The dark web, or darknet, has a bad name for itself, often associated with several illegal activities outside of your general search engine. Despite this, it is not the platform that is inherently bad, but simply the way it is used.
Access to the dark web requires special anonymous browsers, such as Tor, I2P and Freenet, but it is extremely important to make sure you protect your privacy when doing so – which is why we also recommend using a private network. virtual.
We list the best VPNs for the dark web and show you how to use a VPN on the dark web.
What is the dark web?
The dark canvas can be a scary place. It has acquired a reputation for being filled with underground markets specializing in the sale of stolen personal data, pirated accounts, illicit drugs, weapons and counterfeit goods. Many dark web markets even deal with things like child pornography, human trafficking, and contract killer services.
On the other hand, despite its dark reputation, the dark web can also be a legitimate and necessary place for dissidents, whistleblowers, journalists, human rights investigators or anyone who simply wants to escape censorship or maintain optimal anonymity online.
Essentially, the dark web represents a small part of the much larger deep web, a part of the internet that is not indexed by search engines like Google. The dark web is an intentionally hidden area of the deep web that is only accessible using software like Tor, which routes your Internet connection via various servers managed by volunteers around the world, modifying the IP address and encrypting your traffic. each time it goes through a node, making it virtually impossible to trace your online activity back to you.
While using Tor is essential for accessing the dark web and staying anonymous during this process, using a VPN for the dark web can have additional benefits for your overall privacy, as a VPN can help hide your use of Tor to your Internet service provider or government entities.
5 best VPNs for the Dark Web
Below is a list of the top picks from our experts for the best dark web VPNs available today. If you need more information on any of the services below, click on the providers website or take a look at our informative VPN reviews.
AirVPN is a great, incredibly secure VPN provider based in Italy. 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, Tor network integration and a kill switch make AirVPN a solid choice for anyone needing access to the dark web. In addition to this, AirVPN does not collect any logs and accepts a wide range of cryptocurrencies for payment. Adding to the overall privacy of the platform, no personal information whatsoever, not even a real email address, is required to create an account.
The AirVPN client is compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS and routers. The only drawback for beginners is that AirVPN is manufactured by technicians and more geared towards the crowd of technicians. That's not to say that newbies won't be able to get used to it and use it properly, it's just that it may not be as simple or just plug-and-play as soon as the departure for the novices. In any case, AirVPN offers a 3-day free trial with no strings attached, so you can test it to see how it works for you.
ProtonVPN is an ultra secure and ultra fast VPN provider based in Switzerland, housing some of the strictest privacy protections in the world and outside the jurisdiction of the Fourteen Eyes network. ProtonVPN supports Tor integration, does not keep any logs, and offers excellent encryption standards to secure user connections. Additional security features include DNS leak protection and a kill switch.
In addition, to further strengthen the security of the ProtonVPN network, the company hosts its Secure Core servers in a Swiss military fall protection shelter located one kilometer underground. ProtonVPN also hosts servers in a former Icelandic military facility and in a Swedish underground data center. You can also register anonymously with a ProtonMail email address. The ProtonVPN client works perfectly on all major operating systems and allows you to connect up to 10 devices simultaneously.
NordVPN is a superb full VPN service which also proves to be the first choice for dark web users. In addition to being incredibly easy to use, NordVPN offers hermetic security features including 256-bit AES encryption, automatic shutdown switch and CyberSec technology that blocks potentially dangerous websites that may host malware. These security features, combined with world-class connection speeds, a strict no-logging policy, and Tor compatibility, make NordVPN one of the best when it comes to browsing the dark web.
With NordVPN, you have access to 55,000 servers in 59 different countries. You can also pay for your subscription anonymously using Bitcoin. NordVPN offers an excellent versatile, highly secure product that works well on each of the main operating systems, all at a very reasonable price. If you want to see if NordVPN is the right service for your web browsing, don't hesitate to give it a risk free shot thanks to its generous 30-day money back guarantee.
Mullvad is simply one of the best VPNs for protecting your privacy and anonymity, which is obviously a good thing if you want to surf the dark web. You can sign up for an account without disclosing a single piece of personal information, and the company encourages users to pay anonymously via cryptocurrency or even cash. They also offer low cost monthly plans which do not require you to sign a long term contract.
Mullvad does not keep any logs and offers Tor integration in addition to tight security, strong encryption protocols and extremely fast server speeds. The client software is exceptionally easy to use and available on Windows, macOS and Linux. If you're looking for a first-class VPN provider that really focuses on securing your dark web needs, you really can't go wrong with Mullvad.
ExpressVPN consistently ranks among the best VPN providers in many categories that we analyze here on VPNOnlineFree.com. It's certainly no different here, because ExpressVPN is also one of the best when it comes to protecting users on the dark web. ExpressVPN offers a special network of “stealth” servers specially designed to thwart the Chinese “big firewall” and allow users to evade government censorship efforts. On top of that, Express VPN is extraordinarily easy to use and uses a strict no-logging policy and offers robust security features, including a kill switch, 256-bit AES encryption, and DNS leak protection.
You'll have no trouble finding fast lighting servers nearby either, because ExpressVPN offers one of the largest and most comprehensive VPN server networks available, including 160 server locations in 94 different countries in the world. You can pay for your subscription via BitCoin, and you can even sign up completely anonymously via Tor on the dark mirror site of ExpressVPN.
While ExpressVPN is certainly one of the most expensive options on the market today, with all the security features and privacy protections you get, it's worth it. And as a bonus, if you go for the annual plan, you will get three additional months for free.
How to use VPN and Tor together to access the dark web securely
While browsing the dark web requires some vigilance and at least a basic understanding of the risks taken, protecting your privacy is incredibly simple. Simply:
- Download the Tor browser.
- Subscribe to a VPN (preferably using one of the providers listed in this article), log in and make sure the kill switch is on.
- Connect to a server. Remember that the servers closest to you are generally faster than those of other countries or continents.
- Launch Tor browser.
- Surf the dark web. By connecting to the dark web in this way, no one will be able to detect that you are using Tor or accessing the dark web, because your Internet connection will be fully encrypted by your VPN.
- Make sure you always end your Tor session first, before disconnecting from the VPN server.
Deep web versus dark web
Many people often confuse the terms “deep web” and “dark web” as being interchangeable. There is, however, an important distinction between the two.
The deep web refers to any part of the Internet that is not indexed or searchable by the search engines that you use daily. This includes, but is not limited to, any part of the Internet that is password protected, such as personal bank accounts, email accounts, medical records, private databases, Amazon accounts, accounts Facebook, etc. For example, I couldn't Google access to Anne's personal Netflix account or check the balance on Larry's PayPal account. Indeed, all this information resides properly secure on the deep web. In fact, it is very likely that you access the Deep Web daily.
The dark web, on the other hand, represents a tiny fraction of the deep web which is intentionally hidden from search engines and requires special anonymization software like Tor to access it. Anyone who needs to be able to circumvent censorship, exercise their freedom of expression or need complete online anonymity for any other reason can do so on the dark web.
Basically, all of the dark web is part of the deep web, but not all of the deep web is not part of the dark web.
Why using a Dark Web VPN is beneficial
There are several reasons why it can be very beneficial to use a VPN to access the dark web. For one, Tor is often blocked, or at least partially blocked, in places like China, Iran, Turkey, and Venezuela – regions of the world that aren't exactly privacy-friendly. If you are in such an area, you can use a VPN to route your connection across another country to access Tor, and ultimately the dark web.
On top of that, by using a VPN, you are effectively hiding the fact that you are using Tor from any government authority that may be interested in spying on what you are preparing online. And it's not only relevant to users under the surveillance of authoritarian regimes like China; using Tor could even put you on the NSA's watch list in the United States and elsewhere.
Using a dark web VPN will also hide your Tor connection from any other third party that may be monitoring your online activity, including your Internet Service Provider (ISP). You'd better hide the fact that you are using Tor from your ISP because most, if not all, ISPs record, collect and store your activity online, and are in some corners of the globe known to sell this data to advertisers and others interested parties.
While Tor keeps you anonymous while accessing the dark web, using an additional VPN will add a much-needed extra layer of privacy.
Features that make a VPN suitable for the dark web
- Secured – First of all, your dark web VPN must be secure. This includes the provision of strong encryption protocols, as well as protection against IP leaks.
- No newspapers – The VPN provider must have a strict no-logging policy to guarantee that it will never have a record of your online activity when connected to its service. This is particularly important because if an authority tries to force a logeless VPN to deliver user data, it will literally have nothing to deliver.
- Immobilizer – A kill switch is an essential security feature for any dark web VPN as it will automatically stop your Internet connection in case your VPN disconnects for any reason. If your VPN stops but your Internet connection remains intact, you risk exposing the fact that you are using Tor to your ISP, government agencies, or anyone else who may be spying on your connection.
- Tor support – VPN providers that offer special Tor-related features are much better equipped to cater to dark web users than those who don't.
- Fast server speeds – Tor, by its inherent nature, is indeed quite slow. Encrypting and re-encrypting your connection repeatedly over multiple nodes around the world does not exactly allow fast connection speeds. This is why it is essential that your darknet VPN provider provides ultra-fast servers to limit as much as possible the overall deterioration in your connection speeds when using Tor.
- Accept anonymous payments – Of course, it's about staying anonymous when using the dark web. If your dark web VPN provider accepts anonymous payment methods like Bitcoin or even cash, this can only help you ensure that your anonymity is completely secure.
Below you will find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the dark web in general and using a VPN to access the dark web.