Internet Security

How to Access the Dark Web Safely and Anonymously

Dan Price 01-12-2019

So, you want to get on the dark web? Don’t worry; we’re not judging. There are lots of perfectly legitimate reasons you might want to access all that shady content.


Joking aside, if you want to know how to access the dark web in a safe and anonymous way, keep reading. There are some crucial steps you need to take when you want to get on the dark web.

1. Always Use a VPN to Access the Dark Web

We’re not going to dwell on what the dark web is or how it works. Suffice to say that too many users think they are safe from the prying eyes of ISPs and governments just because of the way dark net uses onion routing technology.

That’s not true. Even if you use the Tor browser, your traffic can still be traced back to you by anyone with enough time and know-how (for example, the FBI!).

And remember, the Tor browser fell victim to an IP leak in April 2018. Nicknamed “TorMoil,” the flaw allowed a user’s operating system to connect to a remote host, bypassing the Tor Browser entirely. MacOS and Linux users were most at risk.

Ergo, you should also use a VPN when connecting to the dark web. It will encrypt your web traffic, ensuring its hidden from snoopers even if there’s a similar repeat of last year’s issues.


We recommend using ExpressVPN or CyberGhost.

2. Download the Tor Browser from the Official Website

TOR browser official download page

Tor might have had its security problems in the past, but it’s still the safest and most popular way to get on the dark web.

Because of its market-leading position and the nature of the content which you can access when using it, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are a lot of actors out there who want to spoof the app and make you download a compromised version instead.


Therefore, you should never download the Tor browser from any source other than the official website. You can find it at The browser is free to download and use.

You also need to make sure you keep your dark web browser up-to-date at all times. Failure to do so could leave you vulnerable to security issues.

Check out our list of tips for using Tor safely 7 Tips for Using the Tor Browser Safely Thinking about trying the Tor browser to start browsing the web safely? Learn these Tor browser dos and don'ts before you start. Read More if you’d like more information.

3. Take Security Precautions

The dark web is a popular hangout for hackers, cybercriminals, malware creators, and other unsavory types that you really don’t want anywhere near your machine.


Sadly, the nature of the dark web means you’ll probably encounter them at some point. Ideally, you need to make yourself as small a target as possible by reducing the number of attack vectors they can use.

Therefore, before you open the Tor browser, you should close all the other apps on your machine, stop unnecessary services from running, and cover your webcam with a piece of paper.

And be sure to check out our piece on dark web myths debunked 6 Dark Web Myths Debunked: The Truths Behind Them You've heard about the Dark Web, but is it really as scary or illegal as you've been lead to think? Read More so that you know what’s true and not before you visit it.

4. Install TAILS

The Amnesiac Incognito Live System (TAILS) is a unique Debian-based version of Linux that leaves no trace of any user activity—nor the operating system itself—on your computer.


The operating system is free to use and live boots from a USB stick or DVD.

TAILS cannot save cookies or file to your hard-drive without directly asking it to do so. You also won’t run the risk of browsers dumping “page out” data onto your disk (most browsers do so for speed and efficiency.)

Furthermore, TAILS comes with the Tor Browser pre-installed; you won’t need to worry about extra steps once you’re up and running.

All web traffic on a TAILS machine is automatically routed through Tor. If the operating system detects any non-anonymous connections, it will automatically block them.

And yes, TAILS also has built-in productivity tools like a word processor and email client, meaning you can do more than merely browse the web while it is running.

You can download tails from

5. Know Where You’re Going

When you access the dark web, you won’t have the luxury of Google neatly indexing search results for you to browse. As a result, it can be hard to find what you’re looking for; you could easily stumble into someplace you really don’t want to be.

As such, we recommend using one of the many directory sites to decide upon the pages you want to visit before you even open Tor.

There are lots of great resources on the web that can help to point you in the right direction, not least our own guide to the best dark websites you won’t find on Google.

The dark web itself also has plenty of dark web site directories. One of the best places to start for both newbies and experienced users is The Hidden Wiki. You can access it by pasting the following link into the Tor browser:


You should also check out our article on how to find active onion sites How to Find Active .Onion Dark Web Sites (And Why You Might Want To) The Dark Web, in part, consists of .onion sites, hosted on the Tor network. How do you find them and where to go? Follow me... Read More —we’ve listed some of the best dark web directories out there.

6. Use Cryptocurrency for All Your Transactions

If you want to purchase something from one of the many dark web marketplaces, under no circumstances should you use anything other than cryptocurrency. Indeed, you’ll find most sellers will not accept regular credit card payments.

Of course, the temptation is to use Bitcoin—it’s the world’s most common cryptocurrency, and many people think it is entirely anonymous. In practice, that’s not true. Issues such as address reuse, connected nodes, tracking cookies, and blockchain analytics mean it’s very possible for someone to link your personal details to a transaction.

You could use a “Bitcoin mixer” to anonymize your tokens, but they’re expensive and require you to place trust in an otherwise untraceable third-party.

Instead, you should use a privacy-focused coin. The two most common are Monero and Zcash. We’ve published a complete guide to Monero on our sister site, BlocksDecoded.

7. Close Everything

When you’ve finished browsing the dark web, don’t be lazy. Make sure you shut all your browser windows and other content that may be connected.

If you’ve used TAILS, quit the operating system and reboot back into your usual interface. If you’ve used Windows or macOS, it’s a good idea to restart your machine.

More Dark Web Tips

If you carefully follow the seven tips we have provided, you will be well on the way to accessing the dark web in a safe, secure, and anonymous way.

If you would like to learn more about the dark web, check out our visual guide to the deep and dark web and if you’re still unsure, browse through these reasons that you might want to avoid the dark web 6 Reasons You Should Avoid the Dark Web Thinking about visiting the dark web, the sinister underbelly of the internet? Here are reasons why you should avoid the dark web. Read More .

Related topics: Dark Web, VPN.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. JustAnotherTorUser
    July 12, 2020 at 9:43 am

    I would not recommend using a VPN in combination with Tor at all.

    "By using a VPN with Tor, you're creating essentially a permanent entry node, often with a money trail attached. This provides 0 additional benefit to you, while increasing the attack surface of your connection dramatically. If you wish to hide your Tor usage from your ISP or your government, Tor has a built-in solution for that: Tor bridges.
    Read more about Tor bridges and why using a VPN is not necessary:" -

    Essentially, you are ruining your anonymity at no extra benefit. It's best to not modify Tor Browser (or your connection to Tor, for that matter) at all unless you are experienced and know exactly what you are doing. There is a list of warnings and other documentation at the official tor website:

    Stay safe!

  2. Don Juan
    August 29, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    I am using Vpnbook, a free vpn service, i hope it works fine with tor.

  3. Thom Yorke
    February 6, 2019 at 12:44 am

    Tor over ExpressVPN is where it's at.