The Tor browser dark web allows you to access sites that aren’t available through standard web browsers. It’s most commonly used by journalists and activists who need to bypass censorship, but it also helps criminals hide their activities online. While it’s important to note that no Internet browser offers perfect anonymity, using Tor with a VPN can increase your protection.
To protect your privacy, Tor encrypts data as it travels through a series of servers called relays, or middle nodes. Each relay decrypts a layer of encryption, tunneling the information to the next node until it reaches a final exit node, which forwards the traffic to the site you’re trying to visit. Since the last node decrypts your information, your identity is hidden and you can’t be traced based on your IP address.
A downside of the Tor network is that it’s slow. The extra layers of encryption require data to be sent multiple times through the network, which reduces browsing speeds. Plus, your ISP and some websites can detect when you’re using Tor, making it more difficult to conceal your location.
Tor’s main use cases are escaping censorship and protecting data privacy. Journalists and political activists use it to avoid being spied on, while individuals seeking better cybersecurity use it as well. However, it’s also known to enable criminal activity, including illicit commerce and phishing scams. For example, a 2017 study found that a website called Riseup—which supports human liberation, the ethical treatment of animals, and ecological sustainability—is a dark web portal where you can purchase stolen credit cards.