Accessing the Darknet / Dark Web
By: Ofir Beigel | Last updated: 1/15/23
I’m assuming you’ve heard the terms Darknet, Dark web or Deep web before. If you haven’t, this is going to blow your mind. If you have, then you’re probably wondering how one can access these hidden corners of the Internet.
How to Access the Darknet Summary
Here’s what you need to do in order to access the darknet:
- Download TOR
- Use a VPN for added anonymity (optional)
- Surf the Darknet via search engines like DuckDuckGO or directories
That’s how to access the Darknet in a nutshell. If you want the detailed (and super interesting) version of the story, keep on reading. Here’s what I’ll cover:
- Darknet / Dark web vs. Deep Web
- The TOR Network
- Navigating Through the Darknet
- Bitcoin’s Role in the Darknet
- Additional Security Measures – Using a VPN
- A Taste of the Darknet
- The 2 Minute Video Guide for Accessing the Darknet
- Important Security Measures
- Conclusion – A Word of Warning
Before you read any further
This is probably going to be one of the longest posts I’ve written on 99Bitcoins, but also the most interesting of them all. If you just want to go ahead and learn how to access the Darknet, you can skip to the bottom of the post and watch the video tutorial.
But here’s the deal:
You can’t do much around the Darknet without understanding its underlying basics so you may want to stick around for the whole post. I promise you won’t be disappointed…
1. Darknet / Dark Web VS. The Deep web
Most people get confused between the Deep Web and the Darknet (or Dark Web). The Deep Web refers to all parts of the Internet which search engines can’t find. This can be anything from secure academic archives, library databases, members only websites and all the way up to the Darknet which I’ll talk about shortly.
But get this:
The deep web is presumably 100 times larger than what is known as the “surface web” which is what you and I surf through search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Most of the deep web isn’t evil in any way, it’s just content blocked from search engines for security reasons.
There are some deep web search engines that let you explore some of it, you can find a complete list of them here. But here’s the interesting part of the deep web:
A part of the Internet that isn’t accessible through search engines at all, and also much more. It’s an anonymous Internet. On the Darknet no one knows your identity and no one knows who is behind any website.
This is where people go to look for stuff when they don’t want to be found. Sounds creepy? It is…
But even the Darknet isn’t all evil. A large part of it are just normal forums, blogs, essays, etc. Because of the protection offered by the Darknet and its hidden services, activists in oppressive regimes are free to exchange ideas and organize themselves.
And then there’s the bad stuff – contract killers, child porn, drugs, and other nasty stuff which share the same benefits of anonymity as the good sites.
2. The TOR Network
There are different “privacy networks”, all composed of individual computers allowing them to create a “decentralized web”. There are many different privacy networks, however, in this post, we will focus only on the most popular one – the TOR network.
The websites around the TOR network are known as TOR services or hidden services. Since TOR and the Deep web aren’t indexed by search engines, you can only find them through directories.
In order to access the Tor network, you have to remain anonymous. This is not a request, it’s a prerequisite, and this is done through a special web browser called, surprisingly enough, TOR.
TOR stands for “The Onion Router”, it got its name from the fact that in order to reveal the core user of the browser you’ll have to peel a lot of layers off, just like an onion.
You can use TOR to surf the pedestrian web (the everyday Internet you and I know and love) anonymously, or you can use it to access the Darknet.
Here’s the deal:
When you access the pedestrian Internet, you are directly communicating with websites. But when you’re accessing a website through TOR it’s like asking another user to ask another user to ask another user to fetch the webpage information for you.
This is, of course, an oversimplified explanation, but the general idea is that communications bounce around a lot of different computers, which makes it very difficult to track who is actually viewing a website, sending an email or conducting any other action.
It also makes the Internet connection extremely slow, but for now, here’s what you need to know about TOR:
It’s a free to download browser, you can get it here. The browser is built on top of the Firefox browser open source code, so it’s pretty intuitive. Once you download and launch it, it will connect you to the TOR network and you’re good to go.
TOR network was initially created by the US military to communicate anonymously. They still dump government files – not open to the general public – on the Darknet. Since the federal and other governments themselves are using the Darknet, they do not consider it possible to order TOR to shut it down.
3. Navigating Through the Darknet / Dark Web
On the surface, there is only one big difference between surfing the Darknet and surfing the “normal” web: URLs don’t look like anything you can actually read. They are random strings of characters followed by the extension “.onion”.
For example, if you launch TOR and go to this URL: http://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/ you’ll reach DuckDuckGo’s search engine on the TOR network.
DuckDuckgo is a search engine that emphasizes protecting searchers’ privacy and avoiding the filter bubble of personalized search results. If you try to access that same URL, through Chrome, for example, you won’t be allowed to view it.
One of the main resources for navigating through websites on the Darknet is through directories.
TheHiddenWiki is an example of a TOR website directory which you can access through a normal browser as well. Keep in mind that some sites have already been taken offline so not all of them will work.
This is the HiddenWiki’s URL on the TOR network: http://zqktlwi4fecvo6ri.onion/wiki/index.php/Main_Page.
Since keeping your connection anonymous requires bouncing around the connection, you’ll notice that surfing on TOR is extremely slow in comparison to normal browsing. I guess that’s also the reason most of the websites look like they were designed in the 1990s.
It gets even better.
Since sometimes websites are hosted on personal computers, it’s totally possible that you won’t be able to access a site since the computer is just shut down.
Other sites require additional security measures and only allow specific users to enter. Remember, this is a whole different universe that you know nothing about, and the whole experience is kind of like traveling back in time.
4. Bitcoin’s Role on the Darknet / Dark Web
Bitcoin plays an important role throughout the Darknet. Since staying anonymous is key, Bitcoin is one of the only currencies you can pay with there.
Unlike the “normal” web, almost every other website on the Darknet has the “Bitcoin accepted” sign displayed on it. Because of Bitcoin’s pseudo-anonymous nature, it’s the perfect currency to power such an ecosystem.
This can be said about other cryptocurrencies as well. Recently, it has been said that many Darknet users are switching to Monero since it’s a 100% private coin (unlike Bitcoin).
Cryptocurrencies and “privacy networks” like TOR have actually a lot in common. They both require a network of individual computers to run, as opposed to one main server. This is called “distributed computing” and the computers are called nodes.
The problem occurs when people aren’t incentivized to operate nodes, which can result in a slow and unreliable network. The Bitcoin network, for example, does give incentive to miners to maintain the network, but individual nodes still aren’t getting any rewards and this can cause problems.
5. Additional Security – Using a VPN
Although no one knows your identity when using TOR, some people like to add an additional layer of protection and connect to TOR via a Virtual Private Network (VPN). The reason for that is that even though you’re anonymous, you can still be identified as using TOR for “something”.
Here’s the ugly truth:
Wired published an article back in 2014 called “Use privacy services? The NSA is probably tracking you” which explains how the NSA is tagging people who were identified as TOR users.
Using a VPN allows you to connect to the Internet through a remote server which is located out of the country and therefore is impossible to track.
6. A Taste of the Darknet / Dark Web
I’m pretty much a n00b to the Darknet. I opened up the HiddenWiki and tried to pick the most interesting sites I could find. Since this post is already bordering age appropriate content, I’m not going to link to actual websites, only try to share my own experience.
I can categorize my experience as a mix between good and evil. The good part of it was surfing around websites which were all about freedom of speech, exchanging of ideas and grouping people together for common causes. Here’s an example of a quote from a website called Alpha-7-Bravo (http://opnju4nyz7wbypme.onion):
“This is Lexington Green. Use this space for discussion and coordination of activities such as rallies, protest marches, etc… Any posts advocating violence or terror tactics will be removed.”
On the other hand, you have sites that sell you fake passports and IDs for different countries, allow you to acquire guns and ammo and even (and I quote) ruin someone’s life by getting them arrested through hacking.
Contradictions are very common around the Darknet, as you can find security experts and criminal hackers on the same discussion board exchanging ideas.
Keep in mind, it’s not only terrorists and criminals that inhabit the Darknet – it’s also government agents and law enforcers. So get ready for a ride if you plan to explore it yourself.
7. The 2 Minute Guide to Accessing the Darknet / Dark Web
If you’re just interested in quickly accessing the Darknet, here’s how you do it:
- Download TOR
- Use a VPN for added anonymity (optional)
- Surf the Darknet via search engines like DuckDuckGO or directories
8. Important Security Steps to Keep in Mind
- Think twice before you click any link as you do not know who operates the website and where any of these links lead to. Use only known directories to reach authenticated destinations.
- DO NOT DOWNLOAD ANYTHING TO YOUR COMPUTER. No BitTorrents and no downloads as they may give away your actual IP when storing things to your computer.
9. Conclusion – A Word of Warning
This post was written for educational purposes only. If you wish to use the Darknet, do it at your own discretion and at your own risk. Make sure to be aware of any consequences that may follow.
I believe that information is a wonderful thing and that the Internet allows us to explore many wonderful places, but also many dark ones. Stay safe and always make sure to employ good judgment.
If you have any interesting experiences you’d like to share from your travels throughout the deep or dark web I’d love to hear them in the comment section below.
Sources and additional reads:
How to access the deep web or Darknet
A beginner’s guide to exploring the Darknet
Dark Web Price Index 2021 (by Privacy Affairs)
Full of scam is darknet just send BTC to someone for any kind of service and it’s over. You can’t do anything against them
There are just scams and boring blogs, disappointed
how to buy drugs??
JUST FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE*
SAME 🤯 🥳
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