We’ve all heard about the dark web, but what actually is it? Is there any reason to access the dark web? Is it legal? What are the dangers? Well, the dark web is a layer of the internet that has no web page indexing. The layer that you’re on right now is known as the surface layer and refers to everything on the internet we can see. The dark web, on the other hand, is invisible and can only be accessed using a special browser (such as Tor). The dark web, although legal, is much more dangerous than the surface layer we’re used to, and is host to extreme cyber threats that can cause a ton of damage. 

If you’re keen on checking out the dark web, then you need to take precautions to ensure your own safety. With a VPN, all your traffic is encrypted making it indecipherable and out of the reach of cybercriminals. VPNs also hide your ISP address so your ISP, government agencies, and other third parties cannot monitor you and track your online activity. Keep reading to find out how to safely access the dark web using a VPN in 2022! 

A man on the dark web
Did you know? The dark web is legal in most countries around the world! However, participating in any illegal activities on the dark web is still against the law and can land you in serious trouble. 

How to safely access the dark web quick guide

Short on time? Here’s how to access the dark web in just a few steps. This process is incredibly easy and will only take a few minutes!

  1. Choose a VPN

    The best VPN for accessing the dark web will have robust security and a no-logs policy to help you remain safe and anonymous. See below to find our top recommended VPNs for the dark web.  

  2. Install app/client

    Once you’ve chosen a suitable VPN, install the app or client on your Windows, Mac, Android or Linux device(s). Next, open up the app/client to see a list of available servers.

  3. Connect a server

    Either use your VPN’s quick connection button or manually connect to a nearby server (make sure your chosen server is in a country where Tor is not blocked). After connection, your traffic will be secured in an encrypted tunnel.

  4. Download Tor

    ‘The Onion Router’ (Tor) is open-source software that allows you to anonymously access the dark web. Download Tor here and then open up the Tor Browser.

  5. Enter the dark web

    Now, you can safely and anonymously access the dark web.

Access the dark web with NordVPN* now!

What is the dark web?

The dark web is a hidden layer of the internet that can only be accessed by a specialised web browser. This layer consists of internet sites too but they cannot be found by standard search tools such as Google. The standard browser for the dark web is Tor (The Onion Router) Browser which encrypts and directs user traffic through the Tor network. This open source browser allows users to reach the dark web and browse anonymously with their IP addresses being untraceable.

You may have heard of the term ‘dark web’ before and have been led to believe that it’s ripe with illegal activities, but this is not exactly true. Before we dive into more detail about the dark web, let’s take a look at all three layers of the internet –  

  • Surface web – The surface web (also known as the open web) is the visible layer that we’re all used to seeing. Websites in the surface web, such as the one you’re on right now, can be publicly accessed on standard browsers and can be found through search engines such as Google. Domains for the surface web usually end in .com, .gov, or .org.
  • Deep web – The deep web, often confused with the dark web, is the next layer of the internet that is not indexed or searchable by search engines. This layer makes up approximately 90% of the entire internet and mainly consists of private databases and internal networks. The purpose of the deep web is to store information that should remain private and can only be accessed by authorised users. For example, if you have an email, social media, online banking, or any other account that needs a username and password, then the information you’re accessing is on the deep web. 
  • Dark web – The dark web is a small part of the deep web that can only be accessed through the Tor Browser. The dark web is much more difficult to navigate compared to the surface web and many users will never access it. URLs on the dark web usually consist of a random selection of letters and numbers which are often changed regularly, so websites can be difficult to find.  All dark web addresses end with .onion.  

What can I find on the dark web?

There’s no doubt that the dark web has a pretty bad reputation. As this layer of the web is completely unregulated, criminals are able to sell illegal items on black markets whilst maintaining their anonymity. Here is a glimpse at a few illegal items that have been listed on the dark web – courtesy of Privacy Affairs’ Dark Web Price Index 2022.

CategoryProduct Avg. Price (USD)
Credit card dataCloned Mastercard with PIN$20
Payment processing services50 hacked PayPal account logins$150
Crypto AccountsKraken verified account$250
Social MediaHacked Gmail account$65
Hacked ServicesNetflix account (1 year)$25
Forged Documents (scan)New York driver’s licence$70
Forged Documents (physical)Various European Union passports$3,800
MalwareEurope, medium-quality, 70% success rate, per 1,000 $450
DDOS AttacksUnprotected website, 10-50k requests per second, 1 month$850

The good side of the dark web

However, the dark web doesn’t consist of only criminals and illegal item listings. In fact, users can benefit from using the dark web, especially those who would be endangered by having their identities revealed online such as whistleblowers, journalists, political protesters, and those living under oppressive or restrictive regimes. As the dark web is difficult to monitor and regulate, it prevents users from being filtered or censored when communicating and discussing news/information. You can also find legitimate products on the dark web including physical items and research materials that cannot be found on the surface web.

Tip – It’s good to note that using the dark web isn’t actually illegal(in most countries) and you’re only breaking the law if you participate in an illegal activity. 

Why do I need a VPN to access the dark web?

Although the dark web is not necessarily the villain of the internet that we may have been led to believe, it can still be dangerous to navigate if you don’t take the appropriate precautions. Similar to the surface web, criminals and scammers will be lurking the dark web looking for victims, and if you’re not careful, you can accidentally download malicious files that can spread malware to your device or have your personal information stolen through phishing scams. 

Additionally, your ISP (internet service provider) can tell when you’re using the Tor Browser since Tor node IPs are public. Even if you live in a country where accessing the dark web is legal, you may still be put under surveillance for accessing it. Therefore it’s vital that you use a VPN to stop your ISP and government agencies from seeing your Tor Browser activity

A VPN provides users with anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. This can prevent cybercriminals from intercepting any data that can be received or sent. When you connect to a VPN server, your IP address is concealed and temporarily replaced by the server’s. This means that your ISP cannot see your online activity and stops you from being flagged and possibly tracked by authorities. VPNs can also shield you from dangerous cyber threats such as DDoS attacks, malware, and botnets, so you can browse the dark web safely as well as anonymously. Find out more reasons to use a VPN here!

Our top recommended VPNs for accessing the dark web in 2022 

The best VPNs for accessing the dark web will be highly secure and use military-grade encryption along with other security protocols such as a kill switch, and private DNS. As we’ve already discussed, cybercriminals are lurking on the dark web looking for victims, so encrypting your traffic using a reliable VPN is absolutely vital. Discover other useful features of a VPN with our in-depth guide!

Additionally, your chosen VPN should have a no-logs policy and be based in a country outside of EU and US jurisdictions. This will ensure that you remain completely anonymous when accessing the dark web. With this in mind, here are our top recommended best VPNs for accessing the dark web in 2022 – 

  1. NordVPN 

NordVPN is one of the world’s most secure and reliable providers, which is why it sits at the top of our list of the best VPNs for safely accessing the dark web. If you want to stay out of harm’s way, but still enjoy fast browsing speeds and no interruptions, then all you really need is NordVPN. 

With over 5000 servers in 60 countries, NordVPN ensures that wherever you are, you’ll have a nearby server to connect to and use to access the dark web. These servers are also incredibly fast, so you can browse at high-speed and won’t need to disconnect from a server if you decide to stream, torrent, or play games. Additionally, NordVPN uses obfuscated servers to hide users’ VPN usage so not even their ISP can see that they’re using one. This can reduce your chance of being targeted by bandwidth throttling, further guaranteeing that your connection speeds are never slowed down. 

Aside from being fast and dependable, NordVPN is also extremely secure which is crucial for users who want to access the dark web. Your traffic will be secured with AES 256-bit encryption which is practically impossible to decipher. On top of this, you can ensure your online safety with NordVPN’s included security features such as a kill switch, dedicated IP, private DNS, double VPN protection, and threat protection. 

NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy that has been independently audited to prove that the provider is being honest about their no-logging claims. The provider is based in Panama, a country that’s outside EU and US jurisdictions, so you won’t have to worry about your online activity being logged or shared with government agencies when using this VPN. 

The NordVPN client is available on all major operating systems including Windows, macOS, Android, and Linux so you can access Tor browser to see the dark web on any of your preferred devices. NordVPN users are given unlimited bandwidth and can have up to 6 simultaneous connections. If that’s not enough, then you can also configure the VPN on your router to protect every device in your home network with a single NordVPN subscription. 

Try out NordVPN* for accessing the dark web for free for 30 days with their money-back guarantee! 

  1. ProtonVPN

ProtonVPN is another fantastic VPN that provides robust security features and exceptional privacy measures. This VPN is perfect for those who want to stay anonymous when online and browse the dark web without a trace. ProtonVPN also integrates with the Tor anonymity network, so you can access the VPN’s Tor-enabled servers to access the dark web without needing a Tor browser. 

With over 1600 servers in 63 countries, ProtonVPN can protect users from all around the globe. More than 90 if these servers are part of ProtonVPN’s Secure Core architecture which allows the service to defend against network-based attacks by routing user traffic through several servers rather than just one. All servers in this VPN’s network are high-performing, so you won’t have to deal with slow connection speeds when online. The VPN additionally has P2P support which allows users to torrent on any server. 

ProtonVPN encrypts user traffic with military-grade AES 256-bit encryption and provides effective security features including a kill switch, always-on VPN, and DNS leak protection. There’s also an included ad blocker, NetShield, which can speed up your usual browsing speeds by preventing ads from loading on your browser. ProtonVPN uses only the most secure VPN protocols, OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IKEv2.

This VPN is open source, has been independently audited, and has a strict no-logs policy. Additionally, Proton VPN is based in Switzerland so the provider is protected by some of the world’s strongest data privacy laws. This also means the VPN is outside of EU and US jurisdictions, so it is not required to maintain or share user logs. 

You can download ProtonVPN now on any Windows, macOS, Android, and Linux device to safely access the dark web. The VPN provides unlimited bandwidth and users are allowed up to 10 simultaneous connections, so you can secure all your favourite devices at the same time. 

Try out ProtonVPN* for accessing the dark web for free for 30 days with their money-back guarantee! 

  1. Surfshark 

For the ultimate security from a VPN at a low cost, look no further than Surfshark. This VPN is an affordable option for users who are on a tight budget but still want to stay safe when accessing the dark web. Surfshark provides everything you need to remain anonymous and protect all your devices from malware, cybercriminals, and other online threats. 

Surfshark has over 3200 servers in 65 countries, all of which provide lightning-fast connection speeds, so you won’t ever be slowed down when using the web or streaming content online. Each one of Surfshark’s RAM-only servers do not store any user data and are occasionally wiped. This VPN uses the secure VPN protocols, WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2. 

This VPN uses military-grade AES 256-bit encryption to secure user traffic, so you don’t have to worry about cybercriminals intercepting your traffic, spying on you, and stealing sensitive data. Surfshark provides other important security features such as a kill switch, camouflage mode, and private DNS with leak protection. There’s also a NoBorders mode which is automatically activated if the VPN detects network restrictions (such as a VPN-firewall. The mode will then connect you to a server that works best under these network restrictions so you can still safely use Surfshark from anywhere in the world.

Surfshark has a no-logs policy that has been independently audited, so you’re guaranteed the highest level of privacy when using this VPN. The Surfshark app/client can be downloaded on any Windows, macOS, Android, and Linux device in addition to most routers. Users are granted both unlimited bandwidth and unlimited simultaneous connections, so you and everyone in your household can protect all your devices and safely access the dark web. 

Try out Surfshark* for accessing the dark web for free for 30 days with their money-back guarantee!

A final note

Click here to discover how to safely access porn websites using a VPN!