The Dark Web is a place full of underground criminals and clever hackers, but it’s also a much safer place than your favorite browser. It’s no secret that when you go online, your activities are tracked, not only by Google, Facebook, and Amazon, but also by official surveillance teams and hackers.
We often recommend privacy plugins and software that block at least some web trackers, but if you really want to preserve your anonymity, the Dark Web browser called Hill it is the best option available. Tor will be used in this blog to discuss the do’s and don’ts when using the Dark Web.
What does Thor do?
Tor keeps your web activities safe from spammers and advertisers, hides your data from corporations and other web users, and lets you browse without being tracked by identity thieves and stalkers.
What can you do with Tor?
You can send personal photos without being intercepted, use social media without being monitored, write genuinely anonymous blog posts, and much more. For access information, see How to get access to the dark web.
The five safest ways to use a dark website
Do #1: Make sure Tor is always up to date
Tor is much more secure than Chrome and Firefox, but like any software, it’s not immune to attack. For example, the network was attacked in 2013 by a Trojan called Chewbacca, which stole bank details.
In 2016, it was revealed that the FBI had used specially crafted malware called Torsploit to “de-anonymize” Tor users and track their real IP addresses. There have also been cases of Tor exit nodes (the last relays that Tor traffic passes through before reaching its destination) being used for malicious rather than anonymous purposes and infecting user systems.
Fortunately, Tor generally addresses such threats and vulnerabilities very quickly, making it is essential to keep the browser updated.
- Every time you start Tor, click the onion icon on the toolbar and choose ‘Check Tor Browser Update‘ (Tor is updated regularly, but updating it manually ensures you’re using the latest version.)
- Also, if you are using a service that involves sharing personal information, you should change Tor’s security level to Alto.
#1: Using Tor for Torrenting
As a powerful privacy tool, Tor may seem like the perfect medium for downloading and uploading files over BitTorrent and other peer-to-peer networks, but it’s no! Using a torrent client bypasses Tor protection and destroys your anonymity by sending your real IP address to the torrent service and other ‘peers’. This action allows them to identify you, the port you are using to download torrents and even the data you are sharing, if it is not encrypted.
They can then potentially attack you with malware or even notify the relevant authorities (if you are sharing copyrighted material). Also, torrenting traffic puts a lot of pressure on the Tor network and slows it down for others, so it’s selfish and careless.
For all these reasons, Tor says that file sharing is “very unwanted” and exit nodes are configured by default to block torrent traffic.
Do #2: Create a new identity when necessary
Tor does a great job of keeping you safe and anonymous, but you can still find websites that set off alarm bells. Tor can warn you that a site is trying to track you.
If you are concerned that your privacy has been compromised, please do the following:
- Click on the onion icon on the toolbar.
- Choose “new identity.” This option will restart Tor Browser and reset your IP address, so you can continue browsing as a new user.
Don’t #2: Maximize the Tor window
Leave Tor Browser windows at their default size because maximizing them allows websites to determine the size of your monitor. This suggestion may not seem significant on its own, but combined with other data, it can provide the “additional” information that websites need to identify you.
Step #3 – Use a VPN in conjunction with Tor
It is important to remember that Tor is a proxy rather than a VPN, which only protects traffic routed through the Tor Browser. As we explained earlier, there are some risks to using the Tor network, especially when downloading torrent files and inadvertently connecting through a malicious exit node.
You can increase your privacy and security by using Tor in conjunction with a VPN, to ensure that all your data is encrypted and no logs of your activities are kept. Several VPNs offer features designed explicitly for Tor users, including:
- ProtonVPN, which allows you to access pre-configured servers to redirect traffic through the Tor network
- ExpressVPN, which allows you to register anonymously through your ‘.onion’ website
- AirVPN, which routes traffic through the Tor network first and then through the VPN
None of the VPN options above are free, but they are faster, more flexible, and more reliable than free VPN services.
Don’t #3: Search the web using Google
Google is not known for respecting the privacy of its users, so continuing to use it on Tor (it’s one of the available options) is pretty counterproductive.
Not only does Google try to track you down and record your searches (based on your exit node IP address), but it also gets very snobbish and arrogant when it finds out that you’re connecting in an “unusual” way. Try Googling Tor and you’ll continually get CAPTCHAs asking you to prove you’re not a robot.
We recommend using Tor’s default DuckDuckGo privacy search engine, its ‘Onion’ variant, or Startpage (which uses untracked Google results), all of which come pre-installed along with Google.
Step #4 – Consider running a Tor relay
Tor relies on its ever-expanding and loyal community to provide relays that create circuits and provide anonymity. The more relays or ‘nodes’ currently running, the faster and more secure the Tor network will be.
If you become a regular Tor user, consider giving back to the community by sharing your bandwidth and running your relay. It can be an ‘intermediate relay’, which is one of two or more nodes that receives Tor traffic and then passes it on, or an ‘exit relay’.
Being a middle relay is much safer. If another user uses the Tor network to do something malicious or illegal, your IP address will not appear as the source of the traffic.
Rather, an output relay can be identified as that source, which means that the people running the output relays may have to deal with complaints and even legal attention. So you shouldn’t host an exit node from your home PC, and if you’re sensible, no way!
One more problem: you need to have a Linux computer running Debian or Ubuntu to host a reliable relay. On Windows, you must run a Linux distribution as a virtual machine to set up your relay. It’s a bit of a hassle, but at least it will keep your Tor traffic separate from the rest of your system.
Don’t #4: Share your real email address
There is no point in using Tor to stay anonymous if you sign up for a website with your real email address. It’s like putting a paper bag over your head and writing your name and address on it. A disposable email service like Mail box or the bright fake name generator you can create a temporary address and identity for site logs and keep your Tor persona separate from your standard web.
Step # 5: Use Tor for anonymous emails
You can use your favorite email services on Tor, although Google may ask you to verify your Gmail account. However, the content of your messages will not be encrypted in transit. Tor will, of course, hide where you are, but unless you’re using a disposable email address (see above), anyone intercepting your messages will see your real email address and potentially your name.
For complete privacy and anonymity, you can use a Tor-enabled email service. Several of these have been shut down by law enforcement in recent years because they were linked to criminal activity, but using one isn’t illegal or makes you suspicious. The best and most reliable option is ProtonMail, an end-to-end encrypted email provider, launched by the CERN research center in 2013.
Earlier this year, ProtonMail introduced a Tor hidden service specifically to combat censorship and surveillance of its users. You can sign up for a free ProtonMail account at protonirockerxow.onion, but this limits you to 500 MB of storage and 150 messages per day; to get advanced features, you need the Plus plan ($5.00 per month).
Because Tor is based on Firefox, it’s still possible to install your favorite plugins to suit your preferences, which makes sense if you plan on using Tor as your default browser. Don’t be tempted! Even if extensions aren’t infected with malware (as some Chrome extensions were recently found to be), they can seriously compromise your privacy..
Tor comes with two of the best protection plugins pre-installed: NoScript and HTTPS everywhere – and that’s really all you need if your reason for switching to the browser is to be anonymous. Also, keep in mind that browsing with Tor can be slower than Chrome or Firefox due to its indirect way of connecting, so overloading it with plugins will further slow it down.
Alternatively, you can try Bitmessage, a free desktop client that allows you to send and receive encrypted messages using Tor, and can be run from a USB stick.
Don’t #5: Go Overboard With Browser Plugins
Because Tor is based on Firefox, it’s still possible to install your favorite plugins to suit your preferences, which is understandable if you plan on using Tor as your default browser. Don’t be tempted! Even if extensions aren’t infected with malware (as some Chrome extensions were recently found to be), they can seriously compromise your privacy..
Tor comes with two of the best protection plugins pre-installed: NoScript and HTTPS everywhere – and that’s all you need if your reason for switching to the browser is to be anonymous. Also, keep in mind that browsing with Tor can be slower than Chrome or Firefox due to its indirect way of connecting, so overloading it with plugins will further slow it down.