Onion sites, so named because they end with “.onion”, are hosted as Tor hidden services – a completely anonymous way to host websites. They’re part of the deep Web – an invisible part of the Web that’s not visible to search engines and normal users. It’s full of websites for users obsessed with privacy and anonymity online.
Some of the seedy underbelly of the Web is located here, too, although many of the websites are probably scams, hoaxes, or just traps designed to catch people buying illegal services. There are good uses for .onion sites, though– for example, a political activist in a repressive country or a whistleblower could use a .onion site to upload and share sensitive data or communicate anonymously.
Disclaimer about Active Online Sites
While browsing the deep Web, be careful what you click. While much of the content is no doubt entirely made-up, there’s some horrifying imagery you could see if you’re not careful – but then, there’s horrifying stuff on the normal Web, too.
There are those who would criticize websites for writing about such things – and Tor for enabling them. Tor’s Abuse FAQ provides a good defense, noting that :
Criminals can already do bad things. Since they’re willing to break laws, they already have lots of options available that provide better privacy than Tor provides.
Law enforcement already knows these areas of the Web exist – if not on Tor, they’d exist elsewhere. As the FAQ also notes, “Traditional police techniques can still be very effective against Tor.”
Accessing Onion Sites
.onion sites can only be accessed through Tor. To get started, you’ll need Tor installed on your computer. The easiest way to use Tor is by downloading and installing the Tor browser bundle, which we’ve mentioned in the past. It includes a modified version of Firefox with Tor and other settings preconfigured.
After downloading the Tor browser bundle, run the .exe file to extract it and double-click the “Start Tor Browser.exe” file in the extracted folder.
Tor will connect and launch its included browser.
Tor doesn’t introduce you to .onion sites when you start using it – it just provides an encrypted way to access the normal Web. To get started with .onion sites, you’ll have to be aware they exist and know their locations. One easy entry point is Core.onion, located at eqt5g4fuenphqinx.onion – remember, you’ll need a Tor-enabled browser to access these links.
The Hidden Wiki
The wiki is a sorted index of active .onion sites by category, but don’t believe everything you read on it. It’s likely full of scams, hoaxes, and other fiction. That said, you could access some very disturbing imagery from here, so be careful what you click.
The Circle site provides links to a variety of .onion-site based services. You can upload and share files, images, or text, create a new bulletin board or join an existing one.
Have you explored the hidden Web on Tor before? Or do you know of any interesting .onion sites worth visiting? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
Image Credit: Laptop User (Blurred) via Shutterstock
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