There’s no doubt that you’ve somewhat heard of the dark web and its link to criminal activities and cryptocurrencies. However, not everything on the dark web is illegal. There’s also a legitimate side.
The dark web’s origins have been traced back to the release of clearnet in 2000. Initially, the clearnet was created for anonymous communication, exchanging files, and online interaction between parties. Since then, a lot has changed, so let’s find out what exactly is the dark web as we know it and how one can access it!
What Is the Dark Web Is and Why Do People Use It?
The dark web, or darknet, refers to content on the internet which is only accessible with special software such as Tor Browser. The deep web can sometimes be mistaken for the dark web. However, there are some notable differences between the two.
The deep web refers to content behind a paywall, login, password, and authentication forms. A considerable amount of the content accessed on the internet forms part of the deep web; subscription services, email accounts, social media accounts, and private banking.
Dark web content is available on the darknet, a part of the internet that can’t be indexed and is only accessible through specific network configurations. Explaining where the term “dark” comes from- these network configurations and specific software allow you to browse anonymously.
The darknet is designed to provide anonymity and to keep communication private through the use of encryption, and by routing content through several online web servers. An anonymous communication network possesses several benefits, some of which support legal and illegal activities.
As with clearnet, anonymous services on the dark web allow members of the public to share sensitive information without the risk of being identified. Journalists continue to use the dark web for sourcing sensitive and confidential information.
The dark web also has a notorious reputation for criminal and illicit activities. In particular, the rise of cryptocurrencies fueled the popularity of the dark web. Criminals use dark web marketplaces for the sale and distribution of illegal drugs, child pornography, and stolen credentials.
Despite this, it isn’t illegal to access the dark web. So, how does one legally access the dark web?
Before You Enter the Dark Web
You must be eager to discover the most popular ways to access the dark web! Here are a few things you’ll need to adhere to before entering the dark web. One of the most important steps is to conceal your identity and ensure you remain anonymous on the dark web.
The dark web isn’t always the safest place, with thousands of scams and malware scattered throughout the dark web. Concealing your private information when browsing through the dark net can be tricky.
Once your private information is on the dark web, there’s no way of removing it. However, there are some operational security rules you need to consider. Protect your personal information on the dark web by following some easy steps.
Install comprehensive cybersecurity
Hackers and cybercriminals are active on the dark web, which adds a considerable element of risk. Users on the dark web need to prepare for an inevitable cyber attack at any moment.
Installing comprehensive cybersecurity on your device lessens the chances of cyber threats accessing your network. Browsing through the dark web without any cybersecurity is asking for trouble.
Keep your dark web activities secretive
One of the first rules of using the dark web is to keep your activities to yourself. Informing third parties of your activities on the dark web makes it easier for people to trace you!
Use encrypted email and wallets
When communicating and purchasing items off the dark web, you must use encrypted email addresses and anonymous cryptocurrency wallets. Professional hackers and law enforcement agents often trace transitions on the dark web through email and crypto wallet addresses.
Use a VPN
The safest way to access the dark web is through a Tor network. Tor uses nodes that are made public, and connecting to one automatically attracts the attention of your internal service provider. While it’s not illegal to use a Tor browser, your ISP must remain oblivious to your actions.
To conceal your network’s IP address and remain anonymous to your ISP, you’ll need to use a comprehensive virtual private network. An effective VPN will connect your network to a foreign server and adopt its IP address.
Using the IP address of an external server will make it appear as though you are in the same country as the server. Although VPNs aren’t 100% bulletproof, it does provide you with an additional layer of protection.
Use a password manager
Many of us are guilty of using the same passwords for consecutive accounts. Hackers on the dark web are more than capable of picking up patterns in a password. Subsequently, having one password for more than one account is risky business.
All your online passwords should be one-of-a-kind, never using the same sequence twice. Using an effective password manager will be a way to avoid this from happening. Password managers create secure and unpredictable passwords for your accounts.
Use a dark web scan
If you suspect any of your information is compromised on the dark web, you will need to use a dark web scan. A dark web scan will scour the dark web in search of your personal information.
Enable two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication is one of the most effective methods to protect your personal information while browsing the dark web. A second authentication step makes it harder for cybercriminals to hack into your accounts.
Even if your email address is compromised on the dark web, hackers will not be able to access your information without confirming authorization. An additional layer of protection will protect your identity on the dark web.
OpSec (Operation Security) is easily one of the most important aspects that you need to master when using the deep web. This will ensure your identity in real life is never shared. Therefore, it’s best to gather a fundamental understanding of staying anonymous. Please read our article on OpSec here.
Never click on unverified links
The basics of operational security “OpSec” is to understand how phishing attacks work. You’ll need to put thought into every link you click on the dark web, or else you could be exposing yourself to a Trojan file.
Before you download any attachments or use any dark web links, always remain cautious and confirm legitimacy.
Using the Tor Browser
As mentioned above, the only safe way to access the dark web is to download and install the Tor browser. So, let’s look at everything there is to know about using a Tor browser and how to access the dark web.
What is Tor?
Tor, The Onion Router, is a peer-to-peer (P2P) network overlay network that allows users to communicate anonymously, and browse on the internet. Tor uses onion routing to reroute web traffic through its onion network.
Onion routers use several layers of encryption to hide the source and destination of information relayed through a network. Once you’ve installed Tor software, the browser uses Tor servers to disburse information to an exit node.
After the data has reached a Tor node, it is encrypted several times, before being sent to the next node. The repetition of this process increases the difficulty of tracing the originality of the data.
A Tor browser doesn’t store cookies or track the browsing history of the user. In addition, Tor’s onion routing technology is effective at concealing your IP address from network surveillance.
Why does it exist?
Of course, it has multiple purposes. One of its main purposes is for its users to access activities that would be illegal or unacceptable on the clear net. That could be for Darknet Marketplaces, or using services. However, most of the Darknet users use the Tor Browser and darknet as a means to avoid government restrictions as well as to keep private.
While people can freely explore the public internet, the dark web is a private network. The Tor browser enables people to access private networks like the dark web.
Finding Dark Web Links
Websites that have been tried and tested, like LiveDarknet.com and Dark.Fail, are the best place to find a reliable darknet .onion link. Darkweb users have been using both of these websites for years. If a darknet website is known to be compromised, LiveDarknet.com will always add a notice to that effect. They are, therefore the more reliable option out of the two. Nevexrtheless, we still advise visiting alternative websites. Make sure everything is correct when it comes to using the Darknet.
The Silk Road was one of the first dark web marketplaces, launched in 2011. It operated via a hidden darknet feature on the anonymous Tor network. The site allowed users to purchase and sell illicit products, with users accessing products anonymously through the Tor browser.
For obvious reasons, The Federal Bureau of Investigation shut it down. Silk Road paved the way for the anonymous sale of products on dark web marketplaces. However, there are other websites available.
In contrast to popular belief, using the dark web is legal. There are hundreds of dark web domains that host educational material, provide secure services, and bypass government censorship. Dark websites hide under layers of encryption. Whistleblowers, activists, and users who wish to remain unknown use these sites. Here are some of the best websites on the dark web.
The Hidden Wiki
The Hidden Wiki is the dark web’s Wikipedia, where users can find “.onion” links for several dark websites, content, and services. Almost every kind of dark web link is listed on The Hidden Wiki, so be careful when diving into dark net links.
LiveDarknet is one of the best sources for darknet market links and mirrors. Users can find most of the anonymous darknet marketplaces listed and access comprehensive reviews of the best and worst darknet marketplaces.
Dark.Fail is a backup directory of “.onion” sites, which can be used as an alternative if other directories go offline. The best Tor sites can be closed at any given moment. So, having more than one go-to directory is handy. Dark.Fail tends to provide these most accurately and on the fly.
How can I tell whether a darknet website has been compromised or contains a phishing link?
It’s nearly impossible to detect whether you’re clicking on a phishing link, particularly if you’ve never visited that particular deep web market before. For this reason, you must ensure that the .onion link you download is from a reliable source.
Sometimes there are a few obvious indicators that the markets have been hacked.
- Certain darknet websites provide a feature called “Anti-Phishing” that allows the user to double-check the.onion URL by displaying it on the screen. Check to see if the.onion link is the same.
- Not a single supported Darknet website would make you transfer money in order to access it or demand a cryptocurrency payment without any justification (though some, like Dread, might ask for donations to support their operations). The only time you should add to the website directly is the onsite wallet, though we prefer wallet-less darknet marketplaces.
- A Darknet market would never request that you finish the KYC. i.e., won’t request your true name, credit card information, or anything similar. All Darknet markets are crypto-only.
Conclusion: This Is Legal But The Rest Is On You
Though the darknet isn’t the easiest to access, its encrypted online network offers an anonymous communication platform for users. Despite the good intentions of the dark web, its anonymity factor attracted the attention of cybercriminals and malicious actors.
If you’re looking to use the Dark Web to purchase drugs or do anything that it against the law, that’s on you. But the darknet itself and its use cases are completely legal. It’s a place of immense importance where privacy, free speech, and anonymity thrive. It offers a refuge for those who need to communicate without fear and access information beyond borders. The Darknet is both a sanctuary for the silenced and a platform for innovation.
If you choose to explore the Darknet, do so with a thoughtful mind and a responsible heart.
Hey there, I’m a dark web geek who’s been around for the last 8 years. More precisely, I’m livedarknet’s senior content writer who’s been writing about darknet marketplaces, tutorials, and cybersecurity stuff for educational purposes.