The dark web has a reputation for nefarious activities, but it is still a useful space to explore for those interested in internet security or privacy. There are even online libraries on the dark web full of old books, music, and software that would be hard to find on the regular internet. Although, since it is unregulated, you should always take security precautions if you want to dabble in it.
Using a Virtual Machine
Browser exploits are not uncommon with dark web websites since there isn’t anyone to step in and shut down rogue or hacked websites. While it isn’t 100% bulletproof, containing your browsing sessions within a virtual machine would help isolate potential exploits against the user.
There are plenty of free virtual machines to use, including Virtualbox, VMWare Player, and Qemu. They emulate hardware so that you can install a separate operating system within, keeping what happens away from your host operating system.
Disable Browser Scripts and Plugins
Web browsers are considered to be relatively safe pieces of software since very little can be done with the client while viewing a website. Having said that, some scripts interact with plugins to run malicious code on your computer. This is especially prevalent with Flash and Java plugins.
Finding Mirrored Content
Using Google isn’t the most reliable way to find dark web content, but it’s still possible to find mirrored websites using the right keyword footprints. You may also use a tor search engine to specifically find content that may not otherwise be discovered. Keep in mind that indexed content may be scrutinized by the search engine owner, with some stuff being omitted (which could be a good thing).
Still, you can’t count on revenging on the dark web to be discoverable as some hidden websites don’t even want to be indexed. Most of the websites that you can find via a search engine are probably already saturated and have the intention of marketing themselves to the clear web.
Chaining With a VPN
If you use something like TOR or Freenet, there are still ways both your ISP and rogue node operators can track your activity. If that is a concern of yours, you can go through a reliable VPN before connecting to a dark web network. A VPN can also be used within a virtual machine for an additional layer of security. Keep in mind, your VPN provider can still sniff your traffic or serve redirects, so be mindful about using your passwords or email accounts within the environment.
The dark web is an interesting part of the internet that few ventures into. As some governments ramp up censorship, the userbase in such networks may multiply shortly. Be sure to keep the security precautions above in mind if you plan on experimenting with it.