Most people have heard at least whisperings of the dark web: a “shadow internet” of drug dealers, hitmen for hire and hackers (not to be confused with the deep web, which is way less nefarious). If you’re looking to dabble in the dark side of the internet — whether out of curiosity or something else — you should use the best vpn for dark web use.
- The dark web is a part of the internet that can be risky to visit without a VPN to hide your identifying details.
- When choosing a VPN service, make sure it has a no-logs policy to keep your personal information safe.
- ExpressVPN is the best VPN for the dark web; but at the very least you should use the Tor browser to provide a basic level of protection.
Although the Tor browser should protect you on the dark web, you should also use a VPN as an extra layer of insurance. If you go into the dark web without a VPN, identifying details such as your location could be compromised. If you are using the dark web for illegal activities yourself, this could also lead to your arrest by law enforcement.
The best VPN for dark-web surfing is definitely ExpressVPN, but if you’re looking for other options to protect your data and browse the dark web, look no further than the other entries on this list.
Although you don’t need a VPN to access the dark web, you should definitely use one if you want to protect your identity and location.
You can be traced on the dark web if you don’t conceal your IP address using a VPN. Usually the Tor browser conceals your IP address, but having an extra layer of security never hurts.
No, it is not illegal to use a VPN on the dark web. All you are doing is simply protecting yourself and your identifying features on a part of the internet that is generally untrustworthy.
We highly recommend using ExpressVPN, but if it’s not to your liking, you could use NordVPN or CyberGhost as well. Do not use a free VPN under any circumstances.
- : PayPal, Credit card, Bitcoin, regional payment systems, WebMoney
- : 5
- : Credit card, Google Pay, AmazonPay, ACH Transfer, UnionPay, Crypto Currencies, PayPal (via Paddle)
- : 6
- : PayPal, Credit card, bitcoin
- : 7
- : PayPal, Credit card
- : 10
- : PayPal, Credit card, Cash, Bank Transfer, Bitcoin, bitcoin cash, Swish
- : 5
- : No
What Makes the Best VPN for Dark Web Use?
There are certain security and privacy features you should keep an eye out for if you’re looking for the best VPN for the dark web. The most obvious one is strong encryption, usually AES 256-bit.
Here are our top five recommendations:
- ExpressVPN — The best VPN for the dark web
- NordVPN — Extremely fast, highly encrypted VPN servers in 59 countries
- CyberGhost — Affordable, anonymous and untraceable; everything is encrypted and there are no logs
- ProtonVPN — A free VPN based in Switzerland, which places great emphasis on privacy
- Mullvad — An easy-to-use VPN that doesn’t require your name or email to sign up
Any credible VPN is going to come with a no-logging policy and DNS leak protection, although a few others come with some nice features, such as malware and ad blockers and accepting payments in cash and Bitcoin.
Our honorable mention option — Surfshark — can even generate unique account names, thereby bypassing the need for your email address.
The Five Best VPNs for the Dark Web
If curiosity is getting the best of you and you’re just itching to browse the dark web, you absolutely need a VPN. Here are the top five VPNs we recommend for surfing the dark web.
More Details About ExpressVPN:
- Pricing: $6.67 per month (if you pay yearly) — 15 months for the price of 12
- Website: www.expressvpn.com
- Fast & secure
- Kill switch
- No user logs
- Quite expensive if paying by the month
- Some servers slower than others
ExpressVPN is our favorite VPN here at Cloudwards. It’s fast and secure, and you get a 30-day money-back guarantee to give it a no-obligation spin. If you pay for a year up front, you even get an extra three months added on to the end free of charge, which is rather generous.
With over 3,000 servers worldwide, you are guaranteed to find a location that fits your needs. Your information is encrypted with AES-256, and it has a no-logging policy that means ExpressVPN can’t see or record which websites you visit.
Security-conscious users — which should include anyone surfing the dark web — can also be reassured by ExpressVPN’s DNS leak protection and its kill switch feature, which will automatically cut your internet connection if your VPN connection fails.
On the flip side, ExpressVPN can get a bit expensive if you’re paying by the month. Some servers are also not as fast as others, so it may take a bit of trial and error to find the right one.
More Details About NordVPN:
- Pricing: $3.71 per month (when paying for two years); three extra months free
- Website: www.nordvpn.com
- Ad blocker & malware blocker
- ChaCha20 encryption protocol
- Double VPN servers for extra privacy
- If you’re paying monthly, it can get rather expensive
NordVPN is another highly regarded encrypted VPN that’s very fast and easy to use. Connecting to a server takes seconds, and there are 5,700 of them to choose from. As we explained in our in-depth review of NordVPN, although it is a robust service, it’s missing some special features, such as a speed test and split tunneling.
On the security side — which is all-important when accessing the dark web — you have the kill switch, which will cut off your internet connection if the VPN drops for any reason. There’s a no-logs policy and also an ad blocker called CyberSec, which will stop malware and ads from installing if you visit a dodgy website (of which there are many on the dark web).
NordVPN has a feature called “Double VPN,” which sends your traffic through two VPN servers for an extra cost — but you’ll pay the price with speed as well. It also offers Onion Over VPN, which routes you through the Onion network and adds an extra layer of anonymity as you browse.
For encryption, NordVPN offers either OpenVPN with AES-256 or NordLynx, the latter of which uses the newer 256-bit ChaCha20 cipher instead of AES.
Lastly, the Dark Web Monitor feature scours the dark web for data leaks. If your email details are found on the dark web, you will be notified.
More Details About CyberGhost:
- Pricing: $5.99 per month
- Website: www.cyberghostvpn.com
- Force-enable HTTPS
- Blocks online trackers & malicious ads
- More than 6,000 servers
- Free trial
- Expensive monthly rate
- Slower compared to other VPN services
CyberGhost has a very impressive list of security features that are essential for browsing the dark web. For example, you can block online trackers, malicious websites and online ads, as well as force-enable HTTPS (secure browser URLs).
Your connection is encrypted with AES 256-bit, plus it offers DNS leak protection and a no-logs policy. The company accepts Bitcoin for payments, so you can keep your identity really secure.
CyberGhost has more than 6,000 servers worldwide, and you can try them out with its one-day free trial. If you think you need more time to determine if CyberGhost is the VPN for you, its 45-day money-back guarantee should help you out.
More details about ProtonVPN:
- Pricing: $6.67 per month (when billed annually)
- Website: www.protonvpn.com
- Huge emphasis on privacy & anonymity
- Cryptocurrency & cash accepted
- Comes with ProtonMail account
- Pricing is steep
- Only 800 servers worldwide
ProtonVPN comes from the same company that makes ProtonMail, a Swiss company that has put its data center inside a military bunker in the Swiss Alps. Plus, Switzerland has serious privacy laws, so you can rest assured that your details are not going to be passed to any government.
ProtonVPN has a kill switch, AES-256 encryption, a no-logs policy and DNS leak protection. It accepts cryptocurrency and cash for payments, which is nice for anyone wishing to stay truly anonymous. However, ProtonVPN disappoints with its measly 800 worldwide servers.
Its pricing can be a bit steep compared to the other VPNs on this list. Although ProtonVPN has a free version, it covers only one device. If you need more devices, you can cover up to 10 devices on its Visionary plan — though all plans offer unlimited bandwidth.
5. Mullvad VPN
More Details About Mullvad:
- Pricing: 5 euros per month, flat rate
- Website: www.mullvad.net
- OpenVPN & WireGuard protocols
- Excellent security & privacy
- Easy to use
- Does not require your name or email to sign up
- Poor streaming performance
- Limited features
- Relatively small network
Mullvad VPN places a high premium on security and privacy, which makes it an ideal choice for accessing the dark web. For starters, its unique account setup doesn’t require your name or email address — providing full anonymity. You can also pay by cryptocurrency and cash if you really don’t want your identifying details attached to your monthly payments.
The service itself is easy to use, but the features are a bit bare. There is a kill switch, standard DNS leak protection and the no-logging policy — that is pretty much it in the features department.
It is also disappointing to see how few servers they have — just under 700 — and how slow they can be. Although Mullvad made the top five due to its unique account setup and anonymous forms of payments, its slow servers and a lack of other features knocked it down to fifth place. You can read more in our Mullvad review.
Honorable Mention: Best VPN for Browsing the Dark Web
When coming up with a list of best VPNs for the dark web, it’s always difficult to restrict it to just five — especially when one almost made the cut but fell short at the last minute. So, to give you a sixth option, here is our honorable mention VPN.
More Details About Surfshark:
- Pricing: $2.21 per month (if you pay for two years); three extra months free
- Website: www.surfshark.com
- Ad and malware blocker
- Double VPN servers
- Kill switch
- Disappointing streaming speeds
Surfshark is one of the newest kids on the block, but with 1,000 worldwide servers under its belt, it is definitely one to consider. It is based in the Virgin Islands, so it’s ideal considering the archipelago’s stance on privacy.
This VPN has some features that will appeal to the privacy and security-conscious user. First is its ad blocker, which catches malware, pop-up ads, trackers and suspected phishing websites.
Surfshark also has its own double VPN servers, which pass you through two sets of VPN servers before bringing you where you want to go. This is on top of its 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, kill switch and no-log policy.
Pricing — if you’re paying monthly — is enough to make you wince a little. Paying from month to month will set you back $12.95 per month, whereas paying for two years up front will drop that price to $2.21 a month — less than the price of a cup of coffee.
Caution: Free VPNs & the Dark Web
When looking for a VPN to access the dark web, you will come across some VPNs that are free of charge. We would strongly recommend you avoid these VPNs like the plague, especially if you are planning to access the dark web with them. Very few free VPNs are reputable enough to use, and that short list includes ProtonVPN and Windscribe.
As the saying goes, if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product. In other words, if you are not paying for the use of a VPN, the service has to make their money somehow. This can be something benign, such as showing you advertising, or it can be something highly unethical such as keeping logs and selling your user information to the highest bidder.
Do yourself a favor: pay for a VPN and know that your privacy is being respected. You can get a good VPN for a few bucks a month, and many offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. It’s a no-brainer.
The Dangers of Accessing the Dark Web
Although the dark web is used for some noble causes, such as circumventing government censorship in authoritarian regimes, the vast majority of the dark web’s use is for illegal activity. The exact nature of the dark web’s construction makes it ideal for this use — the sites aren’t indexed by search engines, and therefore they are hard to track.
This illegal activity includes (but is not limited to) pornography, drug dealing, guns, assassins for hire, stolen credit cards, stolen identities and more. Now imagine these people — or law enforcement — found your personal information because you didn’t use a VPN to hide your identity and location. It’s just not worth the risk. Use a VPN.
Although you must exercise extreme caution when you browse the dark web, it can still be done safely if you use a good VPN. Use one of our recommended VPNs — such as our favorite, ExpressVPN — and take a look at the flip side of the internet.
Do you surf the dark web? If so, which VPN is an essential part of your online arsenal? As always, please leave your comments below, and thanks for reading.