5 Best VPNs to Access the Dark Web in 2023 (Safe & Private)
Navigating the Dark Web presents a unique set of challenges. While using The Onion Router (Tor) provides a secure encrypted connection, it doesn’t hide your usage of Tor from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). This could lead to scrutiny since, although Tor usage is legal, its frequent association with the Dark Web and illicit activities often raises questions.
The solution is a VPN. A quality VPN effectively conceals your IP address, making your connection to Tor invisible even to your ISP, safeguarding your anonymity.
Among the VPNs tested, ExpressVPN is the #1 dark web companion VPN thanks to its robust private server network, fast speeds, and strict no-logs policy. With a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can explore its compatibility with the Dark Web risk-free. If unsatisfied, a full refund is available within this period.
Note: WizCase does not condone participation in any illegal activities. Please check the rules and regulations in your country to ensure you are not in breach of any laws.
Short on Time? These Are the Best VPNs for the Dark Web in 2023
- ExpressVPN — Independently-audited TrustedServer technology ensures both security and speed. Try ExpressVPN today!
- CyberGhost — Features self-owned NoSpy servers for highly secure obfuscated and high-speed connections, but doesn’t provide a .onion service to download it from on the Dark Web.
- PIA — Offers highly customizable security settings, but speeds dipped a lot on distant servers.
- NordVPN — Delivers advanced privacy through Double VPN and Onion Over VPN, but has limited obfuscated servers.
- Surfshark — An economical VPN allowing unlimited device connections, but getting updated server stats can be a little cumbersome.
How a VPN Helps You Safely Connect to the Dark Web
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an essential tool for safe, anonymous navigation of the Dark Web. It serves as a protective layer, working in tandem with the Onion Router (Tor) to enhance online security, using some of the following methods:
- Hides your IP address — granting you increased privacy and making it appear as though you’re browsing from a different location.
- Data encryption — so that even if someone managed to intercept your data, they wouldn’t be able to read it.
- Maintains anonymity from ISPs — by hiding your Tor usage from them.
- Prevents traffic analysis — making your online activities appear as mere indecipherable noise.
- VPN kill switch — activates if your VPN connection drops unexpectedly, preventing your IP address and activities from being exposed.
Best VPNs to Safely Use the Dark Web in 2023
1. ExpressVPN — #1 VPN for the Dark Web With RAM-Based Servers That Delete All Data With Every Reboot
- AES 256-bit encryption, audited no-logs policy, and automatic kill switch ensure secure Dark Web sessions.
- Access to 3,000+ servers in 94 countries.
- Supports Windows, macOS, Linux, mobile platforms, and more.
- Supports 8 simultaneous device connections.
- 24/7 live chat, email support, and a comprehensive knowledge base.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN was one of the first VPNs to build its infrastructure on RAM-based servers, meaning no data is ever permanently written to a disk. This TrustedServer setup has even been put to the test when the Turkish government seized a server, but couldn’t recover a thing. This makes it perfect for Dark Web access.
With advanced obfuscation on every server, crucial for anonymous Dark Web exploration, ExpressVPN disguises VPN traffic as normal HTTPS traffic. This is particularly useful in regions with strict internet censorship, helping elude ISPs and entities that restrict VPN use and ensuring uninterrupted, undetectable access to Tor and the Dark Web.
It also employs a number of other cutting-edge security features, including:
- AES 256-bit encryption — used to encrypt your internet traffic, giving you military-grade protection while browsing the Dark Web.
- Auto kill switch — immediately disconnects your internet if your VPN connection drops, preventing your IP address and online activity from accidental exposure.
- DNS & IP leak protection — protects your data from accidental exposure.
- Lightway protocol — offers a blend of high-speed connections and strong security, allowing for efficient Tor browsing.
- Port optimization — makes use of the default OpenVPN setup on port 443, which is seldom blocked, ensuring consistent access to Tor.
Since the Tor network is known to be particularly slow, a good base connection isn’t always necessary to take advantage of it. However, it was great to see that ExpressVPN only fell 14.6% from my baseline speed to an average of 298.9Mbps. This was plenty to maintain sufficient speeds for browsing the Dark Web and all activities on the regular web.
Located in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands, far from ’14 Eyes’ surveillance, ExpressVPN enjoys legal protection from mandatory data retention laws and government interference. This jurisdiction fortifies your privacy, keeping your Dark Web activities strictly confidential.
There’s even an ExpressVPN .onion site that you can access from the Dark Web, ensuring you can download the VPN in complete privacy if required. This makes it perfect for countries with extreme censorship. Incidentally, ExpressVPN is also one of the best VPNs for China, thanks to its advanced overall security and privacy features.
While it’s a little more expensive than other premium VPNs, you can nonetheless get a great deal and save 49% on its 1-year + 3 months plan, bringing it down to $6.67/month.
Give ExpressVPN a go and decide if it’s the right VPN for your needs. With its robust 30-day money-back guarantee, you’re shielded by a reliable refund policy. When I put it to the test, I requested a refund through its live chat support and was approved within just 5 minutes. The full amount was credited back to me within just 5 days.
ExpressVPN unblocks: Tor network, I2P, Freenet, ZeroNet, .onion websites, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, ESPN, NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox Sports, Sling TV, Spotify, YouTube, and more.
ExpressVPN works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Roku, Android TVs, smart TVs, routers, and more.
2023 Update! ExpressVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $6.67 per month for the 1-year plan (you can save up to 49%) + 3 months free! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.
- AES 256-bit encryption, automated HTTPS redirect, and data compression for secure Dark Web access.
- 9,600+ servers located in 91 countries.
- Compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, mobile devices, consoles, and more.
- Can handle 7 devices at once.
- 24/7 live support via chat and email, complemented by an expansive FAQ section.
- Generous 45-day money-back guarantee.
CyberGhost’s NoSpy servers are premium in-house servers that provide enhanced security and performance for Dark Web users. These feature top-of-the-line hardware, obfuscation, and higher speeds and bandwidth than regular servers. They’re also self-owned, operated, and maintained by CyberGhost, meaning no third parties can access or tamper with them.
Obfuscation is essential for exploring the Dark Web safely and anonymously, and CyberGhost has some of the best features for this purpose. It uses OpenVPN Scramble and Shadowsocks Proxy to mask VPN traffic as regular web traffic, making it difficult for anyone to detect or block your VPN connection.
There are an impressive set of additional security features available, including:
- Split tunneling — lets you choose which apps or websites bypass the VPN.
- AES 256-bit encryption — ensures your internet traffic remains confidential, providing robust protection during Dark Web browsing.
- Automatic kill switch — immediately disconnects the internet if your VPN connection drops, shielding your online activity and IP address from accidental exposure.
- DNS & IP leak protection — defends your data against accidental leaks, crucial for maintaining privacy on the Dark Web.
The speeds I measured while testing CyberGhost didn’t disappoint, with average speeds of 228.41Mbps (a 34.7% drop). While this is a higher drop than ExpressVPN, the remaining speeds were still plenty for anything I could throw at it. It’s worth mentioning that the average was mainly impacted by slow distant servers; local servers maintained high speeds.
Based in Romania, CyberGhost operates beyond the reach of ‘5/9/14 Eyes’ intelligence-sharing groups. This, along with Romania’s lack of data retention laws, means your Dark Web activities remain private and well-protected from potential governmental prying.
Unfortunately, CyberGhost doesn’t provide a .onion service for downloading it from the Dark Web. This could be an issue in regions with extreme censorship. However, its highly competitive pricing, particularly with its 2-year + 2 months plan being just $2.19/month, makes it one of our top-rated monthly VPNs, and an excellent choice for value-conscious users.
You can try CyberGhost risk-free with its generous 45-day money-back guarantee. I tested this policy through a refund request on their live chat, and I was pleasantly surprised to have my request processed within 4 minutes. I had the money back 7 days later.
CyberGhost unblocks: Tor network, I2P, Freenet, .onion websites, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, ESPN, Fox Sports, Sling TV, Spotify, YouTube, and more.
CyberGhost works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Android TVs, smart TVs, routers, and more.
2023 Update! You can subscribe to CyberGhost for as low as $2.19 per month + get extra 2 months free with the 2-year plan (save up to 83%)! This is a limited offer so grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.
- Advanced obfuscation techniques, MACE blocker, and WireGuard protocol to enhance Dark Web security.
- Massive network with over 35,000 servers spanning 84 countries.
- Supports Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and many other devices.
- Allows unlimited simultaneous device connections.
- 24/7 support via live chat, email, and a resourceful help center.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
Private Internet Access offers a wide range of advanced security configurations. These not only add to your safety on the general web but are especially beneficial when delving into the Dark Web. This level of meticulous security makes PIA a top choice for Dark Web users. This includes specifying encryption protocols, DNS settings, ports, and more.
With a huge 35,000+ servers, Private Internet Access eclipses the others on this list in terms of sheer server count. Spread across 84 countries, this vast network ensures that users always have a low-latency and stable server option for exploring the Dark Web nearby.
However, while this breadth of servers helps with reliable connectivity, I did measure an average drop of 62% from my baseline (the highest on this list). This was mainly due to faraway servers like Australia, while local servers did much better. The 133Mbps average speed is still plenty for most activities (for instance, 25Mbps is necessary for 4K streaming).
Some of PIA’s most critical security features include:
- Advanced obfuscation techniques — Utilizes tools to seamlessly mask VPN traffic, rendering it virtually indistinguishable from regular traffic.
- MACE — PIA’s proprietary ad, tracker, and malware deterrent, enhancing your browsing quality while shielding you from potential Dark Web threats.
- WireGuard protocol — Combines both speed and superior security.
PIA is based in the United States, a member of the ‘5/9/14 Eyes’ intelligence-sharing alliances. However, it has been independently audited, reaffirming its commitment to user privacy. Its staunch no-logs policy has even been proven in court on multiple occasions when law enforcement tried to (unsuccessfully) acquire user data.
A minor hiccup I’ve noticed is that I frequently run into CAPTCHAS (primarily on Google) with PIA-connected compared to other VPNs. On the bright side, PIA offers one of the most competitive pricing models on the market, with the 2-year + 2 months plan costing only $2.19/month.
You can try PIA risk-free since it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. I personally verified this policy after testing it for a few weeks, and after a quick chat with their support, my refund was approved in minutes, with the funds in my account 6 days later.
PIA unblocks: Tor network, I2P, Freenet, .onion websites, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Fox Sports, Sling TV, Spotify, YouTube, and more.
PIA works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, Android TVs, smart TVs, routers, and more.
2023 Update! You can subscribe to PIA for as low as $2.19 per month + get extra 2 months free with the 2-year plan (save up to 82%)! This is a limited offer so grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here!
- Double encryption, CyberSec feature, and IP/DNS leak protection for added Dark Web safety.
- Over 5,700 servers available across 60 countries.
- Compatible with Windows, macOS, Linux, mobile devices, and more.
- Up to 6 simultaneous device connections.
- Dedicated round-the-clock live chat, email support, and a rich help center.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
With its unique double encryption process, NordVPN provides an added layer of security when using the Dark Web. This ensures that your online footprint remains completely invisible by routing your connection via a second VPN server. The downside is that it further slows your connection, which can be especially noticeable while using Tor.
During my testing, NordVPN dropped just 19.4% from my original connection speed. It’s a particularly small drop, second only to ExpressVPN, and meant that there were no hindrances for me to access any Dark Web content while connected to various global servers.
Here are some of NordVPN’s notable security features:
- Double VPN — Routes your data through two distinct servers, doubly encrypting it.
- CyberSec — Actively blocks ads, malware, and phishing threats, ensuring a safe and clean Dark Web experience.
- Onion Over VPN — Provides direct access to the Tor network with an added layer of NordVPN encryption (but better used separately from any dedicated Tor-based software).
Based in Panama, a country known for its strong privacy laws and absence of data retention mandates, NordVPN operates in a jurisdiction that’s outside the ‘5/9/14 Eyes’ surveillance network. This ensures that your Dark Web activities stay far from prying eyes.
While NordVPN offers obfuscated servers tailored for countries with heavy internet restrictions, they’re available in only 16 countries worldwide. Notably, some highly censored regions are left out. A silver lining, however, is that NordVPN, much like ExpressVPN, is one of the few VPNs with its own .onion website to ensure a discreet download.
When it comes to pricing, NordVPN offers a balance between affordability and premium features. The 2-year + 3 months plan provides an attractive 68% discount, bringing the monthly cost down to $3.19/month.
Trying NordVPN is risk-free, given its 30-day money-back guarantee. I tested out their refund process and was pleasantly surprised by the speed and ease of the transaction. After a brief conversation with their support, my refund was processed within minutes, and I saw the funds in my account within a week.
NordVPN unblocks: Tor network, I2P, Freenet, .onion websites, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Fox Sports, Sling TV, Spotify, YouTube, and more.
NordVPN works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Android TVs, smart TVs, routers, and more.
- AES 256-bit encryption, CleanWeb feature, and multi-hop connections guarantee safe Dark Web exploration.
- 3,200 servers distributed across 100 countries.
- Supports Windows, macOS, Linux, mobile platforms, and more.
- Provides unlimited simultaneous device connections for true flexibility.
- Always-available live chat, email support, and a detailed knowledge base.
- 30-day money-back guarantee.
Surfshark offers huge value with its unlimited simultaneous connections policy. This means you’re able to protect all your devices at once, ensuring that your PC, your smartphones, and more remain shielded whether on the surface web or Dark Web.
The Camouflage Mode obfuscation feature conceals the fact that you’re using a VPN. Unlike many other VPNs, this can be applied to any Surfshark server you connect to, which is a critical feature for safe and anonymous Dark Web access.
Some of Surfshark’s notable security offerings are:
- CleanWeb — shields your device from ads, malware, and phishing.
- AES 256-bit encryption — provides a robust fortress around your data.
- Private DNS & leak protection — offer peace of mind by preventing DNS leaks.
Like ExpressVPN, Surfshark is registered in the British Virgin Islands, beyond the jurisdiction of any major surveillance alliance. This ensures added layers of security and privacy for Dark Web users, away from intrusive eyes.
A minor drawback is that you can’t see live server stats, such as latency, while connected to a server. For Dark Web users, disconnecting from your VPN mid-Tor-session to check stats is risky. However, the Quick Connect feature adeptly ensures an initial optimal server connection, somewhat offsetting this concern.
Lastly, Surfshark’s pricing strategy is among the most competitive. Their 2-year + 2 months plan, when combined with the additional discounts, equates to only $2.30/month. Plus, with a 30-day money-back guarantee, testing Surfshark is virtually risk-free. My own experience with their refund process was swift and hassle-free.
Surfshark unblocks: Tor network, I2P, Freenet, .onion websites, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Spotify, YouTube, and more.
Surfshark works on: Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Amazon Fire TV, Android TVs, smart TVs, routers, and more.
Comparison Table: 2023’s Best VPNs for the Dark Web
|VPN||Speed||Servers||Outside 5/9/14 Eyes alliances||Ad, malware, or tracking blocker||Obfuscated servers||Lowest price per month|
How I Tested and Ranked the Best VPNs to Access the Dark Web
These are the key criteria I used to rank the best VPNs for the Dark Web:
- Advanced security — Military-grade encryption, IP masking, and additional features ensure anonymous and secure Dark Web browsing.
- Privacy protocols — Solid IP & DNS leak protection, trustworthy zero-log policies, and innovative features like RAM-based servers shield your activities.
- High-speed connections — Fast and reliable speeds are crucial for seamless Dark Web exploration without interruptions.
- Wide server availability — A vast network of servers ensures access to the Dark Web from any location and provides choices for optimized connections.
- Device compatibility — VPNs should cater to a range of devices, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS.
- Multiple simultaneous connections — The ability to protect multiple devices ensures all your Dark Web ventures are secure, even as you switch devices or platforms
3 Easy Steps to Get on the Dark Web (Updated 2023)
- Get a high-quality VPN. Thanks to its proven no-logs policy and RAM-based servers that don’t ever store your data, I recommend ExpressVPN as your companion VPN.
- Download the Tor Browser. This is the best and most secure way to connect to the Dark Web.
- Connect to any VPN server and start the Tor Browser. You’ll be connected to a Tor relay and can start browsing the Dark Web anonymously and securely.
FAQs: VPNs and the Dark Web
Can I access the dark web without a VPN?
Yes, you can access the Dark Web using Tor or similar browsers — but I don’t recommend it. Even though Tor offers anonymity, your ISP can still detect its usage. A VPN combined with Tor hides this activity and further encrypts your data, enhancing both privacy and security.
What VPN is best for the dark web?
The best VPN for accessing the Dark Web is ExpressVPN. Its high-speed servers and powerful features, (including advanced obfuscation, AES 256-bit encryption, and RAM-only servers) provide strong privacy and security while browsing the Dark Web. The fact that it’s based in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands adds an extra layer of legal protection.
How is the deep web and the dark web different?
The “Deep Web” encompasses internet areas not indexed by regular search engines, like private emails and other password-protected content. The “Dark Web” is a specific section of the Deep Web accessible only via specialized software like Tor. While the Dark Web is part of the Deep Web, not all of the Deep Web is part of the Dark Web.
Can the dark web be monitored?
Monitoring the Dark Web is technically feasible but incredibly challenging due to the high level of anonymity it provides. Users typically access the Dark Web via services like Tor, which mask identities by routing traffic through multiple global servers. Notably, a VPN adds an extra security layer, but remember, no approach guarantees total privacy or safety.
Does a VPN prevent ISP tracking on the dark web?
Yes, using a VPN can effectively prevent your Internet Service Provider (ISP) from tracking your activities on the Dark Web. While an ISP can typically see that you’re using Tor without a VPN, they can’t see what you’re doing on it. However, when you use a VPN, your ISP can’t even see that you’re connecting to Tor.
How can I find dark web websites?
Browsing the Dark Web involves utilizing certain search engines, directories, and forums specifically designed for this hidden portion of the internet. Always remember to keep your VPN active while exploring the Dark Web, even when it appears harmless. Here’s a quick rundown of some useful Dark Web sites:
- The Hidden Wiki — A directory of .onion links, it offers a curated overview of Dark Web websites, featuring many legal and safe options.
- SecureDrop — Offers an anonymous document submission system for whistleblowers, making it possible to share sensitive information with media organizations without revealing your identity.
- DuckDuckGo — As a privacy-focused search engine, it refrains from tracking your search history or data, allowing you to browse both the surface and Dark Web without leaving a trace.
- Daniel — A Dark Web search engine, it’s adept at indexing hidden services, making it easier to locate .onion sites.
- ProPublica — This independent news organization provides a .onion version of its site for privacy-minded users, ensuring anonymous access to its investigative journalism pieces.
- Mail2Tor — This free, anonymous email service ensures your communication remains undisclosed, letting you send and receive emails without exposing your identity or location.
- Hidden Answers — As a Dark Web alternative to Q&A platforms like Quora, it allows for anonymous asking and answering of questions across a wide array of topics.
- The Imperial Library — This digital library allows anonymous access to a vast collection of books, articles, and documents, aiding in the preservation and dissemination of knowledge.
Is it legal to use a VPN to access the dark web?
Using a VPN to access the Dark Web is legal in most countries since the best VPNs are simply tools meant to enhance online privacy and security. While the Dark Web itself can be used for legitimate reasons like evading censorship, it’s also a hub for illegal activities. Engaging in illicit actions is illegal irrespective of VPN use.
Can I use a free VPN to access the dark web?
While there are some good free VPNs on the market, I don’t recommend using any of them for the Dark Web. Even the best free VPNs come with severe limitations, such as restricted data, lots of buffering and lag, and overcrowded servers. None of these downsides are worth it, especially since using the Tor browser will already slow down your browsing speeds.
I find it’s well worth investing in a quality VPN for maximum security, guaranteed anonymity, and a high-speed global server network. ExpressVPN offers all this and more, making it the #1 Dark Web companion VPN.
Don’t Compromise Your Safety & Use a VPN to Access the Dark Web
Navigating the Dark Web requires more than just curiosity; it demands a commitment to safety. Utilizing a VPN is paramount to ensuring your activities remain anonymous and secure. While you may be tempted to opt for a VPN solely based on price, remember that sometimes you’re sacrificing crucial security elements.
ExpressVPN stands as the best sidekick in your Dark Web adventures. Not only does it offer impeccable security measures, but also fast speeds, a huge server network, and other premium features. If it doesn’t live up to your expectations, there’s always the 30-day money-back guarantee that has your back.