Today we explain how to set up Tor to browse safely, and we'll share some links to safe sites on the deep web to get you started.
Many already know that not everything on the Internet appears in Google, Yahoo, Bing or other search engines, and that accessing much of this content requires the use of special browsers such as Tor. However, many users are discouraged from downloading and investigating this browser because they believe it is dangerous or illegal to go deep into the Internet. In this article, which includes a video, we explain the steps to set up Tor to browse the deep web safely, and we share some safe sites for those interested in taking their first steps.
Commonly the concepts of Deep and Dark Web are confused, which generates more myths than realities and some unnecessary fear for many users. Deep Web" or "Deep Internet" is the name given to everything that is not indexed in search engines. That is, private or personal services that can only be accessed by knowing the IP address. Within the Deep Web there are anonymous networks that are used by people who want to preserve their privacy or surf without censorship. In these networks there is a lot of interesting content, but due to their anonymity characteristics they are often suitable for illegal activities. This last portion of the Internet, where dangerous and illegal services are found, is known as the "Dark Web".
How to configure Tor to browse safely
Among the anonymous networks known on the Deep Web, the Onion network is the best known. To access it, it is necessary to do so through the popular Tor browser.
The first step is to download the latest version of the browser, which should always be done from the official site. It is available for Windows, Linux, Mac, and Android.
Installation is really easy. Just select the language and choose the installation folder. Actually, Tor is a portable browser, so the installer just unzips the necessary files and adds a shortcut.
The first time you start the browser, a one-time wizard will open with the options for setting up Tor or connecting directly. In most cases connecting is sufficient, but in case you need to set up an outbound proxy to the Internet or if your network has some kind of surveillance or censorship, these options are available within the settings.
When using Tor, the Internet provider or network administrator can usually see traffic from the computer to an IP identified as a Tor node. That is, while they won't see the traffic specifically, they can tell that the user is browsing this network. To avoid this, or to avoid censorship, you can use "bridges", which are equal accesses to the entry nodes, but are not publicly known. Using a bridge makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for someone to know that Tor is being used. Of course, because they are not public, it is not easy to get these bridges, and often the best thing to do is to build the bridge itself on a trusted computer and secure network.
Once you've connected to Tor, we recommend watching the short tutorial at the end of this article that explains the basic workings of Tor. In the video you can see the privacy and security settings, and also how the "circuit" works, which is the path or nodes that the connection is passing through. It's important to know that you can renew the circuit at any time. This causes a new route to be created passing through new nodes.
The first node in the circuit is called the protection node or "gatekeeper". It is usually a fast and stable repeater that remains fixed for 2 or 3 months. The reason for this is to protect the user from denial of service attacks and to avoid that, eventually and after some circuit changes, the user ends up entering and leaving through two nodes controlled by the same person. In this way, the anonymity and stability of the connection is strengthened.
Because Tor is a Firefox-based browser, its settings and features are similar to the popular browser. Before you start visiting sites with TOR, it's a good idea to check the browser's settings to make sure everything is in order. In addition, these settings can be changed anytime the user needs them.
Within the "Options" menu are the General, Privacy and Security options, and the Tor-specific options. We recommend checking the following:
General - Updates: as with any software, it is always best to keep it up to date, so the "Update automatically" option should be selected.
General - Language: in general when we start using the browser in Spanish it recommends us to switch the language to English to make it even more difficult to be tracked. However, in our experience, it is just as safe to use the browser in Spanish or English.
Privacy & Security - History - Permanent private browsing mode: this option is similar to always opening the browser in "incognito" mode; that is, it will never save the browsing history, cookies or any other file or trace of the sites visited.
Privacy & Security - Permissions: like any browser, in this section we will enable access to the location, camera, microphone and other devices on your computer. For greater security it is preferable to avoid giving these permissions to the sites we visit, especially the location.
Tor - Bridges: here you can set up relays (or bridges) if you are connected to a censored network or don't want the network administrator to detect Tor use.
Tor - Advanced: here you can set up a proxy if your network requires it, or set certain outgoing ports if your connection goes through a firewall that only allows certain ports.
Finally, within the configurations there is also the possibility of installing plugins, which allow to extend the functionalities, as in any browser. However, it is preferable to avoid installing extensions, especially if these are not extremely reliable, as they could access the content and pages being visited and compromise the user's privacy.
Secure sites to visit on the Deep Web
Once we configure the browser we are ready to visit the first websites of the Onion network. The main characteristic of the Deep Web is that the sites are not indexed, and although there are search engines that we will see later, the most common is to use forums, indexes or to know the exact address of the site you want to visit. Below, we share some interesting links to sites that are not malicious or illegal, so that those who enter the Deep Web for the first time know where to start and, in turn, demystify a little that everything we find there is illegal content. Here is the list:
1. Hidden Wiki: is the best known index of Onion sites. A good place to start learning about the deep Internet, although within its list you can find several illegal sites that are best avoided
2. Onion List: another list of Onion sites.
3. Duck Duck Go: is a search engine for indexed sites on the Internet that, unlike other search engines, does not store any information about searches or users.
4. Torch: one of the few Onion site search engines that has over a million sites indexed.
5. Not Evil: another Onion site search engine that promises to return only benign and legal results.
6. Tor Metrics: this site provides information about the Tor network, its usage, entry and exit nodes, traffic, and other interesting metrics.
7. Proton Mail: anonymous mail service on the Tor network. This is one of the most widely used anonymous mail services.
8. TorBox: another anonymous mail service.
9. Facebook: anonymous access link to the Facebook social network through Tor.
10. Deep Web Radio: list of online radios and music streaming.
11. Cebolla Chan: one of the most used forums in Spanish on the Deep Web with all kinds of conversations and information.
12. Hidden Answers: another forum in Spanish where we can find websites related to all kinds of topics in general.
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Web Developer, Blogger, Creative Thinker, Social media enthusiast, Italian expat in Spain, mom of little 7 years old geek, founder of @manoweb. A strong conceptual and creative thinker who has a keen interest in all things relate to the Internet. A technically savvy web developer, who has multiple years of website design expertise behind her. She turns conceptual ideas into highly creative visual digital products.
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