The internet is a vast digital space, and most people only ever use a small fraction of the sites, pages, and platforms that are available. A lot of online content is much harder to find, hidden away in a space known as the “dark web”. While the dark web is often associated with illegal content, there are plenty of legitimate reasons why someone might want to access and explore it.
However, if you want to get into the dark web and see what it has to offer, it’s best to take some precautions before you go. For example, it’s vital to get a VPN for the dark web to help you stay safe and prevent people, agencies, or third parties from tracking the sites you visit and the content you view. In this guide, we’ll look at why it’s important to use a VPN for the dark web and how to find and set up your dark web VPN.
Why Do I Need a VPN for the Dark Web?
So, why would you need a VPN for exploring the dark web? Well, there are actually a lot of reasons to use a VPN when browsing any part of the internet, but virtual private networks are particularly important for dark web browsers, as there are many unique threats and dangers that are only present on dark web domains and websites. Here are some of the key reasons why dark web VPNs are recommended;
- Privacy – One of the main reasons why people invest in a VPN for the dark web is to protect their privacy. Whenever you use the internet, even on a secure, private browser like Tor, there’s a risk that people, companies, or even governmental agencies can spy on you and track your activities. With a VPN, your connection is encrypted, and your IP address is hidden from any prying eyes.
- Security – If you’re delving into the deep, dark web, you need to be aware of the security risks you might face. The dark web isn’t regulated or controlled in the same way as the rest of the internet, and it can be easier for malware to spread or hackers to access your data. A VPN can encrypt your connection and make you safer while browsing dark web domains.
- Speed – When using the dark web, the Tor browser might slow down your connection speed a little, leading to long page load times and random delays. A good quality VPN can help to speed up the experience without compromising your safety or privacy, thanks to its global network of rapid, secure servers in various countries and locations.
How Do VPNs for Dark Web Work?
So, how does a VPN or virtual private network actually work? It’s important to have a basic understanding of this kind of technology before you choose and use your own VPN for the dark web, and it may seem a little complicated at first, but once you understand the basics, it’s quite simple to see how VPNs work.
Usually, when you connect to the internet on your computer, phone, or other device and access a website, your device sends a signal out to the servers provided by your internet service provider (ISP). Because of this, your ISP can see what you’re doing and which sites or services you’re trying to connect to.
When you use a VPN, things work a little differently. The VPN encrypts your online connection and reroutes it via a private, secure network of servers around the globe. This means that your ISP is not able to track the connection or monitor your online activities.
In other words, a VPN is able to provide security and privacy to users. It makes you essentially invisible while browsing the net, or the dark web, and it makes it much harder for anyone to track your activity or see which sites you’re visiting, including your ISP, governmental agencies, and even hackers.
Not only that, but most of the best VPNs have servers all over the world, in countries like the US, UK, Japan, France, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and so on. You can connect to any of these servers in order to access sites and services from other countries or making it seem like you’re in a different location, enhancing your privacy even further.
How to Choose and Use a Dark Web VPN (Step-by-Step)
Now that we know how VPNs work and why you might want a VPN before using the dark web, let’s take a look at how to choose and use a dark web VPN. We’ll provide step-by-step instructions to help you pick the right VPN for your dark web browsing and show you how to set it up with the Tor browser.
Step 1. Choosing a Dark Web VPN
The first and arguably most important part of using a VPN for dark web browsing is to identify a VPN that you want to use. There are lots of different VPNs out there and many of them are able to work with the Tor browser and let you visit .onion websites, but some are much better than others. Here are some key factors to narrow down your search:
- Speed – Speed is one of the most important factors to think about when using a VPN on the dark web. As explained earlier on, it can be quite slow to browse the dark web, due to the nature of the Tor browser. Having a speedy VPN should help you stay safe and visit different dark websites without unnecessary delays and interruptions.
- Privacy – You should also check to see the privacy settings and features provided by each VPN. Some VPNs protect your privacy much more than others and have strict privacy standards and no-logs policies, meaning that they won’t log or sell any of your data. It’s always best to find a highly private, no-logs VPN for using on the dark web.
- Security – Security is of the utmost importance when accessing the dark web. There are a lot of risky and even dangerous sites on the dark web, and it’s easy for inexperienced users to fall victim to hackers or malware. A good quality VPN will be able to encrypt your connection with the strongest protocols to keep you as safe as possible.
- Support – Make sure to check and see what kind of user support is offered by any VPN you choose to use. The best VPNs can have quite extensive customer support or help departments, with Help Center articles, tutorials, guides, videos, live chat systems, and emails you can use to get answers to questions or solutions to problems you encounter.
- Compatibility – It’s possible to access the dark web on a range of different devices, from your desktop computer and your laptop to your phone or tablet. However, some VPNs won’t work on all of these different devices. If you want to use Tor on your smartphone, for example, you’ll need to make sure you get a VPN with a good mobile app.
- Price – Last but not least, it’s important to think about price when choosing a VPN, too. VPNs usually have monthly or annual subscription fees, and they can vary from less than $1 a month up to several dollars or more. Try to find one that fits within your budget, and look for a VPN with a free trial so you can test it out before committing to a premium plan.
Step 2. Downloading Your Dark Web VPN
Once you’ve selected a dark web VPN that you want to use, you’ll simply need to download it onto your devices. This is usually a simple process. The first step is to head over to the official website for your chosen VPN and sign up for an account. The sign up process should be quick and easy, and you’ll only need to provide some basic info.
You may also have to choose a payment plan and enter your payment information to finalize your account. After that, you’ll be able to download the VPN client to your computer and install it. You can also download the mobile app versions of your chosen VPN to your smartphone or tablet devices if you plan to use them for dark web browsing.
Step 3. Install the Tor Browser
You can’t use your regular browser like Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox to access the dark web. Instead, you’ll need to use a special browser called Tor. Also known as The Onion Router, Tor is a free and open-source web browser with built-in privacy protections for its users.
When you use Tor, your connection travels through multiple IP addresses or “hosts”, making it very difficult to track and helping you browse anonymously. It can be used for browsing both the surface web and the dark web. You can download and install it for free from the official Tor site.
Note that some countries block access to the Tor site. If you’re in a location that prevents you from accessing Tor, you can use your VPN to connect to a server in another location where Tor is allowed, and then visit the Tor site to download and install the software.
Step 4. Connect to a Secure Server
The next step is to use your VPN to connect to a secure server. Most VPNs have huge networks of servers located all around the world. For dark web browsing, it’s best to connect to a server near you. So, open up your VPN app, check the map or list of browsers, find one not far from you, and click to connect to it.
Step 5. Access Dark Web Sites
Once the connection has been established between your device and the secure VPN server, you’ll be able to proceed and access the dark web. This is a little different to accessing regular websites, as you’ll need to know the specific .onion URL for the sites you want to visit or use a dark web search tool like Torch or HiddenWiki.
Note: Be wary. There’s a lot of illegal content on the dark web, with many sites that you may want to avoid. Even with a VPN and the Tor browser, you could be at risk when using the dark web, so it’s best to proceed with caution, do your research, and only visit sites that have legal content and are generally considered to be relatively safe for users.
Free vs Paid VPNs for Dark Web
As well as paid VPNs, there are also plenty of free VPNs that you might consider using to access the dark web. However, even though free VPNs can seem enticing, and it may be more appealing to use something for free instead of having to pay, there are some issues that make free VPNs less useful for dark web usage.
- Speed – One of the downsides with many free VPNs is that they can’t offer the same fast speeds as paid variants. This means that if you try to use a free VPN to browse the dark web, you may experience very long loading and wait times between each page or site.
- Data Limits – A lot of free VPNs also come with data limits. For example, they might only let you use up to 10GB of data per month. If you do a lot of browsing or downloading on the dark web, you might run through the limit quite quickly and then lose your VPN privileges and protections.
- Ads – Another downside to many free VPNs is that they have ads. They use ads to earn money instead of asking for payment from their users. It can be quite obtrusive and frustrating for some people to watch ads or wait for ads to finish each time they want to connect to a VPN server.
- Security and Privacy – It’s also worth noting that a lot of free VPNs simply aren’t as reliable from a security or privacy standpoint when it comes to dark web browsing or general usage. They don’t have the same high standards of security, so you might be more at risk when using the dark web on a free VPN.
Overall, if you want to be as safe as possible on the dark web and get the best experiences, it’s best to use a premium VPN instead of a free one.
Exploring the dark web can be interesting, but it’s vital to know the risks before you go in and take the necessary steps to protect yourself, such as installing a good VPN. We hope that this guide has given you all the info you need to know about how and why to use a VPN for the dark web.