hitman to kill six people, but the charges were later dropped.

The urban legend of ‘Red Rooms’ that features live murders has been debunked as a hoax. Some websites monitor and analyze the dark web for threat intelligence.

Social network

The Dark Web has a social media platform called the Dark Web Social Network (DWSN), which is similar to regular social networking sites. Users can create customizable profiles, have friends, and participate in forum discussions.

Traditional social media platforms such as Facebook have also created versions that work with the dark web to provide services across all dimensions of the World Wide Web. However, unlike Facebook, the DWSN requires users to remain anonymous and not reveal personal information to protect privacy.


Terrorist groups have used the dark web since its inception due to its anonymity and lack of regulation. The dark web provides these groups with chat platforms to inspire terrorist attacks and ‘How-to’ guides to teach people how to become terrorists and hide their identities.

Bitcoin allows for anonymous donations, making it easier for terrorists to fund their activities and purchase weaponry. In some cases, fraudulent websites claim to be used by terrorist organizations such as ISIL. With the current technology, cyber terrorists can exploit their weaknesses to carry out attacks.

Illegal pornography

The most prevalent dark web content is child pornography, about 80% of its web traffic, despite being challenging to find. Other porn-related content found on the dark web includes revenge porn and sexualized torture, and the killing of animals.

Law enforcement agencies frequently target sites that distribute child pornography. For Example, In May 2021, authorities in Germany brought down Boystown, a child pornography network with more than 400,000 registered users. Several pedophile chat sites were also dismantled, and four people were detained, one of them a Paraguayan suspected of running the network.

In another example, Playpen, the largest child pornography site in 2015 on the dark net with a membership of more than 200,000, was taken down by the FBI.

Financing and fraud

Due to its anonymity, carding, fraud, and counterfeiting businesses are thriving on the dark web. Carding refers to the theft and illegal use of credit card information, and the dark web offers a platform for criminals to sell and buy such information.

Fraudulent activities on the dark web include phishing scams, fake identity sales, and the sale of fake products. Counterfeiting businesses create fake versions of popular products and sell them on the dark web.

The dark web’s anonymity makes it difficult for law enforcement to track down these criminal activities, leading to a rise in their prevalence.

Hacking services and groups

The dark web is rife with cybercriminals who offer their services either as individuals or as part of a group. These groups include Mazafaka, Trojanforge, hack forum, xDedic, and dark0de. Some of these cybercriminals are known to track and blackmail pedophiles. Moreover, hackers who offer their services over the dark web have also targeted financial institutions and banks.

Not all dark web services are genuine, and many scam “.onion” sites offer downloads infected with backdoors and trojan horses. Being cautious while browsing the dark web is essential, as significant risks are involved.

Bitcoin services

Dark web marketplaces often rely on Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency known for its anonymity and flexibility. It allows users to hide their identity and intentions, making it a popular choice for those engaged in illegal activities.

To further obscure transactions, Bitcoin users can employ digital currency exchanger services to convert their Bitcoin into online game currency, which can later be converted back into fiat currency. Services such as Tumblers are also available on the dark web to help hide transactions. However, Bitcoin’s relevance in the digital world has also made it a scam target.

Cybercriminal groups like DDOS have carried out over 140 cyberattacks on companies since Bitcoin’s emergence in 2014. The attacks have led to the formation of other cybercriminal groups and Cyber Extortion. According to recent research, Bitcoin tumblers are increasingly used for money laundering.

Why do the Darknet and deep web exist in the world

The deep and dark webs seem illegal places you should not visit. But why do they exist in the first place?

It is worth noting that the dark web is not always illegal, as many activities take place on the dark web that are within the law.

Talking about the fundamentals, the dark web and the Darknet guarantee privacy and anonymity.

Information on the dark web is not meant for public consumption, and the dark web protects personal data intended to be private.

It means that whatever you do on the dark web is entirely your business, and if you take certain safety precautions, anything you do won’t be tracked or traced to you.

Given the dark web and the dark net’s anonymity principle, individuals can express themselves on unpopular issues but within the law. Talk about whistleblowers, bloggers, and many others.

The anonymity of the Darknet is mainly attractive for 2 groups: In the first group, some populaces require the security of the deep web for day-to-day communication.

They exchange sensitive information and data and, at times, have to risk their lives or that of their informant if they don’t share data under the safety of the deep web.

Such people can be opposition figures from dictatorship-led countries, politically oppressed guys, whistleblowers, or journalists.

The other group of people is the one that requires the secrecy of the deep web to avoid pessimistic consequences – and to avoid trials. This group consists of a populace whose actions on the internet would rapidly lead to imprisonment or fines.

The legality of accessing the dark web

Access Deep Web Safely

The dark web sounds fascinating, with a thrill of the unknown and unexplored. Similar to the deep blue sea, most dangers are hidden.

Fortunately, it’s not a criminal offense if you simply search the dark web, but if you use it to carry out illegal activities, you get in trouble.

As much as the Darknet contains even the “good” stuff, it’s not a place you need to stumble about blindly without proper dark web safety.

In a nutshell, the deep web is not illegal as it’s a network for privacy and security-conscious people.

However, it’s illegal if you venture into the dark web to commit unlawful actions such as downloading child porn, buying fake documents, drugs, credits card, and more.

The dark web has several convenient uses, which are not all basic.

People who live under a government that deeply supervises or censors internet traffic eventually get attracted to the dark web.

Why? I hear you ask because it allows them to see news from the rest of the world or even order supplies that they cannot get in their country.

Journalists and whistleblowers also use the dark web to communicate without revealing their location or private contact information.

To give you a better idea, here are a few constructive uses of the dark web:

For using the internet anonymously

You will no doubt be surprised to learn that the Darknet hosts many websites similar to those you will find on the surface web (the visible/common internet we use).

Such sites include blogs, gaming sites, social media, and super-encrypted email platforms.

Buy items that are difficult to get otherwise

Some common pain relievers and sleeping pills available in the EU are illegal in various Middle East and Asia countries. The dark web comes to the rescue in such cases.

Many turn to the dark to grab such medications with its private and secure networks.

DarkWeb “marketplaces” guarantee confidentiality and anti-surveillance for your online purchases that you simply won’t find on any other websites.

Swap data in countries that censor the internet

Many countries, such as Qatar, China, Cuba, Russia, and Turkey, censor internet content promoting political dissent. The Darknet offers a place of free expression where not even a chunk of these limitations exists.

Revealing the abuse of authority

The dark web allows political activists and media persons to report stories that may cause them problems with governments or dictatorial regimes, seeking to infringe on a person’s right to confidentiality.

What should I be wary of?

Being the unregulated part of the internet, the dark web is full of illegal activities. The chances of opening websites with malicious, inappropriate, or illegal content are very high, especially if you don’t know the exact .onion website you wish to visit. Here are some of the potential dangers of the dark web.

  • Malware: The dark web contains malicious files and links that can steal your data or compromise your device. This includes ransomware, trojans, and spyware disguised as legitimate files. You may also encounter phishing and social engineering attempts.
  • Visits to extreme content: You can encounter extremely inappropriate content such as radical terrorism forums, child pornography, and abusive content. Participating in such forums or downloading such content may lead to investigations by authorities.
  • Scams: Almost everyone on the dark web is trying to make a quick buck. This is why you will find people promising to sell you anything only to become a scamming victim.
  • Illegal marketplaces: The dark web marketplace has no limits. This is where people sell all types of goods and services like malware, stolen information, counterfeit documents, weapons, drugs, hacking services, etc. Be wary of these underground markets because authorities can track and prosecute you.

Is it illegal to use Tor?

Is Tor Legal

No, Tor is not strictly illegal to use. It is designed to provide online anonymity and privacy to its users. Journalists, activists, and individuals concerned about online privacy and security often use it.

Many people use Tor to avoid surveillance by government agencies, ISPs, or other entities monitoring online activities. Similarly, people in countries with strict internet access and usage regulations must use Tor clients or virtual private networks (VPNs) to access some public websites.

However, while using Tor itself is not illegal, some illegal activities can occur through the network, such as the distribution of child pornography or the sale of illegal drugs. It’s important to note that engaging in illegal activities is still illegal, even through the Tor network.

Also, it is worth noting that using Tor may draw attention from authorities if they suspect you are engaging in illegal activities or if your online behavior raises suspicion. Generally, it’s important to use Tor responsibly and in accordance with local laws and regulations.

Are dark websites illegal to use and visit?

Can private entities take data for legal purposes

The dark web is a controversial internet portion often associated with ‘Secret activities.’ While accessing it is not illegal, it may suggest that a person is attempting to carry out an activity that they cannot do publicly.

Anonymity on the dark web may be attractive to government critics and victims of harm who want to keep their identities private. However, criminals and malicious hackers also use the dark web to hide their illegal activities.

Although browsing the dark web is not illegal, it contains unsavory activities that can expose you to danger. Remember that any website engaging in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapons sales, hacking, and human trafficking violates international laws and, therefore, is illegal.

Dark web safety: How to access the Darknet and deep web securely

First, most of the content on the dark web is highly illegal, and no matter the precautions are taken to stay anonymous, you should be aware that you enter the dark web world at your own risk.

Whatever your reasons for entering the dark web are, you must follow some crucial steps to ensure your safety so that you can access it in an entirely safe and anonymous way. Below you go with the steps to take:

1. Install the Tor browser

Use TOR to unblock blocked websites

As a rule of thumb on the dark web, you should never use a default browser to search for anything on the deep web.

Popular browsers such as Opera, Firefox, or Chrome have a tracking technology that can make you visible on the authorities’ radar.

Therefore, you need to use the Tor browser, which, by far, is not only the safest Onion browser but also is easy to use.

Some people would argue about its reliability because they claim it’s watched. Still, download the Tor browser from its official website only and nowhere else so your computer doesn’t get any spyware or malware.

The browser is free to download and use. Also, ensure that you always keep it up-to-date to ensure you’re not left vulnerable to any security issues.

2. Use a VPN

What is a VPN 1220x745

A VPN is necessary if you wish to access the dark web safely. A VPN encrypts your web traffic to ensure it’s hidden from the big brother who could be watching you online.

Even if you’re already using the Tor browser, your traffic could still be traced back to you by someone with the know-how and enough time, such as the FBI.

Therefore, before messing yourself about on the dark web, you should do yourself a favor by getting your hands on a quality VPN like ExpressVPN.

VPNs that work with the Darknet

A VPN helps you browse the web more securely and privately by adding an extra layer of encryption to your data. However, not all VPNs are reliable, and some may collect your personal information while others slow you down.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a dark web VPN:

  • Jurisdiction and logs policy: The best dark web VPN does not store user logs, ensuring no one can trace you. Also, opt for VPNs based in regions with favorable privacy laws.
  • Obfuscation: This feature conceals your VPN traffic, making it look like you aren’t using a VPN. This helps you bypass censorship and stay anonymous.
  • Anonymous payment methods: Subscribing to your VPN anonymously, like using cryptocurrency, ensures your dark web activities are untraceable. 
  • Security: The best dark web VPN should use an advanced encryption algorithm and other security features to keep you safe.
  • Speed: A VPN with a fast connection speed will help you browse and download content from the dark web without buffering or lags.

Best dark web VPNs

VPNs for privacy

A VPN is essential when accessing the dark web. It offers privacy, security, and anonymity, protecting you from cybercriminals and law enforcement agencies. Using a VPN, you can safely explore the dark web and access the content you need without fear of being tracked or monitored.

When choosing a VPN for accessing the dark web, selecting one with strong encryption, a strict no-logging policy, and a wide range of server locations is important. Below are our top VPN choices based on research and tests for accessing the dark web.

1. ExpressVPN
ExpressVPN new 600

By launching a .onion version of their website, ExpressVPN has catered to users who prefer to sign up anonymously, adding to their reputation for providing good service. The VPN’s no logs policy is quite strict, except for recording non-identifying information such as dates (but not time), server location choice, and amount of data transfer per day.

ExpressVPN accepts Bitcoin payments and employs state-of-the-art encryption methods, including 4,096-bit DHE-RSA, 256-bit AES keys with SHA512 authentication, and excellent perfect forward secrecy. This makes it an unrivaled choice for those who prioritize security and privacy.

Moreover, the British Virgin Islands-based company has received high user ratings thanks to its user-friendly interface, fast connection speeds, and compatibility with popular operating systems such as MacOS, Windows, Android, iOS, and Linux (command line).

2. Surfshark
Surfshark new 600x300

With over 3,200 servers spread across 100 countries, Surfshark ensures its users enjoy fast and reliable connections regardless of their location worldwide. The VPN service provider also implements robust security measures, including a strict no-logs policy, 256-bit AES encryption, and protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks.

Additionally, Surfshark comes with a kill switch that automatically disconnects your internet connection in case of VPN connection loss.

Surfshark is an excellent option with the Tor browser, as it offers advanced features to maintain online anonymity and protect user activities from being tracked. The split tunneling feature allows users to connect to multi-hop servers with increased anonymity and speed.

For users who prioritize privacy and anonymity, Surfshark accepts payments in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple, making it possible to sign up almost completely anonymously. Furthermore, Surfshark provides 24/7 support via live chat, ensuring that users can always receive prompt assistance whenever needed.

3. NordVPN
NordVPN new 600x300

It offers a unique feature where your device traffic is first sent through the VPN and rerouted through the Tor network. This VPN provides access to specialized Tor over VPN servers, enhancing privacy and security. Additionally, NordVPN offers a DoubleVPN option that lets you use the Tor browser with two VPN connections simultaneously, which may reduce your internet speed.

NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy to ensure user privacy and employs 256-bit AES encryption. It is also available on various operating systems, including Linux, Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. However, it’s important to note that NordVPN can see your traffic details before encrypting them, even though it does not keep logs.

Setting up the Tor and VPN separately is recommended if this is a concern. If you want privacy and anonymity, NordVPN accepts payment in Bitcoin. Moreover, it offers a 24/7 customer support service and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

3. Install TAILS

Install set up VPN on smart TV

When accessing the dark web, the last thing you want is to leave traces behind that could be traced to you.

The best way to clear the traces is by installing the Amnesic Incognito Live System (TAILS) – a unique Debian-based version of Linux that removes the user activity on the computer.

TAILS will never save cookies or a file to the hard drive without your consent. Also, you won’t run the risk of browsers dumping the famous “page out” data onto the disk.

Moreover, it comes with an already pre-installed Tor Browser so that once you’re up and running, you won’t have to worry about any extra steps.

It also has inbuilt productivity tools such as a processor and an email client, which means once you’ve got TAILS installed, you can do much more than just browse the web safely.

4. Take extra security precautions

Managing system security and maintenance

One thing is for sure: the dark web is full of individuals that you don’t want to come across.

Unfortunately, you’ll probably encounter them at some point due to the nature of the dark web.

Therefore, all you need to do is take security precautions, such as making yourself as small a target as possible by reducing the number of areas they may use to attack you.

For instance, before opening the Tor browser, ensure that all the other apps on your computer are closed; you should stop some unnecessary services from running and always cover the webcam with paper or tape.

5. Go only with cryptocurrencies for transactions

secure digital wallet

Anything can be bought on the dark web for a price.

Therefore, if you’re to purchase anything, ensure that you should never use anything apart from a cryptocurrency.

Even if the seller accepts traditional payment means, you should always opt for crypto payments while transacting on the dark web. The same goes for the sellers, who never use regular payment methods for dark web transactions.

So, you should never forget to avoid using your credit and debit cards for purchases on the dark web. You should always use anonymous crypto wallets or stay away from dark webshops.

The world’s most commonly used cryptocurrency is Bitcoin, which you may be tempted to use due to its anonymity.

However, there are possibilities that someone can still link personal details to a transaction due to issues like connected nodes, address reuse, and blockchain analytics.

Therefore, to ensure that you stay anonymous on the dark web, you can use Bitcoin mixers (also known as cryptocurrency tumblers) or opt for a privacy-focused coin such as Zcash and Monero.

6. Know where you’ll visit

Unlike the clear/surface web, where Google and safe search engines index all the relevant search results and present only the best to the users, the dark web doesn’t have that luxury.

It means that it can be overwhelming to get what you’re looking for, and as a result, it’s very easy to stumble into a place you could never want to be.

The best thing to do is get your hands on some good darknet directories to find secure pages regarding the stuff you want to search for. The dark web itself has a lot of dark web site directories to help you point out where you need to go.

It should rather be a rule of the dark web that you should stick your nose only where it belongs. Things can quickly turn ugly on the dark web as some channels are watched; therefore, if you feel that a website is fishy, just close it and move fast.

7. Close everything once done

Some folks have been cautious enough when browsing the dark web only to fumble at the last minute once they are done – they just get too lazy not to close everything.

For your optimum dark web safety, you should ensure that once you’re done browsing the Darknet, shut all the browser windows as well as any other content that could be connected.

For instance, if you used TAILS, you should shut your operating system down and reboot into the usual interface. If you use macOS or Windows, you should ensure that you restart your computer.

How to access the Dark Web on Android

You can access the dark web using your Android device by following a few steps. It is highly advisable to take all the necessary security measures discussed in this article to protect yourself. Follow these steps to access the dark web on Android:

  1. Subscribe, download, and install a reliable VPN like NordVPN.
  2. Download and install the official Tor app from the Google Play Store.
  3. Login to the VPN client and connect to a server of your choice.
  4. Open the Tor browser and start exploring the dark web.

How to access the Dark Web on an iPhone

The Apple Store does not have an official Tor app. However, several unofficial Tor apps get the job done. Follow these steps to access the dark web with your iPhone:

  1. Subscribe to a reliable VPN like ExpressVPN.
  2. Download and install a secure dark web browser for iOS.
  3. Login to the VPN client and connect to a server of your choice.
  4. Launch the Tor browser and start exploring the dark web.

Tor over VPN vs. VPN over Tor

VPN vs Tor

Visiting the dark web without a VPN or Tor is never wise.

But which is better than the other? That’s the question that most folks ask each time they want to jump into the dark world of the internet.

While the two are similar, a VPN emphasizes privacy, and Tor emphasizes anonymity.

On its line, a VPN encrypts all your internet traffic that travels to (and from) your device and then routes it via a server in your preferred location.

Therefore, when combined with TOR, it adds security and anonymity.

So, what about Tor over Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

When you connect to a VPN and fire up your Tor Browser, you use Tor over VPN, the most commonly used method.

The internet traffic travels to the VPN server first and then bounces into the Tor (The Onion Router) network before reaching its destination.

It means that the ISP or any other big brother online will only see the encrypted traffic of the VPN but won’t recognize you using Tor.

All you need to do is have a trustworthy VPN provider when using Tor over VPN, as the provider can store metadata logs even if it doesn’t see your explored content.

You should choose a VPN that doesn’t store your logs (both traffic and session), preferably ExpressVPN or NordVPN.

Tor over VPN doesn’t protect you from the malicious Tor exit nodes (a final relay before the traffic gets into the destination website) as Tor nodes are merely made of volunteers, most of which don’t play by the rules.

The exit node decrypts traffic, meaning it can steal personal data or even inject malicious code. Also, Tor exit nodes are usually blocked by most websites that do not trust them. Plus, Tor over VPN has no power over that.

What about VPN over Tor?

VPN over Tor is less popular than Tor over VPN, and in fact, only two VPNs ((BolehVPN and AirVPN) offer the service, although none of them is good in terms of speed.

In VPN over Tor, your internet traffic moves through the Tor (The Onion Router) network first and then via the VPN. Therefore, it means that your VPN provider cannot access your IP address, but the VPN offers protection against bad exit nodes.

Unfortunately, with this option, your ISP will see that you’re using Tor, which understandably makes it not the recommended pick among the two (Tor over VPN and VPN over Tor).

In VPN over Tor, your trust should be in your Internet Service Provider, not the VPN provider.

Some will consider it more secure as they think they can act against their ISPs better if anything goes wrong.

However, experts recommend Tor over VPN for the best possible dark web safety.

Watch out; your ISP could see you using the Tor

Who is my ISP

The internet providers and websites can still see that you’re using Tor as Tor node IPs are public.

While a website can’t identify you or an ISP can’t decrypt your internet traffic; still, they can still see you using Tor, which can draw some unwanted attention and raise suspicions.

Tor Bridges or a VPN will help you to use Tor privately, as your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will not see that you’re connected to a Tor node.

So, if you aspire to use Tor privately, you can use VPN or Tor gateways (Tor nodes that are not publicly indexed).

Setting up Tor Bridges is merely extra work; you would need IT knowledge, too.

So it is always better to just subscribe to a VPN like ExpressVPN and use it with Tor (remember to connect to your VPN first and then turn Tor on).

What can my ISP see?

Block ISP Tracking

Your Internet service provider, or ISP, is your gateway to the Internet. Everything you do online goes through your ISP.

It means unless you use a VPN that encrypts your internet traffic, they always receive all information about you and your digital life.

Your Internet Service Provider will see everything when your online data is not encrypted. Your ISP sees what websites you visit, what you do on social networks, your emails, etc.

Sometimes, they even know more than you would like about private matters, such as your health or finances.

With all this data, your ISP could create a very accurate profile of you and link it to your IP address. This is one of the reasons why it is always good to hide your IP address.

Subsequently, most countries have laws on data retention. These laws mark how long ISPs must save the data they collect.

Such legislation differs by country: in some places, the period is six months; in others, it is at least one year.

During that period, on top of the risk of accidental disclosure and theft, governments and the police could ask ISPs to share data.

If that happens, you can guess what happens to your data then. It is likely to differ by each provider and, again, by country. However, it is often prohibited for ISPs to sell your data to third parties.

The encrypted data, such as WhatsApp messages, are secured behind end-to-end encryption and are not visible to your ISP.

If you live in the EU and want to know what data your provider has collected about you, the GDPR gives you the right to request a full report.

Deep down, the tip of the iceberg is where over 90% of the internet content is. As much as the dark web is supposed to promote free speech alongside bypassing censorship, many shady activities occur there.

Many high-profile stories have shown up due to the press focusing on the dark web, and in recent years, several criminal cases have been thrown into the table. Some of them include:

The Playpen Case

The child pornography site Playpen is one of the famous scenarios that resulted from the dark web. The site had only been up and running for about seven months, but surprisingly, it gained over 215,000 users.

Then, a law enforcement agency (still unidentified) provided information to the FBI that later accessed the site’s host server.

The FBI didn’t shut the site down either but hosted it for about two weeks, during which they captured over 1,300 IP addresses of site visitors, which led to over 900 users being arrested, including the creator of the site, Steven Chase.

Silk Road

Silk Road: A cautionary tale about the dark side of the dark web

Silk Road was a black web marketplace that Ross Ulbricht created between 2011 and 2013. It was known for facilitating the sale of illegal drugs, goods, and services using Bitcoin cryptocurrency. He ended up with over 1.2 billion dollars worth of deals involving firearms, drugs, counterfeit cash, hacker tools, and hits.

Following its popularity, the marketplace attracted GBI, IRS, and other government agencies’ attention, leading to Ross’ arrest in 2013 and later life imprisonment for his role in operating Silk Road.


Just after Silk Road was shut down, AlphaBay became the major marketplace on the dark web.

After its founder, Alexandre Cazes, used the actual email address on the site for communications, reused the same pseudonym on and off the dark web, and kept various unencrypted crypto wallets always open, AlphaBay was shuttered in 2017.

A series of security missteps had led them closer to the extent that even when the cops busted into him, he was logged into the site as “admin.” Days after the arrest, he was found dead in his cell, allegedly dying by suicide.

The Ashley Madison Case

The dating site Ashley Madison was busted by a hacker group and the impact team in 2015, whereby the hackers threatened to release the user’s personal information unless the site and its sister site, Established Men, were closed.

Since their deadline wasn’t met for the closer of the sites a month later, the Impact team ascended to the dark web, where they started to publish the data.

Over 32 million IP addresses of members were released, including that of the site’s CEO, with hackers claiming that the site had obliged its primary purpose and that they were forcing members to pay to get their accounts deleted from the site.

Your data can end up landing anywhere

Since events like Wikileaks and informants such as Edward Snowden have revealed that several authorized institutions frequently spy on citizens worldwide, privacy has become an often-discussed topic.

As a matter of fact, your data could be anywhere on the internet, meaning it could already be at the three internet levels (surface web, deep web, and dark web).

The chances are that you already have a presence on the clear web (the surface web), be it a LinkedIn profile, social media, Facebook, or any community involvement.

Also, your data is more likely on the deep internet in one way or the other. But you have to keep your fingers crossed that it remains there and hope the party holding your data (the school or hospital records department) keeps it according to the GDPR standards.

The cloud is another channel that has fueled the growth of the deep web. For instance, if a cloud storage firm like Dropbox gets its files on the Amazon web server, your data is already placed on the deep web.

It should not be a privacy issue unless the company gets hacked or your data is exposed accidentally.

Keep in mind, at any given time. You could be followed online by different groups and things such as:

  • Internet service providers (ISP)
  • Operating systems
  • Your network administrator (Wi-Fi)
  • Internet browser
  • Apps
  • Hackers
  • Websites
  • Governments

Can I get rid of my information from the dark net?

Removing your sensitive personal information from the Dark Web once it has been exposed is virtually impossible. This irreversible process highlights the importance of taking preventive measures by utilizing a service that monitors your data for potential breaches.

Consider changing your usernames and passwords as an additional security measure.

What can I do if my personal information is on the dark web?

If your personal information has been leaked on the Dark Web, your risk of identity theft and financial fraud significantly increases. This is why many people prefer an identity theft protection service and a financial and credit fraud protection solution. By doing so, early signs of fraud can be detected in near-real time, such as new inquiries on your credit file like new credit cards or bank loans.

More dark web safety tips

By now, you should know how to access the dark web safely and anonymously using a VPN and the Tor Browser.

But still, there’re some other tips you can employ to bolster your dark web security once you commence your journey into the Darknet. Below, I will list them for you:

Adjust the Tor security setting

Tor provides you with an inbuilt slider to let you tweak the security levels. You only need to click on the onion icon and choose Security Settings.

You can then adjust the slider to a point when the cursor points to the safest, meaning the JavaScript will be disabled on all websites you visit by default.

Please note some images and symbols might not display after you set your Tor security setting to the safest.

Rescale or minimize the Tor browsing window

Most people aren’t aware that you can be tracked depending on the dimensions of your active window.

Therefore, as much as it’s a tip that sounds rather off, you should ensure that you minimize your Tor window before you proceed.

Shut down Tails

Don’t make mistakes at the tail-end of surfing the dark web by forgetting to close the tails.

Always remember to shut down the tails because once they get shut, the OS, for instance, will wipe itself from the thumb drive you installed.


Browsing the dark web is not illegal in most countries. However, it could make you look suspicious in the eyes of the police.

Most of the things sold on the dark web are illegal, so obviously, it is forbidden to buy those illicit items.

Since these products are usually only found on the dark web, anyone browsing this part of the internet could buy them. This is why governments could monitor you if you visit the dark web.

Understandably, this dark and unregulated part of the internet is the perfect place for illegal activities. Criminals widely use it; it is ideal for drug businesses and arms dealers; this is why it is rightfully called the dark web.

Besides, research has confirmed that terrorists use the dark web to communicate, recruit new members, and plot attacks. So, in short, even if you are not a law-abiding citizen, it may not be the best place you want to be.

But, given that over 90% of content lies on the dark web, it’s a no-brainer why you may be tempted to access it.

If you wish, all you need is to follow the dark web safety tips I provided above, and you’ll sail your way into the dark web safely, securely, and anonymously.

Finally, the dark web is a free world that you can enjoy to the fullest only if you do it responsibly, given that offensive material is always a click away.

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About the Author

Gannicus Oliver

Gannicus Oliver

Tech Journalist
6 Posts

Gannicus Oliver is an experienced tech journalist (he loves writing on emerging techs and digital privacy issues) and an online business consultant. He boasts over four years of writing experience. In his free time, Gannicus enjoys uncovering thrilling adventures and traveling around the world.

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