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 2022 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
- PrivateVPN – very secure VPN for dark web browsing
- PureVPN – VPN with an always-on-audit no-logs policy
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 59 countries|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get NordVPN with 68% OFF + 3 months FREE 🔥|
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 $3.09/month, and you can also get a free trial, as well as a 30-day money-back guarantee.F
For more information, read our NordVPN review.
- Excellent speeds
- Advanced security features
- IP and DNS leak prevention
- Obfuscated servers
- Tor over VPN
- No router app
2. Surfshark – dark web VPN for max anonymity
|Countries/servers:||3200 servers in 95 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 split tunneling on iOS
3. IPVanish – obfuscation VPN for the dark web
|Countries/servers:||2000 servers in 50 countries|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get up to 69% OFF IPVanish + Antivirus 🔥|
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. PrivateVPN – very secure VPN for dark web browsing
|Countries/servers:||200 servers in 63 countries|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get PrivateVPN, now 85% OFF! 🔥|
Most famous for its customizable security and non-traditional port-forwarding methods, PrivateVPN is a good choice for the dark web. It may not have as advanced security features as some, but its good connectivity and zero-logs policy make it a good contender.
PrivateVPN allows the user to choose between levels of encryption, the strongest being AES-256. We recommend using that when browsing the dark web. For extra security, there is also a kill switch for secure connection loss and stealth mode for preventing persistent prying into your private dark web business.
When it comes to privacy, PrivateVPN has a zero-logs policy meaning that it doesn’t track your activities. However, by being based in Sweden, they are legally obliged to retain some of your personal data such as the email address for as long as it takes to process it, or longer if the law requires it. On the other hand, you can use anonymous payment methods such as Bitcoin.
As for pricing, PrivateVPN may not be the cheapest, but it’s also not the most expensive. The prices start at $2.00/month, and the provider also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
For more details, take a look a tour PrivateVPN review.
- Customizable encryption
- Zero-log spolicy
- Stealth mode
- Anonymous payment methods
- Retains some personal data
- Not many extra features
5. PureVPN – always-on-audit no-logs policy
|Based in:||British Virgin Islands|
|Countries/servers:||6500 servers in 78 countries|
|Current deal:||🔥 Get PureVPN 82% OFF + 3 months FREE 🔥|
PureVPN is a decent VPN for the dark web with plenty of the most necessary security and privacy features. It is also fast, offers reliable connectivity, and has a trustworthy no-logs policy.
This VPN provider uses the industry-standard AES encryption and offers a kill switch in case you lose a secure connection while on the dark web. However, there have been instances during our testing when the kill switch didn’t work.
Unfortunately, when it comes to other security features, PureVPN doesn’t have much else to offer. There is a DNS and IPv6 leak protection feature, but no obfuscation or safe browsing tools.
On the other hand, PureVPN has a very trustworthy approach to privacy protection. Its no-logs policy is always on audit, meaning they have no room to mess it up. PureVPN is also based in the British Virgin Islands, which is a privacy-friendly location. Besides that, you can pay for the service anonymously – they accept cryptocurrency as payment.
PureVPN prices start at $1.99/month, and you also get a 31-day money-back guarantee.
Check out our PureVPN review for more information.
- Good encryption
- DNS leak protection
- Accepts cryptocurrency payments
- No obfuscation
- No safe browsing features
- Unreliable kill switch
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.
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.