A Dark Web browser allows you to access a huge portion of web content hidden from public view. Here’s a list of the top 5 Dark Web browsers.
We will get into our rundown of the top Dark Web browsers. But before that, let’s explore the difference between the “Dark Web” and the public web first.
The U.S. Defense Department’s ARPANET, or the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (1969), provided the foundation of today’s internet. Since then, it has evolved into a worldwide platform with fathomless depths.
Contrary to what you might think, the internet and the World Wide Web aren’t synonymous. Internet is the global hardware network made of all connected devices that allows you to access the WWW content.
But not all of the web content is visible to your average search engine. You can find only a small part of all web pages through traditional search engines such as Google.
The rest is part of what is called the “Deep Web” and the “Dark Web.”
Most use these two terms interchangeably. But they are not synonymous.
What is the Difference Between the Dark Web and the Deep Web?
Most people confuse the Deep Web and the Dark Web. And they both differ from, well, the regular web.
You’re using the Deep Web daily without realizing it.
Deep Web is the digital data that’s not indexed by conventional search engines and has limited access.
When you check your email, your Facebook profile, or your bank account balance, you’re in the Deep Web. It also includes user databases, web archives, company intranets, and other stuff that you can’t Google.
It’s estimated that the Deep Web is 400 to 500 times larger than the visible, or surface web.
The Dark Web is a part existing within the Deep Web as a network of encrypted websites.
Here, it’s all about anonymity and privacy. No IP addresses or DNS would allow the identification of sites.
They’re not all platforms where activities take place, though many Dark Web websites engage in illegal businesses.
Why Do People Use Dark Web Browsers?
The Dark Web isn’t necessarily for shady dealings. People could get into the Dark Web to seek anonymity, privacy, freedom of speech, knowledge-sharing, etc.
Political oppositionists, activists, whistleblowers, and many others can find in the Dark Web security they wouldn’t see otherwise.
The Dark Web also provides a refuge for ordinary people who are protective of their identity and personal information. Marketers can’t bombard them with “unethical” targeted ads on the Dark Web.
Within the Dark Web network, information flows in a complicated way, involving many traffic “nodes.”
Multi-layered encryption makes it hard to connect a user to any particular activity.
However, the Dark Web isn’t as dark as criminals would’ve liked it to be. The location, identity, and activities of the user aren’t 100% “safe.”
How to Surf the Dark Web
To access the Dark Web, you need a particular browser.
Your average browser won’t get you anywhere in this case. Instead of the usual TLDs such as “.com” or “.net,” Dark Web site URLs often come with “.onion.” Only Tor users can access these URLs.
The Dark Web isn’t inherently “evil” or illegal. It’s a tool whose potential harm or good is up to its users.
Below is a list of the top 5 Dark Web browsers:
1) Invisible Internet Project (I2P): Invisible Messages
To browse the Dark Web, there are many other solutions than Tor, like the Invisible Internet Project (I2P).
I2P is an anonymous network designed to secure the transfer of anonymous information between different applications. The communication is encrypted end to end. The I2P browser uses four layers of encryption to secure a message.
Through the I2P browser, you can access the Dark Web using a layered data stream to hide your real identity.
Users have their own I2P “router” complete with inbound and outbound “tunnels.” You can’t know for sure which inbound tunnel the message went through to reach the recipient through which outbound tunnel.
Clients can choose the length of their inbound and outbound tunnels according to their needs. The longer the tunnels, the more anonymity, but also the more latency. Unlike Tor, you can’t use I2P to access the public web.
2) FreeNet: Dark Refuge for Freedom of Speech
Introducing its project, Freenet quotes Mike Godwin from Electronic Frontier Foundation:
“I worry about my child and the Internet all the time, even though she’s too young to have logged on yet. Here’s what I worry about. I worry she’ll come to me and say ‘Daddy, where were you when they took freedom of the press away from the Internet?”
Like other dark web browsers, FreeNet is another anonymity-based dark network that uses free software to protect freedom of speech and fight censorship of information. Users can access websites, chat forums, and various types of content available only through Freenet’s network.
The decentralized approach to its design makes Freenet less vulnerable to attacks. Freenet works to ensure that the free flow of information, as a human right, continue without disruption.
The notion of copyrights has no place in FreeNet. As FreeNet claims, the reason is that enforcing copyrights usually entails the monitoring of communications, which compromises free speech.
The organization does, however, recognize the importance of copyrights. As an alternative to reward artists and right holders, FreeNet proposes a community-based patronage system.
3) Subgraph OS: Safe Dark Computing
Subgraph’s free and open-source platform was created from the vision that people should be able to communicate freely.
Using the same source code, Subgraph OS comes with a built-in Tor integration. It works like a desktop operating system but was designed mainly as an adversary-resistant computing platform.
In addition to multi-layer encryption, the network uses “sandbox containers” to eliminate any malware threat in the bud.
When Subgraph spots an at-risk application, it immediately activates its containment mechanism. This isolation system allows the strengthening of user security and prevents the jeopardization of the whole network.
4) TAILS: Leave no Trace
TAILS is another Darknet browser that helps you go incognito on the Dark Web. It is entirely amnesiac as to your deeds.
Released in 2009, TAILS, an acronym for The Amnesic Incognito Live System is a security-focused live OS based on Debian GNU/Linux. You can run TAILS independently from your everyday operating system using a DVD or USB stick.
“Using Tails on a computer doesn’t alter or depend on the operating system installed on it. So you can use it in the same way on your computer, a friend’s computer, or one at your local library. After shutting down Tails, the computer will start again with its usual operating system.”
To ensure privacy and anonymity, TAILS forces every outgoing or incoming connection through Tor filters. Also, TAILS cryptographic tools make sure all files, emails, and messages are safe. Unless you explicitly ask it to, TAILS will keep no records of your connections.
A variety of built-in apps come with TAILS, all pre-configured with security and anonymity in mind. An OS, a browser, email service, instant messaging, office suite, and others all in one solution.
5) Tor: the Top Dark Web Browser
Last but not least, we have Tor.
There’s just no way to talk about and make a list of dark web browsers without bringing up The Onion Router (TOR).
Simply put, the TOR browser is in a league of its own. It is the first and most powerful Deep Web browser. It is also undoubtedly the most popular. Tor Browser is downloaded 100,000 times every day by either new or existing users.
Just like there are many layers to the real onion, the Tor network has many layers of encryption.
Free and open-source, Tor was created based on research by the U.S. Army. To this day, the Tor project benefits from the support funding of the U.S. government.
In the mid-1990s, the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL) was looking for a way to secure government communication. They came up with the concept of “onion routing” that now powers Tor.
Onion routing means sending information through a maze of user computers serving as nodes. The computer of the user requesting the information will be the “exit node.”
One would ask: why would the developers release such a tool to the broad public and compromise its efficiency? Well, it’s because of that — efficiency.
If government agents only used the Tor network, their actions would be more suspicious. Any connection coming from the Dark Web to the surface web would be easily red-flagged.
The more “ordinary” people use the software, the more they can blend in. Tor isn’t that anonymous, after all.
How to Use Tor Safely
Here’s how to use Tor the Dark Web browser to explore the onion network. Opening your standard browser and go to “https://www.torproject.org/download/.” Or type tor download in Google.
Click the download button after choosing your language and version (Windows, Mac, Linux). Tor is also available for iOS and Android.
Install the Tor software on your computer. Then click “connect.” The other option, “configure,” is reserved for users whose country of origin blocks Tor for any reason.
When you open the Tor browser, you’ll see it uses DuckDuckGo as a default search engine.
Before you start surfing the Dark Web, check if your computer is connected to the Tor network. In the address bar, type “check.torproject.org.”
It would provide you with your Dark Web IP address different from your usual one.
You can click on the icon, in the top right-hand corner, to request a “new identity.” This option will prevent your Dark Web browsing from being easily connected to your actual IP address. You can also have another layer of anonymity by using a VPN service along with Tor.
10 Do’s and Don’ts for Using Tor and Browsing the Dark Web
- Tor isn’t an encryption tool for ordinary internet traffic. It’s a traffic router that anonymizes the origin of internet traffic and its trajectory. Don’t use Dark Web browsers like Tor with HTTP Websites, as opposed to HTTPS.
- Even when surfing the Dark Web, you leave breadcrumbs of your activities all over the place. Specific websites you visited, a PDF document you viewed here, or a torrent file you downloaded there. For maximum anonymity, when using a browser, you should use a VPN.
- Don’t access any random .onion URL you find. Ensure URLs are accurate and keep a record of correct URLs. Tor doesn’t support caching. Be careful not to click whatever links you stumble on. Check the trustworthiness of an onion website address.
- Use the latest Tor version. Make sure to always keep your system up to date. This includes your OS, Tor client, and Tor applications.
- A Dark Web browser doesn’t secure data stored on your computer. For example, a hacker can still access your personal information through the internet. Then he has access to your Dark Web “identity.” If you like, you can use a specialized cryptographic tool to encrypt your sensitive data.
- Don’t use Google on the Tor network. Google is known for being all about data, particularly personal data. Try privacy-compliant alternatives like DuckDuckGo or Startpage.
- Don’t use your real email or anything that gives away your real identity while on the Tor network. It’s like wearing a face mask with your name printed on the forehead.
- Do use the Dark Web and Tor browser. It’s for anyone who wants to avoid tracking and hacking and protect their anonymity and privacy. For those who want to blow the whistle on corruption, to report abuse, or divulge sensitive information and fear for their lives.