Your guide to the dark web and how to safely access .onion websites

When the dark web is mentioned online, it’s usually in tandem with criminal markets and law enforcement arrests.

Drugs, weapons, intellectual property and stolen data are all hot businesses on the dark web, with hundreds of terabytes of information on offer. Merchants profit from dumps of stolen credit card data, initial points of access to vulnerable systems, credentials and intellectual property belonging to companies included in cyberattacks.

According to Kela’s 2022 Threat Intelligence Report (PDF), 48% of organizations do not have a documented dark web threat intelligence policy in place, despite the obvious danger.

However, the dark web serves organizations and individuals far more than what a small subset of criminals do under its umbrella.

To access a dark web address, you need to use a VPN and a suitable browser (it should be Tor). The goal is to minimize your online footprint, anonymize your traffic and hide your location.

There are many legitimate uses of dark web services and communication. For example, this can include hosted tools to combat censorship – essential services for people in countries under strict government surveillance and control, as well as anonymous email drop boxes and whistleblowers that improve the privacy.

Also: What is torrenting and how does it work?

Some news outlets also maintain an online presence through the dark web when their surface websites are blocked, and other websites do the same when banned at the ISP level by countries during unrest and protests.

Yes, the dark web has an unsavory reputation. However, remaining anonymous can be invaluable to protesters, civil rights groups, journalists, lawyers and other vulnerable groups.

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