When most folks think of the dark web, their mind will immediately go to its sketchiest uses: the exchange of drugs, weapons and other illegal services. However, what many do not know is that there are a range of legitimate reasons to log on to this hidden underground internet.
From free textbooks, fiction and PDFs on all kinds of resources, to unbiased news sources reporting away from the rules of the government, lots of the people you’ll find with the Tor browser installed aren’t actually planning on breaking the law.
Unfortunately, neither your internet service provider or the government will care about the reasons for you doing so, nor will they stop to ask why.
Even something as innocent as downloading Tor and preparing to browse - without even clicking on anything - can be enough for them to raise a red flag or send a report.
Likewise, other countries choose to block use of the Tor browser completely, so it’s impossible to access via the usual channels, without your IP address hidden, because you’re still visible as trying to log in from that location.
Therefore, using a VPN or Virtual Private Network is heavily encouraged to those thinking of surfing the darknet, both as a means to access it and also to protect your browsing from prying eyes - not just those of the authorities, but also hackers and cyber thieves who spend their time lurking for victims via Tor.
Finding a decent VPN that actually works and doesn’t leave you vulnerable to data mining or other online crimes can prove tricky. There are many services out there that claim to protect your browsing, but actually make it easier for you to be targeted.
Today, we’ll be taking you through ten of the best VPNs on the web, specifically considering whether they’d be useful for the dark web.
OUR TOP PICK
Offering unlimited bandwidth in 160 different locations and serving over 94 countries, ExpressVPN is one of the most popular choices for Tor browsing and internet use generally.
If you’ve ever been on Youtube, you’ve probably heard your favorite influencers offering a 3-month subscription for a discounted price!
One of the latest updates to their services is the launch of their ‘.onion’ website variant, which allows users to log in or make an account anonymously. They never log your data - besides some non-identifying information like data transfer, server location and dates, but that’s all.
Fast, well-reviewed and incredibly user friendly, you’ll be able to access this VPN whatever software you use, as it’s compatible with Windows, MacOS, Linux, iOS and Android. Protect all of your devices, from phone to PC, with one easy subscription.
Should you prefer to use Bitcoin rather than link to your bank account, they’re one of the only companies to accept this virtual currency as payment, so if that’s a priority then you know this is the virtual network for you!
Backed by a 30 day money back guarantee, ExpressVPN will refund your entire payment if you're not pleased with your experience. It’s a totally risk free experience from a financial perspective.
They also have 24/7 real-time customer service from actual human beings, ready to help via email or live chat should you run into any trouble.
At its cheapest, you can get 15 months of ExpressVPN for the price of 12, billed annually at just under a hundred bucks - otherwise, it’s $12.95 a month.
Sure, you can use free VPNs, but they’re unreliable and offer far less protection - if you want to browse with Tor and be completely invisible, you need to pay for the best.
Affordable, anonymous and armored, IPVanish is a budget-friendly VPN that costs a lot less than its competitors but packs quite a mighty punch, protection-wise.
Just one tap and you’re protected, with one of more than 40,000 IPs with over 1,600 servers in more than 75 locations. That’s a lot of shielding!
Supporting all major platforms, from Windows and Mac to Android and iOS, you can have an unlimited number of devices hooked up to your IPVanish VPN, for the price of one subscription, and there’s also zero data transfer caps or VPN logs - just permanent protection from the dangers lurking online.
They also offer a secure cloud backup space for a little extra cash per month, so you can store a whopping 500GB of data securely without the use of a physical hard drive, meaning you can access it anywhere, anytime.
If you opt for this slightly more expensive subscription, you’ll also be able to sync multiple folders, remotely wipe any of your devices should they be lost or stolen, as well as having additional protection from ransomware.
IPVanish have been offering reputable, reliable VPN services for almost a decade now, demonstrating their commitment to protecting you, the customer. Their free and friendly customer support team are ready 24/7, contactable via phone, email or live chat - whatever your preferences.
Dubbed as the “high-speed Swiss VPN that safeguards your online privacy,” ProtonVPN is another virtual private network service you may have seen advertised by tech influencers or Youtubers more generally.
For browsing the dark web, Proton seems an obvious choice: they are directly integrated with Tor’s anonymity network, so with just one click, all of your traffic will be routed through those private servers, so you can access Onion sites to your hearts’ content.
One of the best things about Proton is their Secure Core network, which bypasses the issue of VPN services being compromised after surveillance, as all user traffic is first routed through privacy-promoting countries such as Switzerland.
Therefore, even if the server was compromised, your genuine IP address will never be revealed to anybody.
Plus, their patented Perfect Forward Secrecy ciphers mean that should your encrypted data get stolen or compromised at any point, it cannot be decrypted in the future, even if the encryption key is accessed too.
Being outside of the US and EU’s more rigorous internet laws, as well as the fourteen eyes surveillance network, your surfing is shielded by some of the strongest privacy laws in the world, thanks to their Swiss HQ.
Boasting unlimited bandwidth, P2P support, customer services run by tech professionals and powerful 10GBIT servers, it’s surprising that Proton offers a free VPN service, though your speed is somewhat limited if you’re not utilizing the paid version.
Otherwise, they charge a couple of bucks per month for the basic plan, which instantly upgrades you to a high speed, and even their more expensive plan isn’t that much of an increase, but the features you’ll access as a result are well worth the extra dollars.
Aiming to make VPN use as accessible and simple as possible, Private Internet Access is one of the most user-friendly services available, with seamless set up: all you need to do is pick a price plan, create an account and you’re ready to start taking advantage of their impressive protection.
Though it’s a little smaller than some of its competitors, PIA doesn’t shrink in comparison: they still offer over 20,000 server locations in 29 different countries, which might not be as big as the likes of Express or Nord, but it’s certainly up there, especially at this price point!
If you opt for the two-year plan, then you’re paying a measly $2.69 a month for some serious protection - though it requires registering for a longer time, you can cancel at any point and it’s well worth the lengthier contract for such amazing savings.
Plus, they also offer a thirty day money back guarantee, which for a smaller company is surprising.
One small downside is that you can only use the VPN on 10 devices, rather than an unlimited number, but this shouldn’t prove too much of an issue unless you’re utilizing it for a business or happen to have a ridiculous amount of tech.
Beating out ExpressVPN, NordVPN, CyberGhost and Private Internet Access on monthly costs, whilst still offering the same great service, Surfshark is quickly becoming one of the most popular virtual private networks on the internet at just $2.49 a month.
Their industry leading AES 256 encryption shields absolutely everything you do, whilst a Kill Switch instantly disables your internet connection should the VPN drop, so you’re constantly shielded 100% of the time. Plus, with zero logs or monitoring of your internet adventures, their strict policies keep you doubly protected.
With SurfShark you’ll be able to hide that you’re even using a VPN in the first palace thanks to a patented traffic obfuscation code that hides you entirely.
If leaving no trace is important to you, then you can also pay via Ripple, Etherium or Bitcoin for their services, using a disposable email for registration that leaves the process near totally anonymous.
The VPN is available to use on all the usual platforms: PC and Mac, Linux and mobile devices. One subscription gets you unlimited usage, so your entire family is protected, with access to over 3200 servers in more than 65 different countries, from Australia to the United Kingdom.
A handy thirty-day money back guarantee ensures that if you find their services unsuitable for your needs, you haven’t lost out on any of your cash investment. But at these prices, it wouldn’t matter if you did anyway!
One of the most popular protection providers of all time, it’s no wonder that NordVPN is at the top of many lists! Their Tor over VPN technology is already set up for darknet browsing, immediately rerouting your traffic through the official Tor network after it’s passed the VPN tunnel.
From just one monthly payment, you get access to a whole host of security features.
Their Password Manager, for instance, generates incredibly complex logins that sync across your devices, as well as storing notes and credit cards, plus cloud storage that is encrypted with patented NordLocker technology, constantly backing up your data automatically so you never leave anything.
That’s not all that’s impressive about their services: your bandwidth is unlimited so you can stream to your heart’s content, with blazing fast speeds in 5200+ VPN servers across 59 different countries,
In addition to them having the most impressive browsing speeds of any virtual private network on the web, they also offer some of the best deals around, often having big sales and trying to beat out the competition with some truly staggering price drops, so keep your eye out for their seasonal sales.
Not only can you use NordVPN on your phone, tablet and laptop, but it also offers direct protection for your router and smart TV, too - your online data on every single device is completely unreadable, so you can enjoy your tech on whichever platform you like.
With fast speeds and unlimited bandwidth, as well as integrated Tor browsing features, many choose PrivateVPN as their network of choice for traversing the dark web, because it meets a variety of specific needs that make doing so much easier and safer.
There’s no installation or tech skills necessary, so it’s very beginner-friendly, with an interface that just about anybody can follow in order to bypass censorship and access blocked content from across the world, completely bypassing restrictions.
You’ll never find that anybody has been monitoring or logging your personal details - whether you’re using PrivateVPN on Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android, you’re totally protected, with their 2048-bit AES-256 encryption.
Serving 52 counties with unlimited server switches, cycling through over 60 different options at any one time, in addition to free remote setup, it’s perhaps one of the most efficient VPNs to get set up on any of your devices.
Surprisingly, folks can even make use of PrivateVPN in China, where the Great Firewall creates some of the biggest privacy violations and internet blockages in the world to its citizens.
If you want to give their servers a test run before you commit any cash, simply drop their customer service an email to get 7 days of risk-free trialling via a gift code - that’s a lot more than some of the bigger VPN providers offer!
They also provide a similar thirty day money back guarantee, which offers more reassurance that there’s no financial risk in giving it a try.
With fifteen years of cyber security under their belts, the folks behind CyberGhost are certainly equipped to help you browse the dark web safely, so you can remain totally anonymous and fully untraceable every time you go online, with the highest quality VPN protocols and encryption standards.
Protecting up to seven devices simultaneously with only one prescription, simply hitting a button and choosing your country of choice immediately hides your browsing activity, with specific servers dedicated to torrenting, streaming and dark web surfing.
Experts from the likes of TechRadar, Cloudwards, Comparitech and VPNMentor all seem to agree that CyberGhost is a standout amongst the world of virtual private networks, with zero logs, excellent speeds and even a native app for your Amazon Fire Stick so you can watch your favorite shows in private too.
As their prices are given in British Pounds Sterling, you’ll have to do a little bit of conversion, but for the equivalent of £1.75 a month (around two and a half dollars), you get access to 7081 VPN servers across the world, properly protected from DNS and IP leak with that all-important AES 256-bit encryption.
Boasting two amazing accolades - “Fastest VPN We’ve Ever Tested” from PCMag and “VPN That Lives Up To The Hype” from ZDNET - it’s easy to see why so many are swayed by Hotspot Shield, a premium approach to the VPN service directed at those who take their browsing a little more seriously than most.
Military grade encryption ensures that nobody is able to observe your online activity, whether you’re on a Windows or MacOS computer, an iOS or Android phone, and it’s even compatible with Apple TV.
Their proprietary Hydra protocol means little to no lags and unlimited HD streaming - that’s why PCMag, PC World, AV-Test and other review services rated them #1 for speed.
1,800 virtual servers in more than 115 locations around the world allows you access to the internet whilst being shielded from more than 57 million malware and phishing sites every single day.
Although you can only link up to five devices at once, this is still enough to have at least one secure piece of tech for everyone in the house.
If you’re unsure about making a commitment, Hotspot Shield are so confident you’ll love their service that they offer a 45-day completely risk free trial run. Plus, their 24/7 live tech support is constantly on hand to help!
Last, but by no means least, we have Windscribe, who promise to set you free from the threat to your online privacy.
Taking you beyond basic VPN protection, their comprehensive privacy setup uses a combination of desktop and browser connection to offer a double-whammy shield against spies and hackers.
Offering servers for Windows, Max, iPhone, Android, Linux, FireTV, Huawei devices and even routers, there is a limited free version of Windscribe, but it’s well recommended that you go for their paid option, which unlocks unlimited data, access to VPNs in over 63 countries and their patented R.O.B.E.R.T AI security, blocking ads, trackers and malware before they even have a moment to work.
You can even build your own plan, adding a dollar for every location you choose to access, which is the most personalized payment option offered in the entire list! If you know where you want to surf from, and only want to pay for the privilege of accessing one location, this is the subscription for you.
Why Accessing The Dark Web With A Trusted VPN Is Important
By concealing your online identity and keeping you under an invisible shield as you browse, VPNs ensure that your Tor usage and any time you spend on the dark web is as safe and secure as possible. Why is this important?
Keeping all of your private information confidential, VPNs prevent your ISP or the government themselves from being able to monitor your activity. Though this doesn’t necessarily mean they can see exactly what you view or which websites you’re actually on, as we’ve already mentioned, just accessing Tor can be enough to encourage them to tip off the authorities.
This is the primary reason for using a VPN anytime, whether you’re on the dark net or the regular old internet. Whether it’s nasty hackers looking to steal your data and sell it on, or fraudsters ready and waiting to break into your bank account, it’s very easy for them to take advantage of your lack of privacy when your identity is exposed.
VPNs encrypt your connection and prevent cyber criminals from being able to hit your tech with viruses that log your keystrokes and provide access to every letter you ever type.
It’s impossible to get onto the dark web via Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer or any of the regular browsers ordinary folk tend to use. The majority of people will utilize the Tor browser, as that is the easiest and fastest way to get on there, but depending on who you get your internet from or where you live, it could be blocked completely.
A VPN lets you download Tor privately, even if you live somewhere that it is blocked, by rerouting your IP address to make it appear as though you’re logging in from a different country. Isn’t technology terrifying?!
The very best VPNs can be utilized on a variety of devices, from laptops or computers to smartphones, tablets and other tech.
Though most would discourage you from browsing Tor on your phone, as it usually contains far more personal information than your computer and takes much less effort to hack into, you can keep yourself protected no matter what method you use to log on when you do so via a Virtual Private Network.