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How to use Tor browser safely and with max-privacy (Dec 2022)

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How To Use Tor

The dark web is notorious as an illicit hub of illegal activities, sparking controversies and speculations. While there is some truth to the matter, and the dark web is a dangerous place to venture, it is not all about criminal activities. 

The dark web is a valuable place for journalists, human rights activists, or even for people living under war zones or restrictive governments. Forums like Reddit and various news sites such as Guardian have dark web versions running. 

However, accessing the dark web is not an easy task. It consists of .onion sites that are only accessible via the Tor browser. And while the Tor browser has a reputation as one of the best private browsers ensuring online privacy and anonymity, it does have various vulnerabilities making it less than perfect for securely accessing the dark web. 

The Tor loopholes lead to online spying at the exit node, ISP throttling, and other minor flaws. Thus, it’s crucial to learn how to use the Tor browser safely to access the dark web

How to Access the Dark Web Safely?

There could be countless reasons anyone would want to access the dark web. They could be a journalist following a story or a human rights activist collaborating with a journalist to give voice to some story.  But whatever you do, you need to keep your identity hidden. Using the Tor browser to access the dark web without any safety measures makes you vulnerable to various cyber threats and risks your digital privacy. 

Achieving maximum online protection on the Tor browser is tricky, but it isn’t impossible. From now, when you use the Tor browser so, consider practicing the best security tips:

How To Use Tor Browser Safely: 6 Tips

how to use tor safely

There could be countless reasons anyone would want to access the dark web. They could be a journalist following a story or a human rights activist collaborating with a journalist to give voice to some story.  But whatever you do, you need to keep your identity hidden. Using the Tor browser to access the dark web without any safety measures makes you vulnerable to various cyber threats and risks your digital privacy. 

Achieving maximum online protection on the Tor browser is tricky, but it isn’t impossible. From now, when you use the Tor browser so, consider practicing the best security tips:

1. Download Tor from the Official Website

Tor browser is a free online privacy and anonymity tool, and it has gained much popularity over the years. However, there’s no surprise that the threat actor has created a bogus version of the Tor browser to compromise your digital privacy and monitor your behavior on the dark web. 

For this reason, ensure that you only download the Tor browser from the official site. The Tor Browser is a free and open-source project that you can download on all major devices and operating systems except for iOS. Also, don’t forget to update your browser timely to prevent browser vulnerabilities from disrupting your online security. 

2. Install Tor Safely

One guaranteed way of using Tor safely is to pair it with a reliable VPN compatible with Tor. Since Tor compatibility is somewhat rare, you need to be careful in the choices you make. A VPN with a dedicated space for Tor means you can speed up the browsing speed, plus it will secure your data by providing the best data encryption.  

  1. After downloading and enabling the Tor VPN.
  2. Get the Tor browser on the site available for macOS, Windows, Linux OS & Android devices. Unfortunately, it’s not available for iPhone or iPad users.
  3. Once installed, open the browser, click on connect and configure to connect on their servers. 

So far, Tor over VPN is the best solution to browse safely and anonymously on Tor. 

3. Encrypt Your Data With Tor VPN

The best way to boost your digital security on the Tor browser is to use a VPN. It is an excellent tool that, unlike the Tor browser, encrypts the data traffic and masks your IP address in a way that no one can identify or know about your activities. Anyone who tries to track your movements sees encrypted data packets that are inaccessible without the dedicated decryption key. 

Experts suggest two ways to use a VPN with the Tor browser:

  • Tor Over VPN – It is the easiest way to connect with the Tor network. You first connect to a VPN and then to the Tor browser. In this way, your IP address remains hidden from the ISP and Tor exit nodes. 
  • VPN Over Tor – It is a less common and pretty complicated method to connect with the Tor browser. You first connect to Tor and configure the VPN in this method, which is not easy; moreover, your IP address is not hidden, so your ISP knows you’re using the onion network. 

It’s better to use the Tor over VPN method because it offers better security, while VPN over Tor is best for anonymity. Using a VPN first protects all your connection and internet activities. Also, it efficiently deals with the Tor vulnerabilities so, you should use it. 

4. Habits To Avoid:

It is crucial to remain secure with the Tor browser due to the several above-mentioned privacy risks associated with the browser. Some of the critical habits you need to avoid are as follows:

  1. Avoid using any Google personal products, like Gmail, Drive, or Hangouts.
  2. Don’t uploading media files, like your private pictures or personal information.
  3. Avoid using any social media platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
  4. Use Https Anywhere to the browser-only secured versions of the sites. 
  5. Avoid using any peer-to-peer connection to download Torrents.
  6. Avoid using Tor without a VPN connection.

Putting these privacy habits and measures into consideration will ensure that you remain safe while using Tor. Since most of these habits are personalized, even a slight oversight can cause privacy and data leaks.

5. Advance Security Settings:

Although using Tor might sound a bit intimidating, in reality, Tor is a versatile tool allowing you to Tor privacy settings as per your needs. However, while doing so, you would have to compromise your browsing experience. Such as most sites won’t work, but a few likes like Wikipedia are in the whitelist would work as usual. By default, Tor connects the relay and builds the connection with its proxy server. Once it connects, Tor enables Noscript and HttpsAnywhere by default. 

This way, you can browse any site you want and disable any script involved in tracking and saving cookies into your machine. Javascript is the most used tracking scripts functions that can cause data leaks. 

6. Cookies Settings

Albeit, Tor provides the best privacy and anonymous environment to protect your identity. Sometimes you use social media platforms to communicate with each other or watch videos. These sites only work once you permit them and allow their scripts to run smoothly. This could store your cookies and track your data and cause data leaks.

The Tor browser opens with private mode by default, which means it will not maintain any search hisTory. Once you close the Tor, it will automatically delete all the cookies. 

7. Configure Your Tor Network

The Tor browser offers numerous privacy settings that you should configure to protect your privacy. It allows users to browse in anonymous mode and comes with an encrypted proxy to encrypt the data. Besides this, by default, it offers a security level that is set to Safe Mode. You can increase the security level to the safest by navigating the setting menu. 

  • Click on the Tor icon > select security settings > tap on Safest.

Here’s what level of security does each level offers:

  • Standard: All Tor browser and website features are enabled. 
  • Safer: On any unprotected sites, it disables the JavaScript but, as a result, can cause trouble with the functionality of some websites. 
  • Safest: By default, JavaScripts are disabled, and this level only enables website features required for static websites and basic services. 

You can even make other necessary settings to delete cookies and rebuild circuits. To know more about the Tor browser settings, follow this link. 

8. Use Privacy Search Engines

All the popular mainstream search engines such as Google work as data collection tools. It tracks your online activities and gathers and sells your information to third parties to earn revenue. In this way, they violate your digital privacy, and if you continue to use them with the Tor browser, it might bring drastic impacts. 

Therefore, it’s time to switch to private search engines like DuckDuckGo, Yandex, or others. These search engines have impressive security and privacy-centric features and refrain from collecting and sharing your data. Like when you use Tor browser with DuckDuckGo so, it won’t generate neither store your browser fingerprints. Also, it will prevent against online tracking and hence ensures that your online activities remains secure.  

9. Re-Built Circuits and Establish New Identities

The concept of circuits revolves around the relay nodes and Tor bridges. The Tor browser establishes your connection by using a unique mechanism called Circuit. To use the Tor browser safely, you can change the circuits by tapping on the Onion icon in the address bar. By doing so, you can change the IP address with the circuits, permanently delete all your logs, and even browse with improved speeds. 

Also, this makes it difficult for anyone to monitor and know that you’re using the Tor browser. The new identity is another impressive feature offered by the Tor browser that assigns you a new IP address and helps in safe and secure access to the dark web. You can enable this feature by navigating into the three bar menu. It prevents your browsing activity from linking to what you were doing before. 

When you turn on this feature, it closes all the tabs and windows and automatically restarts the Tor browser. Even if you’re browsing in the private mode, it starts the browser with a fresh IP address.

10. Use Bridges

You can even use Tor bridges to unblock the Tor entry nodes and use the Tor browser safely. The Tor bridges are mainly a proxy system that helps in bypassing the network administrator ban. When you connect to a Tor bridge, it routes your traffic via a proxy server and hides your actual IP address. 

In this way, you can add an extra layer of anonymity and hide your online identity on the Tor browser. However, there’s no complete list of these proxies, and now, ISPs use special filters to detect proxies and block them. Thus, you need to be careful while using one and ensure to use a VPN for enhanced protection. 

Can I Use Tor Browser Alternatives to Access the Dark Web?

If you’re not satisfied with the performance of the Tor browser, you can use the best Tor browser alternatives. They provide safe and secure access to the dark web without compromising your digital privacy. The best Tor browser alternatives for the dark web use darknet technology to increase your security. Moreover, they offer privacy-centric features that make you more private while accessing the dark web. However, make sure that you only use the alternatives designed for the dark web. It’s because there’s a long list of browsers that helps in anonymous browsing but won’t guarantee safe access to the dark web. So, choose the alternative wisely. 

Is Tor Dangerous to Use?

The Tor browser is an excellent privacy and security tool. It helps ensure online anonymity and privacy and while its privacy is not perfect, the Tor browser is also not dangerous. The reason why people consider Tor as dangerous is because of the browser’s connection with the dark web and due to its various vulnerabilities like:

  • It had compromised exit nodes and was a victim of potential malware attacks. 
  • You often experience slow browsing speeds because of the continuous hopping of the data traffic from one node to another. 
  • Since the Tor browser is associated with the dark web, your ISP and government agencies always doubt your activities.
  • When you connect to the Tor browser, your IP address is visible to your ISP, and they track your activities and might throttle your connection. 

The best way to get rid of the issues hovering over the Tor browser is to use Tor with a VPN. The best Tor browser VPN increases your privacy and security and helps fix the Tor security issues. So, always use a legitimate VPN provider to ensure maximum online safety on the Tor browser. 

Is the Dark Web Illegal?

The dark web is legal to use in most parts of the globe. There is nothing wrong with using the dark web if you’re not doing anything that violates the law. But if you reside in a country that practices higher censorship like China and the UAE, so, by the law, it’s illegal to use the dark web. Your ISP and other higher authorities use the dark web to track potential criminals involved in illegal activities like hiring hackers, creating and distributing malware, human trafficking, and buying and selling weapons and drugs. For this purpose, you’re always under the radar while using the dark web no matter if you’re not doing anything wrong. 

It’s advisable not to be involved in any illegal activity on the dark web. You can use the dark web for various legitimate reasons, such as expressing your opinions freely, communicating and sharing information privately, researching any subject, and buying products cheaply. Moreover, you can visit the Tor version of Wikileaks and look for information if the original version is not available in your country. So, using the dark web isn’t illegal, and it depends on the purpose for which you’re using it. 

Can Your ISP Track You When Connected to the Tor Browser?

The Tor browser is famous for keeping your identity and activities anonymous, and thus, no one can track you while using it. However, some shortcomings make it possible for the ISP to follow you on the Onion network. When you connect to the Tor browser, your ISP can see your IP address and easily track you. Because of this tracking, they become suspicious about your activities and start throttling your connection. As a consequence, you browse the internet with sluggish speed. 

However, using a reliable VPN provider can keep your online identity hidden and make it impossible for the ISP to track you. Using a VPN masks your IP address and encrypts the data, and then allows you to connect to the Tor network. With a fake IP address and encrypted data, no one can detect who you’re and what you’re doing on the Tor browser. 

Tips to Use the Dark Web Safely?

When you use the dark web, you can’t rely on the conventional tips suggested by security experts. You need to expand your circle and look for extra security tips to increase your digital privacy over the dark web. Here are a few general security tips to ensure safe access to the dark web. So, let’s overview them:

  • Don’t Use Your Actual Email Address– Instead of using your primary email address, create a secondary or temporary email address for accessing the dark web. Using encrypted email services like the ProtonMail or a burner email address work perfectly in this case. 
  • Use Reliable Antivirus Software– Use the best antivirus software as it adds a layer of protection and keeps your device safe from potential viruses and malware. 
  • Don’t Share Too Much of Your Information– Avoid sharing your real name, photo, or phone number. You can create a fake identity to access the dark web. 
  • Use Cryptocurrency– If you decide to buy a product or service from the dark web, always make a payment via bitcoins for safety purposes. By doing so, you prevent sharing your financial information and get safe from identity theft or credential theft. 
  • Disable JavaScript- In 2013, the hackers compromised the Tor browser by using the JavaScript session. Thus, to maintain high levels of security, disable them in the first place. 
  • Avoid Using Add-Ons- Hackers have exploited the add-ons to get people’s IP addresses so, it is better to avoid using them. 
  • Use Trusted Dark Web Sites– You might come to numerous dark web sites but make sure you use the real and the reliable ones. Using a fake site might make you a target of cyber attacks and expose you to other vulnerabilities. 

Make sure that you follow all the tips and enjoy a safe and secure browsing experience on the dark web. 

Parting Words

Tor browser is a powerful security tool with .onion sites and provides a pathway to access the dark web. Since the dark web is now used for various good reasons, people use it despite being the hub for illegal activities. However, Tor’s security loopholes raise doubt over its credibility to access the dark web. You need extra protection to use the Tor browser safely to access the dark web. Using a legitimate VPN provider can ensure a trouble-free Tor browsing experience. Besides that, you need to follow other valuable safety tips. So, follow the tips mentioned above and safely start using the Tor browser. 



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