How to Access the Dark Web with Tor

The Dark Web is a fascinating place. It's a part of the internet where people (for the most part) are anonymous, free from tracking by corporations and out of sight from government surveillance.

There has been a lot of hype in the media over the past few years about the illegal drug markets and activities taking place on the Dark Web, but the majority of the deep web is perfectly legal (just like the normal internet).

Tor is the most popular tool used to access the Dark Web. It's used by people all over the world as a way to bypass government censorship or simply to stay anonymous online.

Let's take a look at how we can use Tor to access the Dark Web.

Installing the Tor Browser

The easiest way to access the Dark Web is through the Tor Browser, a modified version of Firefox specifically designed for accessing the Tor network. Head on over to the Tor Project website and click on the big "Download Tor" button and download the correct version of the Tor browser for your Operating System.

The Tor Project homepage

If you're on Windows, run the downloaded executable and follow the installer to extract the Tor Browser to your desktop. On macOS, copy the app to your Applications folder. If you're running Linux, just extract the archive you've downloaded to your preferred location.

Connecting to the Tor Network

Start up the Tor Browser. You'll be greeted with a screen that asks you how you wish to connect to the Tor network. For the vast majority of cases you can simply click on "Connect" which will establish a connection to the network and open up the web browser.

Starting screen for the Tor Browser

If Tor is being actively censored in your country or you want to use Tor through a proxy you may need to configure your settings to access the Tor network. Click "Configure" to bring up the Tor Network Settings.

Optional settings for connecting to the Tor network

Once the Tor Browser opens we should double check that we are actually connected to the Tor Network. To do this, simply head on over to https://check.torproject.org and you will see a message that says your browser is configured to use Tor. If it says you are not using the Tor network, edit the Tor Network Settings and try again.

Tor status page

On the top left of the browser there is a drop down allowing you to create a new identity as well as edit the security or Tor Network Settings. Creating a new identity will restart the browser and establish a new connection to the Tor network.

Tor Browser onion dropdown

In the security settings you can set how safe you want to be when browsing online. It's recommended to disable JavaScript on any website you don't trust.

Tor Browser Security Settings

Now that we're connected to the Tor network we're ready to access the Tor Hidden Services!

Accessing the Tor Hidden Services

Tor Hidden Services are websites that are only accessible through the Tor network, and have .onion at the end of their address. You can find a list of Onion Links here. Here's an example of accessing DuckDuckGo via its onion address.

DuckDuckGo homepage

The connection from your web browser to whichever website you are browsing will be routed through a Tor Circuit; a series of nodes that your connection is routed through to help obscure where the request came from.

Example Tor Circuit when accessing DuckDuckGo

The use of the Tor Circuit is used for normal web browsing as well as the Tor Hidden Services and will usually be different for each website you visit.

Example Tor Circuit when accessing Google

With that, you're all set to access the Dark Web using the Tor Browser. But there are alternative ways to access Tor. The more secure approach would be to use TAILS, a live Operating System that is completely separate from your main Operating System which likely holds all of your personal information.

A more convenient approach that allows you to use Firefox or Chrome to access the Dark Web is through ProtonVPN.

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