What is the Deep Web?
If you want to visit a website like Amazon or Wikipedia, you won’t have any trouble finding it even if you don’t remember the exact URL. You can just type what you’re looking for into Google or Bing and a link will show up in the search results. However, not every website can be found this way. The deep web is a term for any part of the internet that isn’t indexed by search engines and so can’t be found through search results. Even though the deep web sounds intimidating, it includes lots of mundane, everyday websites like company intranets, webmail platforms, and private databases. Even the contents of your personal Google Drive are part of the deep web because they are hidden behind an authentication process. Within the deep web is another part of the internet called the dark web. These websites are so well-hidden that they can’t be accessed at all with a normal browser. Most of the dark web can only be accessed using Tor.
What is Tor?
Tor, short for The Onion Router, is a free, open-source software combined with a global network of servers that helps you stay anonymous online. When you connect to the internet using Tor, your data is wrapped in multiple layers of secure encryption. Your encrypted data is then directed through a random series of volunteer-operated servers called nodes. Each node that you pass through decrypts a single layer of encryption to learn where to direct your traffic next. The next node decrypts the next layer of encryption, and so on. The “onion” part of The Onion Router comes from this process of peeling off layers of encryption like the layers of an onion. Tor’s system of multi-layer encryption ensures that each volunteer server knows which node you come from and which node to send you to, but nothing else. This makes your internet activity extremely difficult to track. Tor is used not only to browse the internet anonymously but also to host websites hidden behind multiple layers of encryption. You can read more about Tor here.
What Are.onion Sites?
Any website that is part of the Tor network has a URL that ends in.onion and can only be accessed using Tor. Your regular browser won’t be able to view these websites. .onion URLs usually look different from the URLs you’re used to. They are usually long, complex, and hard to remember. Some.onion websites also change their URLs regularly to maximize their privacy.
Are.onion Sites Safe?
Although Tor is designed to protect your anonymity, it doesn’t completely guarantee your safety or privacy. For one thing, your ISP knows when you are using Tor to access the internet. If your ISP knows, then it’s entirely possible that the government knows as well. In most countries, it’s not illegal to browse with Tor or access.onion websites. However, you can still attract unwanted attention to yourself by making it obvious that you are hiding your activity. In addition, the series of nodes that your traffic is directed through when you use Tor are all volunteer operated. You have no idea who is controlling each of those servers. Even though Tor’s multi-layer encryption system is strong, it isn’t perfect and lacks the additional security features of a VPN. That’s why we strongly recommend that you use a VPN alongside Tor when you explore.onion sites.How to Safely Access.onion Sites
The best way to safely access.onion sites is to use a combination of Tor and a top-rated VPN. One way to do this is to simply connect to your VPN first and then use the Tor browser to connect to Tor. You can download the Tor browser on the official Tor website if you don’t already have it. This method is known as “Tor over VPN”. Since your VPN will immediately hide your IP address and encrypt your traffic, you never have to reveal any of your information to the Tor network. Some VPN providers also offer built-in Tor services that make it even easier to use a VPN and Tor together. For example, NordVPN offers an Onion over VPN service that allows you to connect to Tor through special NordVPN servers instead of having to use the Tor browser. There is another method known as “VPN over Tor”, but it’s a little trickier to set up. You can read more about the different methods here. Whichever method you choose, the final step is the same. Once you’re securely connected to your VPN and Tor, you simply type or copy and paste the.onion URL into your browser and go.