The .onion domains are the websites that belong to the area of the Internet referred to as the Dark Web. The fact is that, no matter how great internet is, it is very, very unsafe for regular users. Especially for those who do not have skill in protecting themselves online.
However, the awareness of this has finally reached the users, and they are now looking for means of protection.
One of the best ways for them to protect themselves would include using special, secure, and anonymous networks. Tor network is the perfect example of this, and today, we are going to talk about it, and also about its .onion domains. So, let us start.
What Are Tor Network And .onion Domain?
Tor network is a special private network that works by making its users anonymous, and therefore protected online. Tor is short for The Onion Router, and when you connect to it, all of your online actions are going through the Tor network.
The data will go from one relay to another on the Tor network, and it will do it until it loses any connection to you. It will only then use an exit node to leave the network and send you the browsing data. Even the site that you are accessing through Tor will see the address of the exit node, instead of your own.
As you can see, this is a very safe way of browsing the web, if you wish to remain anonymous. However, it is not the ultimate safety, and that last part of the process can still remain under surveillance. Also, do note that Tor doesn’t encrypt any part of your traffic. It only makes it impossible for anyone to follow and connect it to you.
Another great use for the Tor network is that it allows you to access the so-called .onion websites. These are the sites that end with ‘.onion’ and you can’t access them through normal browsers. They are only accessible through Tor, and they are a part of the deep web.
Basically, these are hidden services on the internet. You can only access them through Tor, which means that they are inside the Tor network. Thanks to that, nobody can see what you are doing in there, and they definitely can’t make any connection between that content and you.
Many sites have their .onion version, but the majority of these sites contain some very nasty things. Some of them may even be illegal, while the majority are some kind of scams and tricks. This is a dangerous, lawless area, and you should avoid navigating through it if you don’t know what you are doing.
Instead, use the Tor network for accessing specific sites. If you know any of them, you can access them safely through Tor, but try not to wander off. Especially since there is no map of the Tor network. Instead, you can access other sites by following external links on some other site. Search engines don’t work here, and it is an entirely new world on the internet. One that you should not take lightly.
As mentioned, many sites have a .onion version. Even Facebook is one of them, and this is because those sites might suffer from restrictions and censorships in certain countries. By providing a .onion version of their service, they are allowing access to users from countries that block Facebook.
You should only use Tor when you have to. For all the good you get by using it, there is also some of the bad, and in this case, it is about the side effect of the Tor network. We explained how your data travels from a relay to relay while you use Tor, and that will make everything perfectly safe. However, the entire process takes its toll, and it will slow your browsing speed. A lot.
So much, in fact, that you can’t use this method for downloading anything, or even for watching videos. Regular browsing is fine, but when it comes to the rest of the internet services, you just won’t have enough speed to access them as you usually would. This is mostly why people don’t use Tor all the time.
How To Use Tor Network Via Tor Browser
In order to make using the Tor network easier, the special Tor browser was developed. This is basically a Firefox browser that went through a lot of modification. Thanks to that, it can now access the Tor network and make the entire process a lot easier. You can download it for free from the Tor project’s website, and it works on Mac, Windows, and even Linux.
If you would rather use a tablet or an Android phone, you can go to your Google Play Store and download an Orbot proxy app. Alternatively, there is also an Orfox browser that you can use on these devices as well. Unfortunately for the iOS users, there are no apps that will allow access to .onion sites. Your only remaining option is to use Tor browser for Mac.
Now, upon downloading Tor browser, you should install it, and the process is pretty much the same like for any other program or browser. If you encounter difficulties, there are a lot of tutorials on YouTube that you can use.
When you install it and launch it, all you need to do is type the .onion address in the browser. It is just like typing a regular address to a regular browser, only with two differences. First, the names of the websites are often complex and they look like a random string of numbers and letters. And second, they all end with .onion, instead of .com.
For example, the .onion version of Facebook looks like this:
https://facebookcorewwwi.onion/. As you can see, it ends with .onion. The rest of the address is pretty close to the traditional Facebook address, which is mostly because of Facebook’s popularity. The whole point of this version of Facebook is to allow easy access to those who usually don’t have it.
On the other hand, the Tor version of a search engine DuckDuckGo looks like this:
http://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/. This is a lot more Tor-like, and it is a proper example of how the majority of these addresses actually look like.
These addresses will load normally in the Tor browser. However, they won’t work on Chrome, regular Firefox, Safari, or some other browser that you might use.
How To Access .onion Domain Without Using Tor
These sites and the entire Tor network are also accessible through special proxies that can connect to this network. However, using them is a very bad idea. If you try to access these sites through proxies instead of Tor browser or Android app, you will lose the usual anonymity.
That anonymity is pretty much the entire point, and by accessing these sites via proxy, you won’t have it anymore. Someone who is monitoring your connection will instantly see what you are up to, where do you go, and what do you do. The same goes for your ISP, which will get all the information and record it.
There are several Tor proxies that will let you do this. However, keep in mind that you must only use them as the last resource. Also, remember that you won’t stay hidden if you do so. These are the ones that you can use to access Tor network:
This is the first proxy that we can recommend for accessing the Tor network. All you need to do is add “.to” to the link of the .onion website and it will take you there. This way, you can even access these sites through the regular browser.
Onion.nu works pretty much the same like our previous entry. Simply add .nu at the end of a .onion link, and it will take you to the website that you wish to visit.
Onion.cab is a very good option as well, as far as proxies go. You can go to the onion.cab site directly via your regular browser, and get access to the Tor network.
If not, you can simply do the same as in our previous entries, and just add .cab to the end of a .onion link.
This proxy is also a potential candidate for accessing the Tor network, although we should point out that it is relatively unstable. As such, you should use it with caution, and probably only as the last resort. You can still access the Tor network through it, but it is not very safe.
Even some sites like Facebook think so, and they will actually warn you that you should not do it if you try to access their .onion version.
This is a good alternative for Tor2Web proxy, and it will grant you access to any .i2p or tor website through any browser. It works pretty well for both mobile phones and a PC. Use it by visiting its website, and enter the link to the .onion site that you wish to access. Alternatively, you can type .hiddenservice.net at the end of a .onion link. However, if you use this proxy, the link to the site actually loses the “.onion” part.
As an example, we will use a previously mentioned link to the DuckDuckGo search engine. The regular link looks like this:
If you use HiddenService.Net to access it, your link should look like this:
This change is unique for this proxy, and if you decide to use other ones, the “.onion” part is still necessary to add.
Best VPNs When Using Tor
Although in different ways, both Tor and VPNs use encrypted connections to protect users’ identities on the Internet. However, VPN is much more useful than Tor, but online protection is a main feature of the technology.
VPN is much faster and safer than Tor and is compatible with P2P downloading. The main reason and disadvantage of VPN is that it needs you trust your VPN vendor. Because you service provider can ‘see’ what you are doing on the web. VPN also enables you to easily hide your geographic location.
The good thing is that Tor and VPN can be used together just to provide an additional layer of security and to eliminate some of the disadvantages of using either technology separately. So for that reason, we have compiled a list of best VPN providers which works perfectly with Tor. They are:
By now, you should know what Tor network is, how it works, and how to access it. The same goes for .onion sites that are a part of this network.
Tor browser is probably the safest way to gain access and explore these site since it is specially set to let you do it safely. Alternatively, you can use different proxies that we talked about, however, they are not as safe. By using them, you will lose the anonymity that the browser will provide, which is not the best way to go.
Also, once again, we will mention that the majority of the .onion sites are full of scams, dangerous, and pretty nasty content. With that in mind, browse carefully, and if possible, only go to specific sites that you know and trust.