Browse safely on the dark web with Avast SecureLine VPN
The dark web may be the Wild West of the internet — a place without rules, gatekeepers, or censorship — but there are still reasons to visit. Check out our rundown of the best dark web links and how to navigate dark websites safely. And get a VPN to protect your privacy wherever you browse online.
Onion sites are websites on the dark web that use the “.onion” top-level domain instead of “.com,” “.net,” “.gov,” etc. Onion sites use The Onion Router (Tor) software to encrypt their connections and enable anonymous communication. They also hide their location, ownership, and other identifiers.
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You can access onion sites only through the Tor browser or special network configurations. The onion domain name reflects the fact that, like the layers of an onion, the Tor browser consists of layers of protection. Tor encrypts traffic, masks your IP address, blocks trackers and browser fingerprinting, and doesn’t store a record of your activity.
The anonymity of onion sites is the main draw of the dark web, and most dark web links are hosted on “.onion” domains due to the sensitive nature of the businesses or services they host. Onion sites may offer secure access to cryptocurrency wallets or anonymous email clients. Or, they can help avoid government surveillance and censorship.
The best dark web sites provide access to educational materials, host secure services, or bypass government censorship. Dark websites are hidden under layers of encryption that cloak user activity, which can be a boon to whistleblowers, activists, and others who don’t want anyone tracking their activity.
Since the dark web itself isn’t searchable, many sites help people navigate by acting as modified directories of onion sites.
Here are some of the best websites on the dark web:
The Hidden Wiki is the dark web’s unofficial Wikipedia, where you can find “.onion” links for many black web pages, services, and other content. The Hidden Wiki doesn’t discriminate, so if you start diving into dark net links randomly, you may come across objectionable or dangerous material. There are also fake Hidden Wiki pages out there, so be careful.
The darknet version of DuckDuckGo is not a search engine for the dark web, but a private browsing tool for the dark web. DuckDuckGo's regular site can take you to the dark web, as it brings up onion sites and dark web links when searched. Neither DuckDuckGo's dark or normal versions keep a log of your web activity.
Sci-Hub provides free access to scientific papers, with millions of documents. Scientific journals often put their articles behind a paywall or charge high fees for access, but Sci-Hub offers open-access to read or download research papers. While it’s a deep resource, it’s also technically illegal in many countries because it violates copyright restrictions, so check out the laws in your area before visiting.
ProPublica is a non-profit, Pulitzer Prize winning news outlet that focuses on abuses of power and issues of public trust. ProPublica’s investigative journalism makes them a target for the powerful, so they joined the dark web to help their journalists and readers access their content and avoid being tracked. Being on the dark web also lets whistleblowers send material to ProPublica without fear of reprisal.
Deep web sites have to be hosted somewhere, and Impreza Hosting is one of the most secure and anonymous dark web hosting services. A host is basically a website’s house, or where it lives and takes up space. Impreza provides an affordable hidden space for black websites to base their operations. Impreza rents servers, registers domains, and hosts email similar to sites like GoDaddy.
Tor Links is a backup directory of “.onion” sites in case other directories go offline. The best Tor sites are under constant threat of closure, including Tor directories like the Hidden Wiki, so having a backup in case one goes down is handy.
Facebook’s onion version lets people access Facebook in countries where access to the social network is otherwise restricted. While Facebook itself has a questionable privacy record, Facebook’s dark web site helps people around the world connect, communicate, and organize, which makes Facebook’s onion portal a valuable tool for people living under repressive regimes.
The BBC and other well-known news services are blocked in some parts of the world. But people can still access independent media via BBC Tor Mirror and similar dark web news portals. The BBC Tor Mirror is an international version of the BBC that focuses on world affairs, and it’s extremely useful for those who live under strict censorship laws.
SecureDrop is one of the most reliable file-sharing sites on the deep web. SecureDrop lets whistleblowers anonymously send sensitive material to media outlets via a unique SecureDrop URL. The files are automatically encrypted, and the sender’s IP is not logged.
ProtonMail is a Swiss-based encrypted email service that doesn’t require personal information when you sign up. ProtonMail’s end-to-end encryption makes it one of the best onion sites for easy-to-use, secure, anonymous email.
For cryptocurrency enthusiasts, Wasabi Wallet is considered an indispensable trading tool and one of the safest ways to buy, sell, and manage cryptocurrency on the dark web. Wasabi Wallet isn’t free to use, but for a small fee you get reliable and anonymous cryptocurrency transactions.
The dark web, also called the darknet or black web, refers to websites that are not indexed by normal search engines and need special software like Tor to access. Dark web websites offer privacy, anonymity, content, and goods that you can’t get on the surface web. The dark web is the unregulated part of the deep web, which encompasses all parts of the web not indexed by search engines.
In more technical terms, the dark web is the part of the web where sites are hosted on so-called darknets — computer networks overlaid on other networks. Like regular “surface” sites, dark web sites use internet protocols, but the darknet networks that are overlaid on normal networks can’t be accessed through regular web browsers.
A: The surface web includes publicly visible websites (blogs, shopping sites, news sites, YouTube).
B: The deep web consists of sites that require a login to access (email accounts, banking portals, subscription services).
C: The dark web is the part of the deep web that isn’t indexed by search engines and requires special tools to access, like Tor Browser.
In some ways, the dark web offers more browsing freedom, but the lack of safeguards can leave you exposed to hackers, malware, and other online threats. Before you access deep web sites, you need to be aware of the dangers that can lurk on the dark web, such as viruses or other malware.
To stay safe while browsing dark web sites, follow these general rules:
Don’t click unfamiliar links
Confirm the URL is correct
Use strong passwords
Use a VPN
Use alternative emails
Don’t enter personal information
Avoid proxy services
Cover your webcam and microphone
Don’t download anything
Avoid buying anything
To further reduce your exposure to dark web dangers, you can run a dark web scan to see if any of your data has leaked onto the black market. If you think you’ve fallen victim to identity theft or fraud, be sure to report the internet scam just like you would any other crime.
No, it’s not illegal to browse the dark web. But anything illegal in the real world is still illegal on the dark web. Illicit goods, illegal transactions, criminal harassment, downloading copyrighted material: anything that’s against the law on the regular web or offline is also illegal on the dark web.
No country has jurisdiction over the internet, so simply having a website on the internet, whether it’s on the surface or dark web, is not illegal. While many deep web sites are undoubtedly used to facilitate criminal activity and other scams you should avoid, there are also plenty of legitimate dark web sites.
The dark web and deep web are not the same — all sites on the dark web are technically part of the deep web, but much of the deep web is not part of the dark web. The deep web is simply the part of the internet that isn’t indexed by search engines, such as email inboxes, banking portals, or any site that requires authentication or a password.
Unlike regular deep web sites such as your email account, the dark web is inaccessible unless you have special tools or software like the Tor browser. Some even say that the real dark web requires an invitation to participate.
The deep web is about 90% of the internet, while the dark web makes up about 5%. The normal, surface internet makes up the other 5%. A large portion of deepweb links are sites hidden behind security firewalls or authentication forms, such as banking sites or any of the billions of web pages that are password protected.
Onion sites aren’t inherently dangerous, but they can be. A lot of illegal activity occurs on the dark web, and onion websites are popular hangouts for cybercriminals and scammers. But if you use antivirus software, avoid clicking on shady links, and stick to known sites you should be fine. It’s also a good idea to set up a VPN for an extra layer of protection.
Yes, you can access the dark web on a smartphone, but you’ll need an appropriate browser, like Tor browser for Android or Onion browser for iPhone. Remember that phones can get viruses just as easily as computers, and the chances of getting a virus likely increase when you’re browsing dark web mobile sites, no matter your platform.
Your activities on the dark web are not completely immune to web tracking, and the expectation of anonymity can create a false sense of security. The dark web not only attracts some of the most dangerous cybercriminals, it also attracts authorities looking to catch those cybercriminals. So your dark web use may draw unwanted scrutiny from your ISP or law enforcement. Use a VPN to strengthen your privacy on the dark web.
Wherever you go online, but especially if you’re on dark web websites, using a VPN helps you secure your data and protect your personal information. Avast SecureLine VPN encrypts all of your internet traffic to block hackers and keeps snoops out. Install Avast SecureLine VPN today to browse safely and securely, wherever your online travels take you.