How to access the Dark Web

The Dark Web is an infamous digital hive of scum and villainy, where people around the world visit their black markets and conduct encrypted business away from any watching eyes. Naturally, that makes a lot of people curious.

However, there are other, more innocent reasons to use the Dark Web. Reporters, for example, may use it as a way to communicate with whistleblowers who want to protect their identity. Internet users under oppressive regimes may access the Dark Web to communicate freely with the outside world. White hat coders may want to search for and study various bits of malware to prepare defenses, and so on.

Here’s the bottom line: If you are interested in checking out the Dark Web, we can show you how to access it — just be careful out there. Check out the steps below to learn more.

Step 1: Start with encryption: Download Tor and the Tor browser

Tor is the encryption program people use to navigate the Dark Web. While this encryption can work with several different dark browsers, the most common option is the Tor browser, because it’s free and easy to use.

These days, however, it’s common practice to add Tails, which is an additional security measure to protect your IP address. We suggest you start by downloading a safe version of Tails here. This Tails download should include Tor and the Tor browser as one complete package, so you have everything you need to get started. However, note that Tails requires an attached, empty USB storage drive to work, so you may have to buy an extra flash drive.

You may also want to download and enable a VPN (virtual private network) for additional security when using Tor and Tails. When getting ready for the Dark Web, you can never have too much security.

Step 2: Prepare your computer

You don’t want anything on your computer that a hacker could take advantage, which is pretty much everything. So take a minute to clear things up — shut down all apps and ongoing functions.

Close any files you may be working on. Disconnect or cover up your webcam and do the same with any mic settings your computer has – yes, these can be used against you. It’s okay to get a little paranoid at this juncture.

Step 3: Open the browser with a clear destination in mind

Linux Screenshots/Flickr

Without browsers like Google carefully organizing search results, the Dark Web is somewhat disarrayed, which can make it difficult to find what you are looking for. We strongly suggest that you do a lot of research and know exactly where you are going before you start.

To help with this, there are wikis that collect various Dark Web sites or directories that are (relatively) popular stops and good places to begin. Popular options include the Onion Directory and the Hidden Wiki. Take a look at the sites that these directories have collected and see what topics interest you (and yes, these categories include absolutely everything, so please stay away from the naughty stuff like hiring hitmen or buying stolen goods).

We also suggest that you do a search for the sites that you intend to visit, to see what people are saying about their security and how safe they are. Just because a site is on these directories doesn’t mean it won’t harm you or your computer. Never visit one of these sites directly on a normal browser — draw the line at research.

Once you have a clear destination in mind, close down your browser as we detailed in step 2, and open up the Tor browser to visit these same directories. It’s also a good idea to turn off JavaScript before you begin, for additional safety. The Tor browser is essentially a rebuilt version of early Firefox browsers, so if you’ve used Firefox in the past navigation should feel familiar to you.

Step 4. Understand how transactions work before you do anything

There are no rules in a black market, but there are some agreed-upon methods of exchange so that people can trade. On the Dark Web, that means using cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

We aren’t suggesting you try to buy anything—that’s another big can of worms—but if you do look into a transaction, understand that you’ll need a cryptocurrency to do it safely, and even then “safely” is a tricky prospect.

Generally, people who purchase anything on the Dark Web first move Bitcoins (or their cryptocurrency of choice) from the Bitcoin exchange into a heavily secured wallet. Then they move the coins from the wallet into the Dark Web. Even then, it’s advisable to use a separate wallet solely for Dark Web activity, and only move the coins you intend to spend into the wallet. Use a separate name and password for the wallet that you will never use anywhere else. Many people have had their exchanges and wallets hacked by being careless.

Step 5: Always remember, safety first

The FBI can absolutely track people on the Dark Web, and it keeps the extent of those capabilities a carefully guarded secret, which means you could still get prosecuted for breaking the law even when encrypted. Silk Road wasn’t brought down by amateurs.

However, a more immediate danger for beginners is the great number of traps and hackers in the Dark Web trying to steal personal information and follow any trace back to your computer to learn more about you. Identity theft and blackmail are rampant. So stay alert, don’t wander around too much, and don’t trust any site or contact that you find.

Step 6: Close everything when you are done

While on the Tor browser, avoid any other activity on your computer—keep everything shut down. In fact, it’s common advice to avoid even change the settings (outside of the JavaScript step we mentioned) or window size of the Tor browser, since in theory this could be used to track you.

When you are finished, close the Tor browser and shut down/restart your computer entirely. Pay close attention when starting up again, and if everything appears to be acting normally, you can enable your mic settings, webcam, and other functions again.

Deals

Walmart Prime Day sale: 4K TV, Apple Watch, and Nintendo Switch Deals

The Walmart Prime Day sale continues to go strong as the first day of Amazon's 48-hour deals event comes to a close. There are loads of great Apple Watch, Nintendo Switch, and 4K TV deals going on right now.
Computing

Don't pay for that app! These top-notch screen recorders are absolutely free

Our list of the best free screen recorders showcases some of the top apps for capturing video on your computer - without paying for the feature. Whether you're in a business or on your own, take a look at the these options.
Deals

Amazon drops Prime Day deal on Kasa Spot Indoor Security Camera, now just $35

The Kasa Spot Indoor Camera is a reliable and budget-friendly way to add extra protection to your home. For Prime Day, Amazon made it even more affordable for only $35. Hurry and take advantage of this limited-time offer.
Movies & TV

Tired of Netflix? Here's where to find free movies online, legally

We've spent countless hours digging around the web to find the best sites for streaming free movies online. Not only are all of these sites completely free to use, they're also completely legal and trustworthy.
Computing

Need to block ads and trackers? Browse our list of the best browsers for privacy

Whether your privacy concerns are focused on controlling cookies or blocking ads and malware, you're sure to find the best browser for your security needs among our picks for the best browsers for privacy.
Computing

Amazon Prime Day deal slashes $200 off of this MacBook Pro

Amazon’s Prime Day deals have extended to Apple’s MacBook Pro, with deep discounts galore. You can save $200 on a 2018 MacBook Pro, making it a superb bargain if you’re in the market for a MacBook.
Computing

This iPad Pro is at its lowest price ever thanks to Amazon Prime Day

On the lookout for a new iPad Pro on Prime Day? Look no further, because we’ve found the mother of all deals. You can save $430 on an iPad Pro, bringing its price down to a super-low $699.
Computing

The best Prime Day laptop deals: MacBook, Razer, HP, and Dell XPS discounts

Amazon Prime Day is now in its second and last day. Time is ticking to sort through some amazing laptop deals. We're seeing huge discounts on gaming laptops, MacBooks, Chromebooks, and more. We'll help you hunt for a solid laptop deal.
Deals

Amazon Prime Day slashes prices on AMD Ryzen 7 and Intel Core i7 CPU systems

Amazon Prime Day is back and it's better than ever with some amazing deals on AMD and Intel processors. Looking for a Ryzen 7 or Core i7 CPU? These are the best deals we could find with them inside.
Emerging Tech

Photorealistic A.I. tool can fill in gaps in images, including faces

Researchers have developed a smart new A.I. system which can accurately fill in blank areas in an image, whether that’s a missing face or the front of a building. Here's how it works.
Deals

Samsung Chromebook 3 gets $70 price drop during Walmart’s The Big Save

This year, Walmart has introduced The Big Save, its own midsummer days of deals to rival Amazon's Prime Day. Now at Walmart, the Samsung Chromebook 3 can be yours for just $159, down from its original $229.
Deals

HP drops killer laptop deals for Prime Day with over $800 in price cuts

The HP brand is known for high-quality portable computers, most notably the Spectre x360. With discounts over $800 during HP's Prime Day deals event, you can apply the code FIVEMORE to get additional savings
Computing

The Logitech G502 Lightspeed is the wireless gaming mouse of your dreams

Logitech's G502 Lightspeed represents the pinnacle of wireless gaming rodents. It's fast, accurate, and wireless charging means that you never even need to think about plugging a cable in. But is the price worth paying?
Computing

Office 365 has been banned from German schools due to privacy concerns

Some schools in Germany have banned the use of Office 365 due to privacy concerns and a recent ruling from the German state of Hesse that declared Microsoft's cloud-based service isn't GDPR compliant enough to be used in schools.