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Google may be synonymous with online search but the internet is much larger than a single search engine. The vast majority of the web lies hidden, unindexed on traditional search engines. To access the so-called dark web, you need to use a dark web search engine. Check out our list of the top dark web search engines and learn how to access the dark web safely. Then get a VPN to encrypt all your online activity and stay safe wherever the web takes you.
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Search engines are integral to the web browsing experience, but only about 10% of all websites are indexed on a typical search engine. The remaining sites, including those on the dark web, won’t show up when you search Google — they can be accessed only with a direct URL, IP address, or deep web search application.
The internet consists of two parts:
The surface web: Also known as clearnet, the surface web includes many of the public sites we use when we browse the web, such as news sites, e-commerce sites, social media sites, etc. These sites are all indexed on search engines and visible to everyone.
The deep web: Sites on the deep web — also known as the invisible web — are hidden from search engines. These sites often contain sensitive information and are hidden behind password-protection protocols and other security systems.
While classified government data and sensitive health records sit in the deep web, many of the sites we use everyday are also part of the deep web, such as our email accounts and personal banking portals.
The dark web is a subset of the deep web. One way to understand the difference between the dark web and the deep web is to think of the dark web as a small part of the deep web that sits on a special network accessible only via special software tools like Tor browser. Most dark websites are hosted and accessed on the Tor network and can be identified with the use of Tor’s own top-level domain: “.onion.”
The dark web is more than just a shady cyber bazaar for drug deals and other transactions on dark web markets. It also supports independent journalism, provides secure email services, and lets people evade government censorship and surveillance.
There are useful resources on the dark web, and you need a dark web search engine to find them.
Here are the best dark web search engines:
A portmanteau of Tor + search, the Torch search engine is the oldest search engine on the Tor network. Torch indexes a range of dark web sites and links. On top of that, Torch web search speeds are relatively fast.
Torch takes online anonymity and digital identity very seriously. The platform offers truly uncensored and unfiltered web search results. Along with offering an unrestricted search engine list, Torch also prevents web tracking.
The DuckDuckGo dark web search engine is like Google for the dark web. Widely considered one of the best private search engines, it’s the default search engine on Tor browser. DuckDuckGo has a simple interface, with a search box in the middle of the page, and its list of search results is also formatted like Google’s. And it’s not just a deep web search engine — DuckDuckGo works for surface websites, too.
DuckDuckGo also has a no-log policy, meaning they don’t keep a record of your search history or collect other user data. Used in with a dedicated private browser, DuckDuckGo is a powerful search engine and a potent privacy tool.
The Hidden Wiki is the dark web version of Wikipedia. So while it’s not exactly a deep web search engine, it makes navigating Tor easier by providing a categorized directory with indexed links to “.onion” websites, as well as surface web links.
The Hidden Wiki isn’t a completely unrestricted search engine, because it uses filters to block many of the scam sites found on the dark web. But like many other allegedly illegal search engines, the Hidden Wiki does index certain shady sites that Google blocks.
Ahmia is a surface web search engine that’s compatible with Tor’s onion services. Onion sites are often associated with illegal activity, but Ahmia aims to bring them into the mainstream by filtering Tor search results and weeding out fake or unsafe websites that may contain malware.
Ahmia’s simple interface helps make searching the dark web more accessible, and Ahmia lets you perform deep web searches in regular web browsers like Google Chrome.
With over 1.5 billion indexed pages, Haystack boasts more indexed sites than any other deep web search engine. It’s also fast and helps protect your identity and privacy. Haystack does not track your data or compromise your privacy for profit, although the free version will serve you occasional ads.
If you go premium, you’ll lose the ads and gain additional data insights and access to historical versions of websites. Haystak is one of the best dark web search engines on the Tor network.
Not Evil is an onion dark web search engine that’s a great introduction to Tor-specific search tools. Not Evil’s name is a play on Google’s old motto: Don't be evil. And unlike Google, it doesn’t participate in advertising or web tracking.
Not Evil has more than 32 million websites and addresses indexed from Tor servers, as well as more than 14 million onion links. The Not Evil search engine is a not-for-profit operation, and it relies on a community of volunteers who report false results and log “abusive” sites.
Candle is a web crawler and dark web search engine for Tor’s onion service websites. Candle’s index contains over 100,000 web pages, including dark web marketplaces and forums, and it’s popular among cybercriminals and others who purchase illicit goods from dark web markets.
The Candle search engine is effective, but minimalistic — it gives you only the top ten most relevant results for your search queries. And the search box can’t read certain characters like parentheses or quotation marks.
Dark Search is a relatively new free search engine tool that aims to make the dark web more accessible. This dark web search engine also has an easy-to-use interface and offers free access to onion links and websites. The creator of Dark Search is currently working on a way to let dark web users access restricted dark web forums via onion search engine links.
Kilos is primarily used to find and access dark web markets where — as the name suggests — illicit drug transactions are one of the main activities. While many search engines steer clear of the dark web’s seedier elements, Kilos embraces it and doesn’t filter search results.
That approach has resulted in Kilos becoming one of the premiere black market search engines, but it’s also why it’s a dangerous portal to a landscape teeming with potential threats.
For those interested in accessing the safer parts of the dark web, there are censored dark web search engines that filter out the more illicit dark web sites. And there are also tools for those interested in an uncensored dark web search experience.
Unlike regular search engines like Google and Bing, dark web search engines usually don’t track web activity or log your search history. And most onion search engines operate as nonprofits and don’t display ads.
You need to use a dark web browser — such as the Tor browser — to search and access the dark web. Dark web browsers are specially designed to connect to websites on the Tor network, where most dark web sites are hosted. Though you can search dark web indexes with some clearnet browsers, you won't be able to access the sites themselves.
The desktop version of the Tor browser can be downloaded directly from the Tor project’s website. Tor browser apps for Android or iOS are available on Google Play and the App Store. Once you have Tor or another dark web browser, there are plenty of search engine options available to help you find the dark web content you’re looking for.
Whenever you’re online, but especially if you go on the dark web, you need a VPN to encrypt all your communications and data.
Tor’s elaborate onion routing technique makes web tracking extremely difficult, but it’s still possible for third parties to spy on certain aspects of your web activity. A VPN adds an extra layer of encryption to protect your privacy. And it hides your IP address from hackers, your internet service provider (ISP), and even government spies.
VPN encryption protects your data from being intercepted while on the dark web.
Here’s how to use a VPN to access the dark web:
Download a secure VPN from a reliable vendor.
Install the VPN on your device. Mobile VPNs are available for secure dark web browsing on Android and iOS, too.
Connect to a VPN server using the VPN protocol from your provider’s list of options.
Launch the Tor browser and start browsing “.onion” websites using one of the onion search engines listed above.
Whether on the clearnet or the dark web, using search engines and other browsing tools can lead to data leaks that expose your search history and other personal information. That’s why it’s important to use online security tools that protect your personal data.
Avast SecureLine VPN hides your IP, secures your Wi-Fi connection, and encrypts your data to make sure your personal information stays secure wherever you go online. Try Avast SecureLine VPN today.