Thinking about using the dark web? Tor isn’t as anonymous as you might think, which is why I recommend pairing it with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Read on to find out which are the best VPNs for the dark web.
Once you connect to the Tor network, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can no longer tell which websites you visit. It can, however, see whether you’re using Tor or not. This is a problem since, despite Tor’s many legitimate uses (allowing anonymous communication in countries with repressive regimes, for instance), it has a reputation as a tool for criminals.
There is, however, an easy way to keep your Tor usage a secret: just connect to a VPN. These work by routing your traffic through encrypted servers elsewhere in the world. This means that your IP address is changed and your activities are completely hidden from everyone except your VPN provider.
I’ll go into more detail on each of my recommended VPNs later but if you’re in a rush, you’ll find a short summary of the best VPNs for the dark web below.
I found these to be the best VPNs for the dark web:
- ExpressVPN: My top choice for using the dark web anonymously. Reliable, secure, and provides consistently high speeds.
- NordVPN: The best budget VPN for the dark web. A high-speed service with a strong focus on security and privacy.
- CyberGhost: A beginner-friendly service with pre-configured security features and a huge network of servers.
- IPVanish: This high-speed VPN owns its servers outright and keeps no logs whatsoever.
- PrivateVPN: A very fast service with powerful security features, a zero-logs policy, and strong multi-platform support.
- Surfshark: A security-first VPN with decent speeds, advanced privacy features, and no connection limit.
How to access the dark web with a VPN
Browsing the dark web doesn’t have to be difficult. Below, I’ll walk you through the process of accessing the dark web with a VPN.
Here’s how to access the dark web with a VPN:
- Start by signing up for one of the VPNs below (I recommend ExpressVPN).
- Connect to one of your VPN’s servers. The location doesn’t matter, but usually, you’ll get the highest speeds from nearby, low-load, low-latency servers.
- The quickest and easiest way to access the darknet is with the Tor Browser. Just install this and you’re ready to start browsing.
Not every VPN is suitable for using the dark web. For instance, some keep logs, which can be requested by the government. With this in mind, when researching the best VPNs for the darknet, I only recommend services that met all of the criteria below:
- Privacy-focused: Doesn’t log any personally identifiable information
- Strong security: Uses cutting edge features including effectively uncrackable encryption
- No tracking: Allows you to sign up anonymously
- Fast speeds: Provides reliable, high-speed connections
- No restrictions: Doesn’t limit bandwidth, impose data limits, or prevent torrenting
Related: Best VPN for torrenting
Best VPNs for the dark web
Take a look below to find out more about the best VPNs for the darknet:
ExpressVPN is an excellent choice for anyone looking to access the dark web anonymously. It provides consistently high speeds and currently operates over 3,000 servers globally, so getting a low-latency connection shouldn’t be too difficult.
This VPN is one of the best in terms of security. It uses 256-bit AES encryption and protects you from IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks, plus there’s a network lock (also known as a kill switch) that stops sending data whenever you lose your connection unexpectedly. ExpressVPN accepts Bitcoin and operates its own .onion mirror site, so you can sign up anonymously.
While not complete logless, ExpressVPN doesn’t store any information that could identify you. Additionally, as you share an IP address with everyone else on the server, it’s effectively impossible to tell which user accessed a given site.
This service has apps for Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux, and iOS. There’s also custom firmware which makes ExpressVPN easy to install on your home router. Up to five devices can be connected at once.
- Doesn’t log identifying information
- Fast speeds
- Has its own .onion site
- Puts your security first
- Few advanced options for power users
BEST VPN FOR THE DARK WEB:ExpressVPN is my #1 choice for the dark web. It takes your security and privacy seriously, provides high speeds, and offers a risk-free 30-day money-back guarantee.
NordVPN might be a budget service, but with over 5,600 high-speed servers, it has one of the largest networks on the market. Further, it doesn’t restrict or throttle the user’s speed or bandwidth in any way, which is ideal given how slow the Tor browser can be.
This VPN offers a raft of security features including 256-bit AES encryption, automatic ad-blocking and malware-scanning, protection against WebRTC, IPv6, and DNS leaks, and an app-specific kill switch. You can even connect to a Tor over VPN server, removing the need to install the Tor browser at all.
With a strict zero-logs policy and shared IP addresses, NordVPN ensures your activities cannot be traced back to you. For another layer of anonymity, you can choose to pay in Bitcoin, Etherium, or Ripple.
NordVPN provides Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux apps but it can also be manually installed on wireless routers. You can protect up to six devices with a single account.
- Strict no-logging policy
- Thousands of fast servers worldwide
- Numerous customizable security features
- Specialized servers for Tor over VPN
- Desktop app can be sluggish at times
BEST BUDGET VPN: NordVPN is a security-conscious VPN that won’t break the bank. With high speeds, a no-logs policy, and Tor over VPN functionality, it’s ideal for anyone looking to browse the dark web. Plus, its plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
CyberGhost has more than 5,800 servers spread across 85+ countries, all but guaranteeing you a high-speed, low-latency connection. This service doesn’t throttle your speeds or bandwidth in any way, and it even has specific servers optimized for torrenting.
This VPN is perfect for novice users as it comes with a wide range of pre-configured security features. These include 256-bit encryption, a kill switch (in every version of the app), and protection against DNS, WebRTC, and IPv6 leaks, along with automatic malware-scanning and ad-blocking.
CyberGhost doesn’t log any personally identifiable information and allows you to sign up anonymously with a throwaway email address and Bitcoin. All users on a specific server share the same IP address, so your activities can’t be traced back to you.
This service has apps for MacOS, iOS, Windows, and Android. It also works with Linux systems and internet routers through manual configuration. CyberGhost allows up to seven simultaneous connections per account.
- All security features enabled by default
- Huge network of high-speed servers
- No logs
- Doesn’t have many customizable features
FAST AND VERSATILE: CyberGhost is a high speed, easy-to-use service that offers a wide range of security and privacy features. Better still, it comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee.
IPVanish is a very fast VPN which currently offers access to around 1,300 servers in 60+ countries. It doesn’t impose any limits on your data usage or network speeds, making it an excellent choice for day-to-day usage as well as for browsing the dark web.
Despite this service’s low price, it doesn’t skimp on security. In fact, IPVanish even includes a few features most other VPNs don’t: LAN traffic blocking and OpenVPN traffic obfuscation. Of course, there’s also 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and protection against DNS and IPv6 leaks.
This VPN keeps your activities private at all times with a strict no-logs policy. While IPVanish doesn’t accept Bitcoin, it does allow you to pay with prepaid gift cards. This means that it’s still possible (if a little more involved) to sign up anonymously.
IPVanish lets you secure up to 10 devices simultaneously and comes with Android, iOS, Windows, and MacOS apps. Linux-based systems and network routers are also supported but require manual configuration.
- Consistently high-speed connections
- Doesn’t keep logs
- Offers advanced security and privacy features
- Doesn’t accept Bitcoin
PRIVACY-FIRST VPN: IPVanish is a zero-logs provider that puts your privacy above all else. Despite this, it still manages to offer high speeds and unlimited bandwidth. This VPN includes a seven-day money-back guarantee.
PrivateVPN might have fewer servers than some of the services in this list (roughly 150 spread across 60 countries), but it provides much higher speeds. Not only that, it provides unlimited bandwidth and allows you to torrent freely.
Using 256-bit encryption, protection against IPv6, WebRTC, and DNS leaks, and a kill switch, PrivateVPN keeps your internet traffic safe from prying eyes. There’s also a cloaking feature designed to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN in the first place. What’s more, it’s possible to manually configure this service for VPN-over-Tor (although the practical uses for this are limited).
One of the best things about this service is its commitment to privacy. Although you can register anonymously by paying with Bitcoin and using a disposable email address, this is entirely optional as PrivateVPN keeps no logs whatsoever.
This VPN has apps for MacOS, iOS, Windows, and Android. It can be manually installed on Linux devices and most home routers. PrivateVPN enables you to connect up to six devices at once.
- Faster than most other VPNs
- Zero-logs provider
- Powerful security features
- Live chat isn’t available 24/7
- Relatively small network
VERY HIGH SPEEDS: PrivateVPN is an exceptionally fast service, and better still, it includes an array of powerful security and privacy features. There’s even a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark is a fairly new VPN provider, and understandably, its network is still growing. At the moment, it operates over 1,000 servers in 50+ countries, which isn’t bad at all, especially considering this service offers unlimited bandwidth and allows torrenting.
Security features include 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and protection against IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks. There’s also an automatic ad-blocker, split tunneling functionality, and a NoBorders feature that lets you bypass VPN blocking.
There’s no need to worry about your privacy as Surfshark keeps no traffic logs at all. Additionally, it accepts three different cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Ripple, and Ethereum), making it easy to sign up anonymously.
Surfshark provides MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux apps and can be manually configured to work with wireless routers. This service has no connection limit, meaning you can protect every device you own.
- Keeps no logs
- No connection limit
- Strong focus on security
- Smaller network than some of its rivals
- Some servers are faster than others
UNLIMITED CONNECTIONS: Surfshark provides high speeds, strong security features, and a no-logs policy. Additionally, it allows you to connect as many devices as you like. All plans include a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Can I use a free VPN on the dark web?
Don’t be tempted to use a free VPN when browsing the dark web. To start with, these tend to have too many users for their servers to support, which leads to extremely slow speeds. Given that Tor is slow to begin with, this is the exact opposite of what you want.
More importantly, you can’t count on a free VPN to keep your activities private. There’s no guarantee that the provider will resist pressure to reveal details of your activities, and some have even been known to sell this information to advertisers. Worse, research suggests that free VPNs are particularly risky to install, with almost 40% of surveyed apps containing malware.
Can I get into trouble for using the dark web?
There’s nothing inherently illegal about the dark web. However, given that criminals frequently use it to purchase drugs, weapons, and stolen credit card details, the dark web has something of a reputation. In fact, leaked NSA documents suggest that even visiting the Tor website could be enough to land you on a watchlist.
Look at it this way: you can’t get into legal trouble just for being on the internet. Problems only occur when you use the internet to do illegal things, and this rings true for the darknet as well.