How to Access the Dark Web Safely? [A Comprehensive Guide]

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Maxym Chekalov
Written by
Maxym Chekalov

Updated · Nov 16, 2023

Maxym Chekalov
SEO Specialist | Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
Maxym Chekalov

With a master's degree in telecommunications and over 15 years of working experience in telecommunic... | See full bio

Florence Desiata
Edited by
Florence Desiata


Florence Desiata
Joined June 2023 | LinkedIn
Florence Desiata

Florence is a dedicated wordsmith on a mission to make technology-related topics easy-to-understand.... | See full bio

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Most people are familiar with the term “dark web,” but not everyone knows how to get there. Statistics show that 56.8% of its contents are illegal

While many think the dark web is purely unlawful, it can still be used for legitimate purposes like academic research, accessing ad-free search engines, and more.

Continue reading to learn about how you can access the dark web safely. 

🔑 Key Takeaways

  • The dark web is the part of the Internet unindexed by regular search engines. It can only be accessed by specialized web browsers.
  • You can access the dark web safely with the right anonymizing and security tools, but it still involves significant risks.
  • Accessing the dark web itself is not illegal though it is often used for illegal activities.
  • Deep web is unindexed internet content, including legitimate resources. The dark web requires specific software associated with illicit actions.

Methods to Access the Dark Web Safely

The Internet is divided into three: the surface web, the deep web, and the dark web. 

The “surface web,” or the part of the Internet you see daily, only makes up around 4% of the entire Internet. The rest are shared by the deep web and dark web.

When using the dark web, you are vulnerable to various cybercrime—such as identity theft. Therefore, protecting yourself should be a priority. 

Anonymity tools are required when browsing the dark web. However, You must take additional steps to protect your anonymity.

Read more to learn about different methods of a safer way to access the dark web.

1. Utilize Onion Over VPN

More than 1.6 billion people use VPNs to browse the web. However, a VPN alone is not enough for the dark web. 

To access the dark web safely, you must use Onion Over VPN. This is a privacy feature that lets users connect to the Tor network through a VPN. 

How Onion Over VPN encrypts traffic

The user’s internet traffic is routed to a VPN and the Tor Network to add an extra layer of encryption and anonymity.

Here are the general steps to access the dark web using Onion Over VPN:

Note: The steps below used NordVPN. It is highly recommended by TechJury since it offers high-end security.

Step 1: Create an account and subscribe to a reputable VPN service. 

Step 2: Download and install the VPN app. 

NordVPN app download tab

Step 3: After the installation, launch the app and log in.

 Step 4: Find the Specialty servers category. 

NordVPN app interface

Step 5: Choose Onion Over VPN

Step 6: Click Connect, and wait until you've successfully connected.

Connecting to Onion Over VPN 

Step 7: After successfully connecting, users can now connect to Tor network websites.

Tor browser homepage

🔓 Security Note

You can access .onion websites with NordVPN's Onion Over VPN without a Tor browser. However, other browsers might save your browsing information. 

It is better to use the Tor browser with Onion Over VPN when accessing the dark web to ensure anonymity.

2. Use TAILS (The Amnesic Incognito Live System)

TAILS is a privacy-focused operating system designed to provide anonymity and security when using the Internet. 

It is a live operating system that runs entirely without being installed on the computer's hard drive. When using TAILS, the user’s online activities leave no trace.

Here are the steps to use TAILS when accessing the dark web:

Step 1: Go to

Step 2: Download TAILS for the specific operating system. 

Downloading TAILS on various OS

Note: It’s highly advised to download TAILS using a USB Stick.

 Step 4: Once it is installed, a pop-up will appear. Make sure the “Connect to Tor automatically” option is selected. Click Connect to Tor

Tor connection set up TAILS

Step 5: It will take some time to set up. When it's ready, you can now access the browser.

Step 6: As you open the browser, ensure your settings are set to the safest level. 

To do that, click the “shield icon” on the upper right level. On the security level, choose Safest.

Choosing the ‘safest’ security level TAILS

Step 7: After setting up, you can start browsing. 

The default search engine of the browser is DuckDuckGo. However, you can also access other dark web search engines.

✅ Pro Tip

Use a VPN while accessing the dark web with TAILS. This gives you more protection since it can mask the user's IP address.

Risks of Accessing the Dark Web

The dark web comes with significant risks. Its anonymity makes it easy for cybercriminals to perform illegal activities like hacking, selling drugs, stealing data, etc.

Below are some risks when accessing the dark web:

1. Legal Risk 

The dark web is commonly used for illicit activities. Participating in such activities can lead to legal repercussions.

2. Cybersecurity Risk

Many malicious software originated in the dark web. Downloading these harmful programs can steal sensitive information from the users' devices. 

3. Financial Safety Risk 

One wrong click while browsing the dark web can lead you to a shady site, putting your personal and financial information at risk. Financial frauds like phishing and auction fraud are rampant on the dark web. 

4. Exposure to disturbing content

Dark web videos are infamous for content such as child pornography, snuff films, and extreme violence. Less than 3 out of 10 dark web users seek out child exploitation material.

Accidentally encountering disturbing content can be a traumatic experience for the users.

👍 Helpful Article

The dark web can be beneficial if you know what you’re looking for. Check out the article below to see what sites you can visit on the dark web: 

The Legality of Using The Dark Web

Accessing the dark web itself is not illegal. However, most of the activities carried out on it are often unlawful.

Utilizing the platform's anonymity while doing illegal acts can lead to severe legal repercussions, including fines and imprisonment. 

Common dark web crimes are selling drugs, phishing, and money laundering. Drug crimes on the dark web are charged as federal drug trafficking.

The sentence for this is 5 to 20 years imprisonment for the first offense. It also depends on the quantity and what kind of substance.

Another common dark web crime is phishing, which caused most data breach cases. Statistics noted that businesses lose 50 million records from data breaches. 

Crimes related to phishing are identity theft and wire fraud. These two federal crimes carry fines or imprisonment for up to 15 years. 

Deep Web vs. Dark Web

Three parts of the web

The names deep web and dark web are usually used interchangeably, but they are different. 

The unindexed part of the Internet is known as the deep web. The usual search engines can not access this portion. This part of the web includes private databases, academic resources, and other legitimate sites.

To understand more about the difference between the dark and deep web, listed below are its characteristics.

Dark Web

Deep Web

  • Needs a special tool to access
  • Websites are not found on search engines
  • Onions Domains
  • Decentralized marketplaces
  • Sites require login
  • Email accounts
  • Banking portals
  • Subscription services

Evolution of the Dark Web

Initially, the dark web is for a good purpose. Its creation was for the improvement of communication systems. However, as time passed, people used it for illegal purposes. 

To know how it started and progressed through the years, take a closer look at the notable events in the development of the dark web.

Dark web evolution

1960s - Creation of ARPANET

In the 1960s, the pioneering computer network was developed through an experiment.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) led the study for computer communications networks using data packet switching. It was known as ARPANET.

Primarily, it was for communication between US universities. Eventually, this served as a precursor to the Internet. The dark web started to take its shape afterward.

1970s - The first illegal transaction

Students who used the ARPANET took advantage of the network. 

They used the ARPANET for commercial marijuana transactions. This marked the very first illicit transaction on the dark web. 

1980s - Rise of Data Havens

The popularity of the Internet raised questions about where data are stored. 

Data havens provided the answer. These are localities with stronger data protection laws—like tax or corporate havens.

1990s - The Internet was opened to the public

People realized that the Internet was a good place to get whatever they needed. It only took a little time for users to see the web as a platform that can be used for illegal use.

2000s - The release of Tor

When Tor was released, it forever changed the face of the Internet. It opened the door to the development of the dark web.

2010s - Silk Road Shutdown

Silk Road, the most notorious dark web marketplace, shut down in 2013. It was known to pioneer illicit activities in the dark web. A lifetime imprisonment was given to the founder Ross Ulbricht.


Accessing the dark web comes with significant risks. Precautions like a VPN and sticking to reputable websites should be taken when users browse the dark web.

Remember, surfing the dark web is not illegal. However, engaging in illicit activities there can lead to severe legal repercussions.


Will you get tracked on the dark web?

Yes. Tracking online activities on the dark web is possible, and your data can be exposed. It's essential to use a VPN to protect your identity and data.

Who created the dark web?

The US government created the dark web to communicate securely.

Can I remove my email from the dark web?

Unfortunately, once your email is on the dark web, it's challenging to remove it. The lawless and irregulated nature of the dark web makes it difficult to remove. 

Who uses the dark web the most?

Cybercriminals are the primary users of the dark web in the US alone, making up 34.81%. They use it mostly in buying and selling drugs.

Can you accidentally access the dark web?

Yes, it's possible to accidentally access the dark web by mistyping a URL. You should always be cautious and use a secure browser with a VPN when accessing the Internet. 


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