There have been a number of stories lately pertaining to the Dark Web, most notably in the news when identity fraud is mentioned, so it’s not an unknown term. However, not too many people really know about the Dark Web and what it is exactly, so finding about using a VPN to use the dark web kind of made sense.
What happens if you go on the dark web without a VPN? Without using a VPN to access the dark web can help authorities track you, through your real IP address and determine where on the dark web you have been going. Accessing the Dark Web is not illegal in many countries, but it may be viewed as suspicious by the authorities, as the Dark Web has a strong association with criminal activity.
There is a lot of criminal activity on the Dark web where things like stolen credit card numbers, people’s financial details to drugs are for sale. As such the Dark web is viewed with great suspicion and the automatic assumption made by many, is that accessing the Dark web is for criminal activity only.
Many of the Dark web sellers are themselves hidden, using complicated safeguards to make themselves anonymous, making it extremely difficult for law enforcement to track them down.
Dark Web vs Deep Web
The Dark web is generally associated with criminal activity, but the Deep Web is just any content that Google hasn’t indexed, so finding material on the deep web through a normal Google search won’t bring up any results related to the information.
A VPN isn’t necessarily required access the deep web, just knowing the name of the website and having permission to access the website is sufficient. Unlike dark web, the deep web isn’t things like illegal images, creepy sites or nefarious information. It’s simply gated content which will require a user to login with credentials.
Deep web sites might include something like a university website where only those who are students can access the content. When an organization has their own personal intranet, it’s not crawlable by the Google Bots and it’s considered to be part of Deep Web. If you have an account with Gmail, it’s also not indexed, so it’s considered this type of content.
Even though Deep Web and Dark Web are two different things, Dark Web’s a subset of Deep Web. Think of the Deep Web as the pristine, beautiful sunlit street and Dark Web as the shady alleyway with the rats and trash bins all over the place.
One of the things that you should know is that the last thing you want is to have someone know that you are accessing things you shouldn’t on the dark web. That’s why it’s important to use a VPN for some parts of dark web (check out my list of reputable VPNs here).
The other parts of the deep web won’t need a VPN. For example, your email account for one. These are just parts of the web that aren’t indexable by search engines.
However, when you are accessing dark web, it’s always a good idea to use a VPN. The last thing you want is for someone on there to know where you are and who you are, which can be discovered easily with the right information. This information will be hidden with a VPN.
Can You get Tracked on the Dark Web?
Without using a good VPN, when you go and access content on the dark web, you leave yourself open to being tracked. As your real IP address supplied by your Internet Service Provider will be known to the websites you connect to and your ISP will log all the websites you have visited. Thereby providing a trail of tracking activity that can be used by the authorities.
The authorities are worried about the dark web because of it’s association with criminal activities. Therefore, finding out who is accessing the dark web can help the authorities find people engaged in criminal activity. Without a VPN, it becomes easier for the authorities to track people’s dark web access.
You may not be involved in any criminal activity and just want to access the dark web for legitimate purposes. However, the act of accessing the dark web will definitely put you on the authorities radar if they can work out who you are from your real ISP assigned IP address. So, it makes sense to use a reputable VPN to remain anonymous and avoid being tracked.
What Happens if You Access the Dark Web with a VPN?
So, knowing that dark web is generally not safe, is it still a good idea to access it with a VPN? I’d say so. Let’s look at some of the benefits of using a VPN with dark web.
- Anonymity – The first thing that you get with a VPN is anonymity. Although there are some people who may be able to find out who you are with enough time and effort, it will give you that extra layer of protection that you wouldn’t have otherwise.
- Safety – The second thing that you will get with a VPN is safety. When you are trying to pay bills or do something else which requires you to put your personal information in, such as your SSN, while you’re not at home and on your own Wi-Fi, using a VPN can help you with being safe from hackers. Although it’s not going to be 100% failsafe, it’s going to give you a better chance of your information staying private than if you were using the public network.
- File Sharing- The third reason why you want to use a VPN while on dark web is that you can have a way to share files with someone else in a secure manner that you may not have otherwise.
- Bypass Filters & Blockers – Sometimes you are traveling abroad and you’re on a website that you have always accessed in your home country, but you can’t access here. A VPN will help you access it because it doesn’t look as if you are in that country.
So, although a VPN isn’t always necessary to access the dark web, it’s often a good idea to use a VPN for the dark web. If for no other reason, it can make things a lot easier and safer.
Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a VPN for the Dark Web
Now that we know that a VPN is a good idea when you are surfing the deep or dark web, let’s look at some of the things that you should avoid doing when you are selecting your VPN.
- Choosing a Free One – This is one of the biggest mistakes. Although some of them might be just as good as the ones that you pay for, you are going to be paying in other ways. For example, your browsing might be slow or there might be a lot of ads on the VPN. Therefore, even though you are saving money chances are that you aren’t getting a very good deal. Not only that, but they may even sell your information to third parties. Who wants that, really?
- Not Knowing Why You Need It – Finally, you want to know why you are downloading a VPN in the first place. Are there going to be multiple devices and people on it? Then look for one with that type of support.
- Not Looking at Its Features – Before you choose your VPN, look at the features that it has. It’s like choosing the first thing on the menu of a restaurant and reading on further only to find out that they had something you’d like even better. You want to know what type of features they have so that you can choose the right one.
Deep Web safety
When you access content on deep web, it’s pretty safe. As has been mentioned before, when you check email and statements online, that is deep web. However, accessing the information does come with some risks.
The good news is that deep web’s pretty safe. For instance, the accounts on deep web have a lot of personal information that the criminals might love to have. That’s one of the reasons why you want to have unique, strong passwords on accounts. A good password will combine symbols, numbers and letters.
Another risk that you may have is that you are tempted to put in your passwords while on public Wi-Fi, like paying bills while waiting to catch a train or a plane. In this type of case, it’s best to use a VPN to help you with protecting your identity since you never know who is on the Wi-Fi with you.
You also might get an email that looks like it’s reputable, such as the IRS. It might ask you to put in your SSN to gain access to the account or click on the supplied link to respond to information requests.
Although you are in your email, this is something you should never do. There’s never going to be an email that’s asking for your information from the IRS. The email is likely a scam to get you to give someone valuable information, and its known as phishing.
Even though deep web’s relatively safe, this doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t use common sense.
The dark web requires a VPN to keep anonymity and protect your privacy, especially as the dark web is normally associated with criminal activity.