The dark web is a tempting but potentially dangerous place, and going in without proper protection is not advisable. A dark web VPN is one of the tools that you should consider getting before delving into the darkest depths of the internet.
The dark web doesn’t have the best reputation and is commonly associated with criminal activities. Without a VPN, your ISP can see where you’re browsing even if you use the Tor browser. Besides, if anything goes wrong, your IP address and real identity could get exposed, which might have some dire consequences.
We don't recommend using the dark web in general but if you do decide to browse there, we compiled a list of the best VPNs for the dark web in 2023 for your safety and convenience. Take a look, choose the one that makes you feel secure, and dive into the deep dark web.
Top 5 best VPNs for the dark web
- NordVPN – the best VPN for the dark web
- Surfshark – dark web VPN for max anonymity
- IPVanish – obfuscation VPN for the dark web
- ExpressVPN – dark web VPN for extra security
- CyberGhost – privacy-focused VPN with many servers
Why do I need a VPN for the dark web?
The dark web can be a dangerous place, and we recommend taking all possible precautions. Here’s how a VPN can help you when browsing the dark web:
- Access the Tor browser. In some countries, browsers used to access the dark web, including Tor, are blocked. A VPN can help you bypass these blocks and use the designated browsers for surfing through the darkest corners of the internet.
- Hide from your ISP. The dark web is associated with criminal activities more often than not, and some ISPs do not tolerate their users browsing there. With a VPN, you’ll get a new IP address, your data will be encrypted, and no ISP will be able to see what you’re up to.
- Protect your privacy and anonymity. Staying anonymous on the dark web is crucial for your safety. Using a VPN with such features as multihop routing and obfuscated servers will get you an extra layer of privacy and make it virtually impossible to trace your real location and/or identity.
- Stay secure. On the dark web, your connection passes through three publicly hosted nodes to help you leave no trace and encrypt your traffic, however, if any of the nodes is compromised – if it has a malicious hacker as a host, for example – your real IP address and traffic data will be visible and you’ll get de-anonymized, which is very dangerous. A VPN will give you a different IP address and secure your identity.
The best VPNs for the dark web – our detailed list:
Before embarking on your dark web adventures, make sure you have all the safety tools you need. Here’s our curated list of the best dark web VPNs, their features, pros, and cons:
1. NordVPN – the best VPN for the dark web
|Countries/servers:||5500+ servers in 60 countries|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get NordVPN with 63% OFF 🔥|
NordVPN is arguably the best VPN for the dark web because of its advanced security features, utmost privacy-ensuring no-log policy, and excellent speeds. It also offers numerous locations, is capable of unblocking various streaming platforms, and has very affordable pricing plans.
In terms of security, advanced ChaCha20 encryption and features such as the kill switch to shut off access to the internet if anything goes wrong will ensure a safe dark web browsing experience. Coupled with obfuscation, the Tor over VPN feature, and threat protection, as well as ad and malicious website blocker, NordVPN makes for a very good security tool.
NordVPN is also practicing a very strict no-logs policy, which has been independently audited. It is being further enforced by RAM-only servers in which all data gets wiped out with each restart. The VPN provider is also based in Panama, a privacy-friendly location.
As for anonymity, there are numerous anonymous payment methods available, such as cryptocurrency and others. The pricing also isn’t too bad – prices start at $3.49/month, and you can also get a free trial, as well as a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For more information, read our NordVPN review.
- Excellent speeds
- Advanced security features
- IP and DNS leak prevention
- Obfuscated servers
- Tor over VPN
- No free version
2. Surfshark – dark web VPN for max anonymity
|Countries/servers:||3200+ servers in 100 countries|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get 82% OFF Surfshark + 2 months FREE 🔥|
Surfshark is also one of the best VPNs for the dark web, and not without reason. It has all the security features you need in one place, as well as the features that you maybe didn’t know you needed. There are also excellent speeds and very agreeable prices to look forward to.
Surfshark uses industry-standard AES encryption to keep your data safe and far from prying eyes. Along with a kill switch, safe browsing features, and a stealth mode, you can get Surfshark One bundle which includes an antivirus, Surfshark Alert and Surfshark Search for increased safety.
As for the jurisdiction and tracking policies, Surfshark doesn’t disappoint. Despite being based in the Netherlands, which is a 14-eyes country, this VPN provider employs a strict no-logs policy, which has been independently audited numerous times.
In addition to the no-logging, Surfshark also has transitioned to RAM-only servers, meaning that with each server reboot, all data gets purged and is impossible to recover. Your dark web adventures will be known to you only.
Surfshark supports anonymous payment methods, such as cryptocurrency. There is a free trial, a 30-day money-back guarantee, and very agreeable prices that start at $2.30/month.
For more details, check out our Surfshark review.
- RAM-only servers
- Antivirus bundle
- Advanced security features
- Excellent speeds
- Stealth mode
- No free version
3. IPVanish – obfuscation VPN for the dark web
|Countries/servers:||2000+ servers in 50 countries|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get 72% OFF IPVanish! 🔥|
Another good option for safe dark web surfing, IPVanish is a US-based provider that offers good speeds, an array of security features, and a no-logs policy that you can trust.
The industry-standard AES encryption is how IPVanish makes sure that your traffic stays under an invisibility blanket at all times, and in case of emergencies, they offer a kill switch – now also on Mac. Other security features include obfuscation by means of the OpenVPN Scrambling patch and DNS leak protection.
The no-logs policy is also something to have in mind. IPVanish had it independently verified, meaning they can be trusted to not spy on you when you’re doing your business on the dark web. However, they are based in the US, which is not the most privacy-friendly location of them all, and if you can’t get behind that, maybe choose another provider.
IPVanish also boasts some of the most agreeable pricing plans among the VPN providers. Its prices start at $3.33/month, and they also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, as well as a 7-day free trial. Unfortunately, IPVanish doesn’t accept cryptocurrency payments.
Read our IPVanish review if you want to know more.
- Advanced encryption
- Obfuscation features
- DNS leak protection
- SOCKS5 proxy
- Doesn't accept cryptocurrency
- Privacy-unfriendly location
4. ExpressVPN – security-focused VPN for dark web
|Based in:||British Virgin Islands|
|Countries/servers:||3000+ servers in 94 countries|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get ExpressVPN, now 49% OFF the 1-year plan! 🔥|
ExpressVPN is another secure solution for all the regular dark web visitors. It ensures excellent security measures, great speeds, and a strict no-logging policy.
If you use ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol, you’ll be secured with the advanced ChaCha20 encryption. Additionally, you’re protected with a functional kill switch which prevents accidental data leaks. You even get a threat manager that secures you from malicious activity.
As for privacy, ExpressVPN operates a strict and audited no-logging policy. Its servers are RAM-only, ensuring that your data gets destroyed with each connection. Plus, the VPN is based in the British Virgin Islands, which is a privacy-friendly location.
You can purchase ExpressVPN using anonymous payment methods. The prices start at $6.67/month, and you get to use it on 5 devices. A standard month-long money-back guarantee is applicable.
You can find out more in our ExpressVPN review.
- Great speeds
- Traffic obfuscation
- Threat manager
- Anonymous payment methods
- On the pricier side
- iOS version doesn't have a kill switch
5. CyberGhost – server-loaded VPN for privacy
|Countries/servers:||9700+ servers in 91 countries|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get CyberGhost VPN, now 83% OFF + 2 months FREE 🔥|
CyberGhost is a great solution for users who tend to browse on the dark web and want some extra privacy. It’s fast, provides you with loads of servers, and ensures excellent security.
CyberGhost protects you with the powerful ChaCha20 encryption when using the fast WireGuard protocol. You also get a huge server network of over 9700 servers in 91 countries. A reliable kill switch is also available, so no one on the dark web can get their hands on you.
The prices of CyberGhost start at $2.19/month – you can connect up to 7 devices. A 30-day money-back guarantee is also available.
You can learn more in our CyberGhost review.
- Fast performance
- Affordable subscription options
- Accepts cryptocurrency payments
- Audited no-logging policy
- Apple apps have fewer features
- WireGuard connection problems on Mac
How we selected and tested these VPNs
You can't go surfing on the dark web with just any VPN. That's why we made sure to research and select only the most suitable and secure providers. Here are some of the things we looked at:
- Security. Because the dark web is not the safest place to be on the Internet, a VPN with the best security features, such as obfuscation, IP and DNS leak protection, kill switch, and multihop routing is necessary.
- Logs policy. Visiting the dark web is usually frowned upon because of supposed criminal activities on there, so a provider which doesn’t keep logs and doesn’t really care what you do is a must. You don’t want anyone to spy on you, naturally.
- Anonymous payment methods. Paying without exposing your identity makes it very hard for anyone to trace VPN or any other activities back to you. And anonymity on the dark web is everything.
- Obfuscation. While a regular VPN connection will already provide a layer of security, obfuscated servers or the stealth mode are like a safety blanket around your IP address, data, and everything else. You can never be too secure.
- Jurisdiction. Providers based in countries that are members of the 14 eyes alliance may be obliged by law to collect certain data about their users. We looked for the ones that aren’t, or had their no-logs policies independently audited.
How to access the dark web with a VPN
Here’s how to use a VPN for safely accessing the dark web:
- Choose a reliable VPN provider. We recommend NordVPN
- Purchase a subscription, preferably using anonymous payment options
- Download and install the VPN app onto your device
- Enable safety features such as the kill switch, ad-blocker, etc.
- Connect to an obfuscated VPN server or use the stealth mode for maximum security
- Check for IP and DNS leaks
- Go to the dark web using the Tor browser (or any other dark web browser)
For more detailed guides, take a look at our article on how to access the dark web safely.
How does a VPN protect you on the dark web?
A VPN protects you on the dark web by adding an extra layer of security and encryption to your traffic.
When you’re accessing the dark web, your connection usually passes through three publicly hosted nodes, and the traffic also gets encrypted. This makes it difficult to trace your real IP address and other identifying information.
However, if any of those nodes is compromised – controlled by a malicious actor, for example – your real IP address could get exposed along with other information such as your location. This, in turn, makes it easier to pin your identity and otherwise cause harm to you.
When you use a VPN, it changes your real IP address and additionally encrypts your traffic. Then the connection that passes through the nodes is already coming from a different IP address and is already encrypted. Thus, even if a node gets compromised, your real IP address will stay hidden.
Is it safe to use a VPN for the dark web?
Yes, it’s completely safe to be using a VPN when browsing the dark web. It actually adds an extra layer of security and helps ensure the utmost privacy on all fronts.
However, the browsing itself may not be the safest activity, so you should be careful when clicking on links and generally interacting with the stuff that’s on there. Keep in mind that a VPN won’t be able to prevent you from accidentally buying a stash of drugs or signing up as a gang member. Use the dark web at your own discretion.
The risks of using the dark web without a VPN
You can obviously choose to not use a VPN with the dark web, but be warned that that might bring some risks that could otherwise be easily avoided. Here’s what could happen if you use the dark web without a VPN:
- Your ISP will see your activity. Your ISP might not see exactly what you’re doing on the dark web, but the mere fact that you’re browsing there is enough to raise some suspicions. The dark web is generally associated with criminal activities, and getting caught doing stuff on there, however innocent, might not be very fun.
- De-anonymization. Because the dark web is a highly unregulated place, preserving your anonymity can get you a long way. The nodes used to connect you to the dark web might offer some type of protection, but if at least one gets compromised, your real IP address, location, and much more could be revealed and possibly result in unpleasant consequences.
- Malware infection. A lot of VPNs not only change your IP address and encrypt your traffic but also offer some anti-malware protection, especially on a browsing level. If you have no such protection, malware hidden in code and links can easily find its way to your device.
Tips for staying safe while on the dark web
The dark web is not the safest place to be on the internet, and before you go down there, we recommend taking some precautions. Here are some tips on how to stay safe while browsing the dark web:
- Have a purpose. Don’t go on the dark web just out of curiosity. It’s easy to get lost and accidentally hire a hitman or purchase some illegal substances. Know what you need, and do only that.
- Be careful when clicking on links. They can lead to disturbing sites, illegal services, malware, and other harmful things. Usually, the URL will have a vague description about where it leads, so be wary and don’t go clicking everything you see.
- Never provide any personal information. This should go without saying – don’t trust anyone on the dark web who asks for your bank account details, or your address.
- Don’t visit Twitter and don’t check your email. It’s best to steer clear of regular internet pages where there’s any identifying information about you.
- Use completely different usernames and passwords than what you normally use, should you find yourself signing up for something on the dark web.
Can I use a free VPN for the dark web?
You can try using a free VPN with the dark web, but we don’t recommend it.
When browsing the dark web, your primary concern should be safety and privacy, for which you would need a very secure VPN. Unfortunately, most free VPNs cannot offer the same degree of security that a paid VPN can.
Because a VPN is free, there’s a high chance that the provider collects and sells user data to third parties. You definitely don’t want your dark web browsing adventures to end up recorded and sold to whoever expresses an interest.
Aside from the security and privacy issues, free VPNs often lack features such as obfuscation, multi-hop routing, and a kill switch. They also don't have such good speeds nor a very wide variety of server locations.
But if you would like to try a free dark web VPN, you’re in luck. The best VPN providers offer free trials, and even money-back guarantees, so if you end up not liking or not needing a VPN later, you won’t lose anything nor have any regrets. You can claim your NordVPN free trial right now.
More VPN guides from Cybernews
Which VPN is best for the dark web?
NordVPN is the best dark web VPN on the market. Apart from advanced encryption, it also offers top-tier security features, such as obfuscated servers, a kill switch, threat protection, and more. NordVPN is also suitable for streaming and bypassing geo-restrictions, as it has excellent speeds and more than x locations worldwide.
Is Surfshark good for the dark web?
Yes, Surfshark is one of the best VPNs for the dark web. It uses advanced encryption and has numerous security features that will help ensure your privacy and safety while browsing the dark web. Besides that, it’s also great at unblocking various streaming libraries and has very fast speeds.