Should You Use a Security Tool to Dive Deeper into the Online World: VPN on the Dark Web

By Srikanth
11 Min Read
Should You Use a Security Tool to Dive Deeper into the Online World: VPN on the Dark Web 1

There’s a difference between the public, deep, and dark web, with the latter usually considered to be a hotbed of illegal activity…

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VPNs have become a common service over the last decade, and even the most casual Internet users are opting to use this security tool. But are VPNs only useful for offering you anonymity on “regular” and public websites and apps? The question is – if you want to dive deeper and access the dark web, should you use a VPN or not?

Note: This text isn’t an invitation to visit the dark web or to visit potentially suspicious and illegal sites. This text is about dark web security. If you visit the dark web, everything you do there is solely your responsibility!

Public, Deep and Dark Web: What’s the Difference?

The surface or public web is by far the most used part of the World Wide Web. This includes all your usual websites, like Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Amazon. If you only use the Internet to chat with friends, buy goods and services, browse the news, or stream content, it’s very likely that you’ve only used the “surface” web.

However, the web consists of multiple layers: the surface web, the deep web, and the dark web. Some even believe that there are even deeper layers, but we won’t deal with them in this text.

What you may not know is that as much as 90 percent of the web is deep web content, which consists of government records, scientific reports, financial records, and similar documents. An additional six percent is occupied by the dark web, while only four percent is the surface web. Of course, these numbers can change from year to year, but it’s important to note that the surface web you’re familiar with is only a small part of the web as a whole.

Although the term “deep web” may sound a little scary, many parts of this part of cyberspace are completely harmless. A large part of this area consists of huge databases from all kinds of industries, as we mentioned earlier. But just like the surface web, there are parts of the deep web that can pose a threat to you.

The next layer is the dark web. Many see this part of the web as a completely illegal space, filled with illegal content, drug and weapons markets, and stolen data. The dark web does contain those elements. Cybercriminals often take to the dark web to sell data they have stolen, whether it’s passports or other stolen private information or entire organizational databases. Of course, there are also markets for various illegal things on the dark web, which should be avoided at all costs!

But along with this more dubious side comes harmless content. Many people use the dark web to anonymously conduct research, bypass national censorship, and access hard-to-find documents. Regardless, there are still plenty of threats on the dark web that you don’t want to encounter. Thus, in order to reduce these hazards, should you rely on a VPN?

The Significance of Using a VPN for the Dark Web

The dark web is full of dangerous and illegal websites. You shouldn’t disregard the risks that this bottom component of the web poses to users, even though it can be utilized for benign purposes.

To access the dark web, you must use Tor. It’s a privacy-focused web browser that can be used to browse the surface, deep, and dark web. Tor uses “onion routing” to keep users anonymous, but it’s not the same as a VPN. Although onion routing, like a VPN, uses data encryption and remote servers, your data is sent to server locations that you can’t choose. Onion routing, on the other hand, encodes the information you input three times, as opposed to the encryption that most VPNs use only once.

Maintaining user anonymity is a primary goal of onion routing. By accessing the dark web through Tor, you can benefit from increased browser privacy. However, privacy and security aren’t the same thing, and this is a key element to consider here.

Even if you’re anonymous online, that doesn’t make you 100 percent safe. Of course, your IP address and browsing activity can be hidden from other users and sites, but your device can still be infected with malware via the dark web. While many cybercriminals flock to the dark web as a kind of lawless oasis, others use it as a base from which to launch their attacks, especially since police forces can’t oversee the dark web nearly as effectively as the surface web. If you add to this paying stuff on the black market in cryptocurrencies while on the dark web, it’s an ideal drive for lawbreakers to carry out their illicit operations on the property. The advantages of bitcoins and other digital coins for these activities are their anonymity, simplicity of transnational transactions, and finality of settlement.

In addition, your ISP can view your activities if you use onion routing devoid of a VPN. Although using Tor is not against the law, your IP address may be flagged as suspicious if your ISP discovers that you happen to use it frequently. As a gateway to the dark web, Tor is known to be popular with cybercriminals, so ISPs often look out for users who regularly use this browser.

Moreover, using Tor without an active VPN exposes your IP address to the browser’s entry node. In Tor’s onion routing process, there’s an input, intermediate, and output node. Also known as a “guard” node, an entry node is the first stop when you want to access a website. Without using a VPN, you access the entry node in raw form, which means your IP address is visible. If you want to conduct research or access content anonymously, using Tor without a VPN can be a problem, as you are somewhat exposed through the entry node.

VPNs to Avoid When Using the Dark Web

If you want to use a VPN and the Tor browser (also known as “onion-over-VPN”), there are many VPN providers that will work for you, including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN, and SurfShark. When using a VPN to access the dark web, there are a lot of different providers that you ought to steer away from though. This includes unverified and free VPNs that can be considered dangerous.

To begin with, free VPNs frequently lack essential features. Most free VPN companies are unable to provide the greatest features, like a “kill switch”, superior and double encryption of data, or other perks like virus scanning and ad blocking, since they lack the funding necessary to pay high user fees. If you’re visiting the dark web, you want to make sure you’re using an extremely secure VPN that can really protect you. A verified, paid VPN is the best choice.

You may also want to avoid VPNs that haven’t been independently verified. A VPN provider may claim to have the best encryption, a strict no-logs policy, and other great functionality, but only an independent audit (i.e. an audit by an unbiased third party) can determine if this is actually true. Some VPNs keep records of user activity and IP addresses, which is far from ideal when using the dark web – especially if you want to be completely anonymous while doing so.

The Dark Web Is a Diverse but Dangerous Place

The black web offers practically anything you can think of, which is one of the explanations for why it’s so fascinating. You can find all kinds of interesting and useful content on the dark web, but the darker side of this area shouldn’t be ignored.

For example, there are huge risks associated with gambling on the dark web. It’s not difficult to realize that there’s a considerable likelihood that gaming sites on the dark web are scams. Although there are many large-scale scams on the Internet, the dark web raises the bar for everything, including this, one of the most popular people’s pastimes nowadays. Now, when we discuss unregulated gaming, we aren’t referring to the offshore Internet gambling sites that are governed by respectable offshore authorities, like Binance USD online casinos. Typically, websites that operate without any kind of regulatory control and are concealed from the outside world are involved in unlawful gambling practices on the dark web. A few years back, there were widespread Ponzi schemes in which gaming sites based on the dark web paid out to older players using deposits made by new users.

All in all, there’s a lot to stay away from on the dark web, and onion routing won’t always completely protect you and preserve your anonymity.

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