If you’ve watched any modern-setting television or spent time reading about privacy online, you’ve probably heard about the “dark web” or even the Hidden Wiki. Unlike the regular version of Wikipedia, the Hidden Wiki is not an encyclopedia. It’s a directory of sites that you can’t find on the World Wide Web but might find useful. It is specifically dedicated to opposing censorship, so anyone can create an account and edit it anonymously.

If you’re ready to take the step into what is less dramatically called “the onion network,” and start seeing websites that most people never find, we’ll help you to get to the Hidden Wiki. We’ll even suggest  some slightly more reliable alternatives.

How to Access the Dark Web

  1. Download the Tor Browser.
  2. Connect to a virtual private network, then the Tor network.
  3. Search for “Hidden Wiki” on DuckDuckGo search engine.

The Onion Router (TOR) and Private Browsing

Before you can access the Hidden Wiki, you have to understand what .onion websites are. The network commonly called the “dark web” is just a series of websites that use a special, top-level domain name. Instead of “.com,” onion websites end in “.onion” and don’t have an easy to remember name in front of them. Since these URLs look like random strings of characters, it’s easier to use directories like the Hidden Wiki to find relevant sites.

The problem with .onion sites is that you can’t access them via Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or your most common web browsers. They aren’t really secure, defeating the goal of .onion sites: anonymity. Instead, you have to download a special browser called Tor. It works like any other browser that you’re used to, except before you start surfing the web, it will randomly connect you to three volunteer computers around the world that are part of the Tor network. Combined with a solid virtual private network like PrivadoVPN, these proxies will not only help keep your location hidden from prying eyes, but also give you access to .onion websites.

One thing you’ll probably notice immediately is that the default search engine is DuckDuckGo rather than Google. This is on purpose. Google makes its money by collecting information about everything you do online. They encourage you to use their service for logins to unrelated sites and store your search histories for later analysis. DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect your personal information, so it’s the preferred search engine for privacy enthusiasts.

Finding the Hidden Wiki

At this point, finding the Hidden Wiki is incredibly easy. You can search for it on DuckDuckGo and it will be one of the earliest search results. From there you can start looking through the available links for .onion sites that interest you.

There are some caveats that we wish to include here. First of all, it’s entirely legal to view the Hidden Wiki, but not all websites listed are wholesome. We provide this information for educational purposes and encourage you to use sober judgement in the links you follow.

Further, because of the unmoderated nature of the onion network, there are a lot of scams. We don’t recommend you provide payment information of any sort to any site you encounter with a .onion address. More importantly, have an up-to-date anti-virus on your computer to avoid malware.

Finally, there are several versions of the Hidden Wiki, and the lack of moderation means that they can be difficult to navigate. So instead of relying on the “brand name,” you might want to instead search for the Daniel Onion Link List or TorLinks, both of which have a level of moderation to help weed out scams and broken links. The former includes a test button for all the listed sites so that you can see if it’s currently working without having to take the risk of clicking the link.

.Onion Websites You Might Like

There’s a lot on the Hidden Wiki and the wider onion network to explore, but here are a few suggestions for sites that you might find useful in your surfing.

ProPublica

This is an investigative journalism organization that has won numerous awards for their work, including a 2016 Pulitzer for reporting on sexual abuse. They are also exceptional at collecting and providing statistics and reports on a variety of newsworthy subjects. While they have a website on the regular Internet, their .onion site has some small changes and it’s more secure to access it this way.

( https://www.propub3r6espa33w.onion/ )

ZeroBin

Secure transfer of information online can be difficult. Moreover, do you hate having to remember to delete the data in order to keep it safe from hackers or other ne’er-do-wells? With ZeroBin you can quickly share text, source code, or markdown data, password protect it, send a link to relevant parties, and set an expiration date so that it’ll be erased after a certain period of time. The best part? Not even ZeroBin knows what data is being shared because it’s encrypted on your computer before being uploaded into the service.

(http://zerobinqmdqd236y.onion/)

Riseup

Riseup “provides online communication tools for people and groups working on liberatory social change.” They protect people from tyrannical governments by providing secure communication. Getting an account requires an invitation, but they also have an excellent Security section with tips and tricks to better protect your privacy.

( http://nzh3fv6jc6jskki3.onion/ )

News organizations like the BBC often have .onion addresses accessable by people in repressive regimes around the world. In fact, the Freedom of the Press Foundation runs SecureDrop, a popular .onion site. Whistleblowers can anonymously send tips and documents to journalists at Forbes, The Washington Post, Reuters, and more through it. There’s even a .onion version of Facebook that claims not to log any of your activity. But you might want to take that with a grain of salt.

Stepping onto the onion network doesn’t have to be frightening or difficult. It’s just a matter of getting a private browser that can access it, using your common sense, and finding a directory like the Hidden Wiki to help you navigate to the sites that you want safely and privately.