The Tor network is a series of interconnected nodes that allow anonymous use of the Internet. Tor stands for “The Onion Router”, while sites hosted on the service have the top-level domain suffix “.onion”. The Onion sites are inaccessible from your usual browser. They are part of the invisible part of the Internet known as the Deep Web. Or, more precisely, the Tor darknet.
But if you can’t access onion sites using your usual browser, how do you find onion sites? Read on to learn how to find onion sites on the Tor network, and how to stay safe while doing so.
How to access a site on the onion?
You can only access a .onion site through Tor. To access the Tor network, you need the Tor browser. Tor browser is a modified Mozilla Firefox browser with many built-in scripts and add-ons to protect your privacy while browsing onion sites.
Tor browser is preconfigured to connect to the network, and the developers strongly advise against changing browser settings unless you know what you are doing.
On top of that, the “know what you’re doing” is different from a regular browser in that changing Tor browser settings can expose your private browsing data to external sources.
Head to the Tor Project site and download the Tor browser (one of the many dark web browsers). Go to the download location, find the Tor Browser folder and select Start Tor browser. The browser immediately checks for updates. If there is an update, apply it.
Other browsers focus on privacy and anonymity. Plus, is Tor what you need, or would a basic VPN do the trick? We recommend that you use Tor with a VPN.
A quick warning about onion sites
Onion sites, and darknets in general, can host horrible content. Much of it is fictional, but there’s no question that you can end up viewing potentially damaging and compromising material if you’re not careful. Most of the really horrible stuff is locked behind paywalls, proxies in proxies, and addresses you won’t find printed anywhere.
Some would criticize websites for writing about such things – and Tor for enabling them. Tor Abuse FAQs provides good defense, noting that:
Criminals can already do bad things. Since they are willing to break the laws, they already have a lot of options available that provide better privacy than Tor.
Law enforcement already knows these areas of the web exist — if they weren’t on Tor, they would exist elsewhere. As the FAQ also notes, “Traditional policing techniques can still be very effective against Tor.”
Read each description before clicking on a link!
How to find active onion sites
Google search indexes the entire Internet, one page at a time. Web crawlers (also called spiders) are Internet robots that systematically crawl Internet pages and index content. Indexed content is found using a search engine.
The Tor darknet has similar indexing, although you won’t find these sites through Google. At least, not directly.
No, you need a special Tor search engine instead. Alternatively, there are plenty of sites that curate onion site listings, such as The Hidden Wiki, which you can check out below. There are also onion address search engines such as Ahmia, which allow you to search the Tor network for onion addresses from your regular browser.
1. The hidden wiki
The Hidden Wiki is a general starting point for new visitors to the darknet. Older mirror versions of The Hidden Wiki exist but have several outdated sites and broken links.
The hidden wiki has links to cryptocurrency wallet services, secure messaging services, domain hosting services, darknet markets, darknet versions of popular social networks, various channels (like 4chan, but on Tor), and much more. It also has a long list of non-English language sites.
Ahmia.fi is a clearnet website that you can use to search for onion links on the Tor network, but it also has an onion address. It’s one of the best dark web research tools available today, quickly providing links to onion addresses with your search terms.
As with any search engine on the Tor network, you will always get mixed results. The very nature of the network means that not all addresses are searchable and dark web content is not indexed neatly like the clearnet.
Still, you can use Ahmia to find some useful onions links, then copy them to Tor Browser for a bit easier access. Ahmia filters out any content that contains child abuse, but you will always find links to other adult content, so be careful.
Torch is a well-known Tor search engine. However, it does not work like a regular search engine. For example, using Torch to search for “Facebook” does not return the Facebook Onion site (that you can find here). Rather, it returns a list of messages seeking advice on how to hack Facebook accounts, where to buy stolen Facebook accounts, etc.
If you use Google to search for Facebook, you end up on the social media site.
4. Not bad
If TORCH doesn’t help you find what you want, try Not Evil. Not Evil works more like a regular internet search and is the successor to TorSearch (another Tor search engine) and Evil Wiki (another listing site).
For example, a search for “Facebook” returns the official site of Onion Facebook. A search for “Proton” returns the official site of the Onion Proton Mail, and so on.
5. Daniel’s Onion Link List Raspberry Pi Directory
Daniel’s Onion Link List is a Tor directory hosted on Raspberry Pi. Cool, right? (The Raspberry Pi has so many awesome uses!) The Onion Link List is an index directory that gives you a brief description of the site, the last dates viewed and tested, as well as when the site was last seen and tested. onions hit the Tor network for the first time.
Daniel’s Onion link list now includes any type of site, so read the descriptions carefully before clicking on the links. Conveniently, the directory also slaps a “SCAM” tag on any sites that attempt to steal your information.
Be careful when browsing Tor and Onion sites
Most darknet users will tell you the same thing: don’t believe everything you hear.
A huge amount of myth and infamy surrounds the Tor darknet. For the most part, this is not true. And if it’s true, you don’t want to know it, see it, and especially not click on a link that approaches you.
Tor provides truly anonymous and untraceable browsing and messaging, as well as access to what is known as the “Deep Web”. Tor cannot possibly be broken by any organization on the planet.
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