Do you think you’ve seen everything the internet has to offer? You’re only beginning to scratch the surface. There’s another internet dimension that lurks in the shadows of the dark web.
You can’t access the dark web through Google. You won’t find a single dark web URL indexed by Bing, either. However, these mysterious URLs are hiding right under your nose.
The dark web is a network of websites hosted by anonymous servers and IP addresses. The content on these URLs is encrypted and requires special software and browsing tools for access. It’s no surprise the dark web is a #1 destination for online criminals.
Navigating the dark web comes at a price if you’re not careful. Since it’s such a hub for illegal activity, your data is at risk the moment you click. If you own a business, you have even more to worry about.
Follow these tips to stay safe on the dark web.
Navigating the Dark Web vs. the Surface Web
Let’s start with some fundamental differences between the dark web and the surface web. The surface web is the internet you use to check the news, read your favorite blogs, and watch YouTube videos.
Surface web URLs are indexed by search engines and compatible with (most) web browsers. URLs that aren’t indexed by search engines are called deep web links. The term “deep web” is frequently confused with the dark web, yet they’re very different.
Your email login page is a deep web link because it’s not indexed or accessible by search engines. Other examples of deep web links include banking login sites, cloud accounts, and private login pages.
Webmasters can request search engines to deindex sites, sending those links out into the deep web. Search engine algorithms can automatically deindex sites that don’t meet indexing standards. Sites may also get deindexed for penalizations, like duplicate content or black hat SEO.
The vast majority of the internet exists on the deep web. Only 1% to 5% of the internet is indexed by search engines! The dark web is only 0.03% of the internet.
Accessing the surface web is easy. You just hop onto your browser of choice and go. The dark web takes a bit of work and preparation.
Dark Web URLs vs. Surface Web URLs
You’re used to URLs that end with .com, .net, or .org extensions. These extensions don’t exist on the dark web. Dark web URLs end in unique .onion extensions.
If you try to type in a .onion URL into a regular surface web browser, you’ll likely get a DNS error or another type of error page. If by chance, you do access an onion site through a traditional browser, your computer and business data is vulnerable to attack.
How to Access the Dark Web
The only way to access .onion links is through a TOR browser, which stands for “the onion router.” Tor browsers encrypt your web browsing traffic, keeping you anonymous on the dark web. Most dark web sites block non-secure web traffic, which is another reason why TOR is necessary for browsing the dark web.
TOR can be downloaded for free from the Tor Project, a nonprofit founded by a group of software developers. The mission of the Tor Project is to provide the general public with safe, private, and anonymous access to an underground, uncensored internet.
While browsing the dark web, Tor users escape the surveillance, regulations, and third-party tracking that’s present on the surface web. That’s a primary reason why the dark web is so appealing to activists, journalists, and even criminals alike.
How to Use Tor to Access the Dark Web
First, don’t access Tor through your personal or business computer. Stay on the safe side and buy a separate computer exclusively for dark web access. You don’t want your business data anywhere near your dark web activities.
Tor browsing is also available for Apple and Android smartphones. Like your computer, avoid using your personal and business phones to access the dark web. Buy a separate smartphone that connects to your internet connection.
Secure Your Internet Connection
Make sure your internet connection itself is secure and encrypted. Protect your connection with a unique password that’s difficult to guess. Your password should have a combination of capital letters, lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers.
Never base your internet password on personal information. Avoid using street addresses, birthdays, favorite things, names of pets, popular movie titles, or any identifiable information. Don’t exchange passwords through social media, email, or text.
You have a separate computer and a secure internet connection. You’re now ready to download Tor! Visit the Tor Project’s homepage on the surface web, and download your Tor browser directly from the site.
The Tor browser is an .exe file. After downloading, locate the file in your desktop or downloads folder. Tor browser files default to these folders, but you can change the destination folder.
You’re now ready to install. Click on the Tor .exe file and choose your install location. You could create a separate location folder, or even install your browser onto a USB drive.
To access Tor, click on your “start” .exe file in your chosen destination folder. Next, you’ll be prompted to connect directly or set your proxy setting. Go ahead and connect directly.
How to Safely Browse the Dark Web
You’re not out of the woods yet. To make sure your traffic is protected, visit a site that can ping your location. If your browser is not showing your actual geographical location, you’re free to browse the dark web.
There isn’t a Google search engine on the dark web. Tor users browse the dark web with onion site directories. Many onion sites are created and dumped quickly for added protection.
You can find a large directory of dark web onion sites on the Hidden Wiki. Hidden Wiki is typically the first stop for new dark web users. There are other dark web link directories on the surface web too.
When visiting .onion sites, only visit URLs with SSL encryption. Avoid going to the “darkest” corners of the dark web, as these websites could unleash malicious attacks that steal data. Read more now on consumer data that’s stashed on the dark web!
Always Play It Safe
Is your curiosity worth the risk? Follow these tips to protect your business data before you start navigating the dark web. Make sure to use the right equipment, browsers, and safety precautions before clicking that first dark web URL.
Protecting your data is essential for business in the digital age. Check out the blog to discover more invaluable hacks for entrepreneurs.