More than 130 years after Jules Verne published Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Mike Bergman coined the term “Deep Web.” The founder of a web intelligence company, Bergman was attempting to describe a sizable pool of online content that is not indexed by standard search engines and, consequently, lays hidden in the depth of the web.
Though consisting primarily of mundane content – think library catalogs, phone books, academic transcripts, business inventories and such – the Deep Web is generally viewed with apprehension due to a small, infamous chunk referred to as the Dark Web.
Unlike the Deep Web, the Dark Web is kept hidden on purpose. Content on the Dark Web lies on an encrypted network with hidden IP addresses. The Dark Web is prime ground for many illicit activities: trading narcotics and firearms, selling stolen credit card numbers, hiring hitmen, human trafficking, to name a few.
Why Should We Bother With The Dark Web?
The anonymity afforded by the Dark Web has its perks though. For one, individuals living under oppressive regimes might use it as a medium to avoid censorship and promote sedition. They could use it to communicate with the outside world and pass along information that exposes corruption.
Certain individuals might be in dire need to buy goods that are otherwise unavailable to them – prescription medication that is banned from import for political reasons is one example – and would resort to the network to procure them.
Journalists might be interested in investigating and exposing criminal activities.
Those are a few reasons why good folk might want to dive into the Dark Web. Doing so is dangerous though, so be very wary of any link and any person you might encounter.
How to Access the Dark Web: Tor & VPN
Accessing the dark web is done using specialized browsers; the best and most popular one being the Tor browser. Combining Tor with a VPN is an effective method to increase security and privacy. This combination can be done in two different ways. But only one will let you access the dark web. Let’s go over them quickly.
Tor Through VPN vs. VPN Through Tor
In a Tor Through VPN setup, the more common of the two setups, your traffic travels from your PC through your ISP to a VPN server, onto Tor, and on to its final destination.
This means that your ISP cannot know that you are accessing the Dark Web through Tor and the Tor entry node will not know what your real IP is.
The problem here, however, is that the traffic leaves the Tor network unencrypted. You could also end up with a bad exit node; TOR exit nodes are often blocked.
VPN through Tor involves connecting to Tor initially, your traffic then moves to a VPN server, and finally goes into the web.
As traffic leaves the Tor network and enters a VPN server before making its way to its final destination, you won’t run into the trouble of blocked exit nodes, but your ISP will know that you are accessing Tor though and you won’t be able to access Tor services.
Should I Care If I’m Not Interested in the Dark Web?
Yes of course. Adding Tor to the mix is highly recommended. But which setup should you choose then? Well, it depends on your needs. The first setup affords more security, the second offers more anonymity. Tor through VPN sounds like the more logical choice for me; as I argued before, using a VPN means placing your trust in them; inevitably we all have to take a leap of faith if we are to continue using the internet. So using Tor to protect myself from a VPN service I willingly subscribed to defeats the purpose if you ask me.
Now that you are better acquainted with Tor, we will suggest the best VPNs to combine with it in our next guide.