Visiting the Darknet

The Darknet is an overlay network within the Internet that can only be accessed with specific software, configurations, or authorization.[1] I was recently challenged by an acquaintance to visit this place, something that I'll admit, I have meant to do for quite some time. While the Darknet has a bad reputation as a place of criminal and illegal activities (there is that for sure), in my case I am a law-abiding individual and my reasons for going there has more to do with curiosity and my interest towards free speech and privacy.


Exploring the Darknet means you have to install something called Tor which stands for The onion router and the best way to do that is to download the Tor browser. Of course, once you have Tor you still need somewhere to start browsing on the Darknet and that somewhere probably should be Hidden Services Today which you can find at:


Hidden Services Today has a large collection of links to onion sites and better yet, the least number of dead links I have seen during my browsing there. It is in my opinion the best place to start for a curious beginner wanting to learn about the Darknet, you find links to sites about a wide-range of subject. There is no advertising, the site rely exclusively on donations, so if that resource was of any help to you, please consider making a contribution.

Illegality and Criminal Activity

To be clear, there is nothing illegal about browsing the Darknet, it is in fact no different then browsing anywhere else on the Internet. There is, however, some things that constitute criminal behaviour and those are no different whether you are on the Darknet or elsewhere on the Internet. The key difference is that there is enhanced privacy on the Darknet and that make people outside the law perhaps overly confident and why markets selling drugs, guns and other illegal ware and services are common on the Darknet. But despite enhance privacy, authorities and law enforcement agents can occasionally find ways to catch those who break the law. For example, John M. LeCoque was sentenced to a decade in prison for the sale of illicit drugs on the Darknet's now-defunct White House market.[2]

Anonymity and Privacy

The Darknet is a place where anonymity is not only allowed, it is in fact highly encouraged. Most services you come across do not require real names or personal details, payments are made through cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or Monero and when private details or required (e.g., delivery address) such information is provided encrypted using tools such as GnuPG. Some vendors also provide services to enhance Darknet users' anonymity such as Virtual Private Network or anonymous email provider.

Legit Use

The truth is that despite some vendors selling criminal and illegal wares or services, there is a plethora of interesting things to find on the Darknet. They have their own social media sites but unlike those on clearnet, they are usually uncensored. Many important regular sites and organizations have a presence on the Darknet, including Facebook, BBC News, even the CIA. You can also explore Virginia Tech's steam tunnels, several news outlet, and so much more. While you ought to be careful using the Darknet, it is not as scary a place as it sounds.


  1. Laurent Gayard, Darknet: Geopolitics and Uses (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2018), 158.
  2. Kansas City Man Imprisoned for Distributing Meth and Heroin, DarkNetLive ( : 2 March 2024).