The Mysterious Deep Web: Which Dark Web Browsers Are Best?
Everyone has heard of the dark web, and whilst it sounds like that dodgy, musky alleyway that you try to avoid on your way home, this hidden part of the World Wide Web entails a lot of unexplored and non-searchable topics of your usual search engines. While most of the time, many of us use Google to find out the information we need and get on with things, what many people don’t know is that only 4% of the internet is actually accessible for the public through search engines. The remaining 96% lurks below the surface, hidden from the world.
People are often attracted to the dark web as it remains anonymous from the rest of the world, including your ISP and government organizations, which makes it a hub for illegal activities.
Many times, people confuse the deep web and the dark web as being one and the same, but there are differences between the two.
The Deep Web
Much of the content that exists within the deep web is information that you wouldn’t want to be accessed on search engines. As a rule of thumb, whenever you log into an account and use any type of authentication such as a username or password, the information you access can be found on the deep web.
Before you start to sweat, you should remember that this is actually a good thing and that the deep web protects your online personal information and privacy. Basically, the deep web holds all the content that is invisible to search engines.
Some examples include:
- Content of your social media, email & financial information
- Various data stored by companies on their private databases
- Academic and scientific databases
- Legal documents
- Medical records
When you compare the deep web with the dark web, it is a pretty safe place. When you access the deep web, your information is pretty safe, but it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t come without risks. Think about it, your data, such as your personal account information can include a lot of passwords that criminals will find a lot of value in.
This is why you will want to use a virtual private network, also known as a VPN, when you access your account information as it will encrypt your data and help protect you when online.
The Dark Web
This is the other side of the coin, and probably what most people think about when they hear of the terms dark web and deep web, but the two are distinctively different. While the deep web contains usually digitized records and harmless data, the dark web is usually crawling with a lot of criminal activity.
Normal browsers cannot access the dark web, so to access it, you will need what is called the Onion Router hidden service protocol. Tor servers are untraceable from regular search engines, and provide users with complete anonymity when they surf the web.
Because the dark web operates with such a high degree of anonymity, it plays host to harmless activity as well as criminal online activity. This can include anything from complex riddles to communities where people believe their free speech has been threatened.
Among the legitimate reasons to use the dark web, some people might feel that taking their online communications will help with anonymity especially with the recent revelations that major government organizations are snooping on user’s online movements.
A lot of the time, journalists and whistleblowers use the dark web in an attempt to exchange sensitive information.
In 2015, the dark web hit headlines when it was reported that 10GB of data was stolen from Ashely Madison, the website that was designed for bored spouses to cheat on their partners. This information was leaked on the Dark Web with hackers threatening to upload it to the web if the site continued to run, which they eventually did.
Here are some of the darker parts you can find on the dark web:
- Stolen information – If there has been an online data breach there is a high chance that personal information will end up for sale on the dark web. This includes things like social security numbers, bank card numbers, hacked Netflix accounts, log-in credentials and more.
- Illicit substances – toxic chemicals, prescription drugs, and illegal drugs can all be found lurking on the dark web.
- Disturbing products and services – the dark web also includes ugly things like human trafficking, counterfeit goods, body parts, guns, and even murderers-for hire.
It’s Important to Use a VPN On the Dark Web
Due to the fact that the dark web contains illegal activity, you should know that anytime you are in the company of illegal content or illegal drugs, you can get yourself into a lot of legal trouble. An example of this is Silk Road, the online black market which sold illegal drugs. The site was launched back in 2011 and it is estimated that the total revenue was around US $1.2 billion. The founder, Ross Ulbricht was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Another example is AlphaBay, another black market found on the dark web. AlphaBay was founded in 2014 and contained a range of goods from breached data to illicit drugs, growing as much as times the size of Silk Road. The founder Alexandre Cazes was arrested, then found dead a few days later in his Thai jail cell.
Users should remember that the dark web contains people and things you will want to avoid. This includes viruses that can be found on the dark web. Hackers also love the dark web and can be found for hire there. It should be noted that these people would also be willing to compromise your devices to get their hands on sensitive data.
Webcam hijacking is a popular move on the dark web which entails a website trying to get a hold of your administrator tools, essentially allowing them to take control of your webcam and seeing what you’re doing in the privacy of your home.
These are just a few reasons why people need complete protection when accessing the dark web. The best way to do so is with the help of a great VPN. When you’re on the dark web, your ISP, as well as the government, will not be able to see your activity, but they will be able to see that you are on the Tor Network, which might be enough to raise some eyebrows and get you monitored.
For these reasons we recommend that you use a VPN when accessing Tor. A VPN will allow you to navigate the dark web freely and safely, as your internet traffic will be routed through your VPN prior to it using the Tor Network. This way, your ISP and anyone else looking at your online movements will only be able to see your encrypted VPN traffic and not know that you’re actually accessing the Tor network.
Want to know how a VPN works and why it’s important? Check out our article.
One of the biggest concerns when using Tor over a VPN is that you will need to trust your VPN service provider, as they might be able to see what you are doing. This is why you will have to choose a VPN that will never log your online activities.
A reliable VPN for the dark web will preferably accept bitcoin as payment, will be compatible with Tor and will not have any DNS leaks. It will also change your IP address, which will make it appear as though you are connecting to the web from a completely different location.
Not all VPNs are created equal, so while surfing the Dark Web it’s important to use the right one. Our recommendation for the most-secure VPN for the Deep Web is ExpressVPN. Another option that’s more budget-friendly is NordVPN.
Best VPNs for the Dark Web
ExpressVPN accepts top of the list crypto assets that include ETH, BTC, LTC, BTCCash, BTCGold, Dash, ZCash, NMC, Dodge, NEM, EOS, XRM and XRP, among several ERC 20 tokens. It employs the latest 256-bit encryption protocol for security and has a watertight zero-logs policy, tested independently by respected PwC and C53. For enhanced security, you can switch over to Tor – a step that removes your tracks from the VPN. With more than 3,000 servers in over 90 countries, ExpressVPN has superb speed and allows you to use up to five servers simultaneously.
With more than 5000 servers across 59 countries, NordVPN is one of the most popular VPNs around. It takes roughly 4-6 second to connect and speed drops are in the impressive range of 6-8%. On security, NordVPN uses a reinforced kill-switch device to prevent data leaks, independent security audits (by PwC and VerSprite) and a Tor compatibility feature. The service allows cryptocurrency payment and torrenting through its optimized P2P servers, making it ideal for Dark Web users.
What is the Best Dark Web Browser?
Tor – The Onion Router
This is the browser that initially opened the gates for dark web browsing, allowing users both high security and anonymity when using the deep and dark web. Even though it was hacked by the FBI back in 2014, it came back twice as secure and it is still the most popular choice of browsers for accessing the dark web.
Many people work with Tor with the belief that it is completely secure, but this is not the case. While it will make your IP address less traceable it will not mask it completely. To do this, you will need a VPN alongside your Tor browser.
Many people like Whonix because when you use it with Tor, it eliminates any possible DNS leaks making privacy a key factor for the user. This deep web browser is also a fully functional operating system that will allow you to manage your own server without getting traced.
The beauty of Whonix is the Data Stream Isolation feature, which when paired with Tor, makes the chances of revealing your identity near impossible due to the fact that Whonix will not use the same circuits and exit relays like Tor.
TAILS – The Amnesic Incognito Live System
Just like Whonix, TAILS secures your connection by using the Tor network. You are able to gain access to the network using either a USB or a DVD. The software uses highly innovative cryptographic tools in order to add an encrypted layer to your connection. This means that any emails you send, files you save or instant messages you receive and send will remain protected.
The great thing about this browser is that it will not require any hard disk space to function, relying solely on RAM power for it to work.
This is not a standalone browser, but rather a complete operating system just like Whonix, which works as an open-source browser-based on Tor. The whole point of the program is for people to have free, private and complete access to the entire World Wide Web, not just the 4% that regular users know.
The program is built using various layers in order to create a streamlined experience for users, without compromising on security. This open-source platform uses Filesystem encryption, Kernal Hardening, and Metaproxy in order to harden their network.
There is also container isolation which will sandbox any instance containing malware before it will enter the network. With so many protective layers, Subgraph is definitely one of the best secure browsers when it comes to surfing the dark web.
How Safe is the Dark Web?
While the dark web might be safe in some cases, for example when you’re dealing with legitimate content, there are many cases in which it is not.
The dark web has some serious issues when it comes to safety that you need to consider. Firstly, there is a high chance that you will find yourself on a website that is run by criminals. Not only are these criminals selling illegal products and services, but they may also attempt to exploit you or steal from you.
Secondly, there are all sorts of links that can be found on the dark web, and if you click on any of them, you might be redirected to sites that contain material that you do not want to see. There is also the high chance that you may click on a download link that could seriously infect your device with deadly malware.
Lastly, you should remember that the dark web is also crawling with law enforcement officials that are on the hunt for people who engage in criminal activity. Just like everyone else on the dark web, these law enforcement officials work under a cloak of anonymity. If you do decide to access the dark web, you should heavily consider the websites you access and make sure to use the right darknet browser.
Extra precautions on the dark web every user should take:
- Never use your real name or any photos
- Do not use an email or password that you have previously used
- Instead you should create an encrypted email with aliases that cannot be traced back to us
- Make any purchases with an anonymous Bitcoin wallet
- Never torrent over Tor
- Always use HTTPS websites
- Remember to disconnect your internet connection when you open downloaded documents through Tor. If you do open them when online, it can reveal your true IP address
Accessing the dark web is definitely tricky, and if you do decide to venture to the dark side, you will need to do so responsibly. Whilst there are a lot of legitimate reasons one might want to access the dark web, you should know that it is crawling with cybercriminals and general criminal activity as well as government enforcement agents.
Offensive material is everywhere on the dark web, and can be just a click away. When browsing, you should always be vigilant of your surroundings and never reveal any of your personal information as it will most likely be stolen and misused.
Make sure to use safe deep web browsers and dark web browsers, as well as a VPN to remain completely safe when surfing the dark web.