Using Tor and the right tools, it’s possible to explore this part of the internet without inviting the attention of your ISP or the authorities. The Tor browser, a VPN to protect your connection, and a bit of ethics are all you need. There’s a lot of exotic stuff on the dark web, but there are also things that can get you into trouble with law enforcement.
The dark web is more than shady cyber bazaars, it also hosts many useful resources. These sites provide a variety of services including secure email and ways to evade government surveillance and censorship. But to access these sites, you’ll need a search engine that works on the dark web. Regular search engines such as Google and Bing work by crawling websites and indexing them based on the words they contain. They also use software to rank pages based on the relevance of their content and inbound links.
Some search engines, such as Ahmia and Grams, are aimed at the dark web. These dark web search engines are usually indexed by other sites and don’t host their own pages. Others, such as the Hidden Wiki and Not Evil, operate more like a directory by collecting and organizing lists of indexed links. Another popular private search engine is DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t track your searches or display ads.
The dark web offers anonymity that can make it more difficult for authorities to track your activity. This can be a good thing for activists who speak out against their government and those who have suffered from abuse and cyberattacks. However, it can also benefit criminals who use the dark web to sell hacking services and other illegal activities. Websites on the dark web can be accessed with Tor, which conceals your identity and protects you from censorship. While many dark sites can be found using search engines, others are password protected and only accessible by using Tor.
For example, Pulitzer Prize winner ProPublica has a Dark Web Sites where you can read investigative journalism in countries that block the news. There’s also a dark web version of Facebook and Hidden Answers, a question-and-answer platform that lets you ask or answer questions without being censored. You can even access a wiki on the dark web called Sci-Hub that allows you to download a huge library of scientific papers.
Many dark web sites are used for illicit purposes and offer everything from recreational and pharmaceutical drugs to stolen personal information that can be used to harm credit and bank accounts or damage your reputation online. Illegal services are also offered such as hacking for hire and professional “hitmen.” To access these websites, you need a special browser called Tor that routes your internet traffic through a random series of servers around the world, rendering your IP address unidentifiable. This provides privacy from surveillance and tracking.
Even legitimate organizations use the dark web for their own reasons. The New York Times has a Tor mirror of its website to provide access to its journalism in countries that suffer from government censorship. Likewise, the BBC offers a Tor-based version of its site so that people can watch its content without fear of being monitored by the state. Various message boards and chat rooms exist for people who want to discuss topics that would be dangerous, illegal or unethical to discuss in other parts of the internet.
Dark web sites host services that help people protect their privacy, bypass government surveillance and censorship, and communicate without fear of persecution. They may offer education, secure access to cryptocurrency wallets or anonymous email clients. They can also act as modified directories for onion sites or facilitate whistleblowing and activism. While some of the content on dark web sites is legal, many are not. Research conducted by King’s College found that more than half of the sites catalogued by researchers contained illicit materials, including recreational and prescription drugs, counterfeit goods, and stolen credit card information and ID numbers.
Fortunately, there are a number of good options for secure search engines on the Dark Web, such as DuckDuckGo and Riseup, which offers free encrypted email. Other useful sites include ProPublica, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting in 2016 led to its launch on the Tor network so readers around the world can easily bypass country blocks and protect their privacy; and SecureDrop, a popular site for whistleblowers to share confidential information with journalists.
The dark web provides anonymity to people who want to avoid the data harvesting that standard Internet services and websites collect. But, it also attracts shady activities like hacking and identity theft. These sites use Tor to encrypt traffic and keep the users anonymous. To access them, one must use a Tor browser and an index of sites like the Hidden Wiki.