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What Are the Best VPNs for the Dark Web?

Just like the regular web, the dark web is a place full of opportunities. However, the dark web is filled with dangerous content. Not protecting oneself before entering the dark web is not recommended. In this guide, readers will learn about the best VPNs for the dark web. After that, more detail will be given regarding the need for using a VPN for the dark web. Readers will also know more about the risks of using a VPN, whether or not a VPN is going to impact internet speeds and if free VPNs are worth the trouble. Finally, a VPN’s effectiveness against malware websites will be discussed.

The term “VPN” stands for virtual private network. In the modern online world, VPNs come as products and services that protect the user’s internet connection by encrypting the user’s online traffic and hence online identity. The main usage of VPNs today is when users want to hide internet activity, stay safe from hackers, and need protection against accidental doxxing. The main benefits of VPNs are enhanced privacy, data security, anonymity and less restrictions. VPN services are very safe to use. Most VPNs have a large online presence and have independent audit reports verifying security claims. Any VPN’s primary function is to encrypt the user’s internet connection, protect data and change the IP address for more privacy. VPNs help users trying to access the dark web by making the user anonymous and unblocking services such as Tor. VPNs also help by blocking tracking companies, malicious activities and monitoring programs. VPNs have become very important not just for users trying to access the dark web but in everyday internet usage. That’s because of the increased number of surveillance and data collection programs developed and used by marketing/advertising companies in consumer profiling. The best VPNs for the dark web are the ones that offer the best security tools, quality servers, affordable pricing, the ability to unblock necessary content and a strict privacy policy.

Best VPNs for Dark Web

The best VPNs for the dark web are given below.

  1. Windscribe
  2. Hotspot Shield
  3. Hide.me
  4. CyberGhost
  5. NordVPN
  6. ExpressVPN
  7. TunnelBear

1. Windscribe

Windscribe is a top-rated VPN service whose main usage is when users want to browse the internet anonymously and privately. The advantages of Windscribe include a free trial, DNS leak protection, torrent support and multiple platform support. The disadvantages of Windscribe include a lack of an independent audit report (which doesn’t always mean there is a problem with the VPN service but is always reassuring to the user), a low number of servers and performance issues on some servers.

An image featuring the Windscribe homepage

An extensive Windscribe review uncovers quite a few interesting benefits. The unique features of Windscribe are unlimited simultaneous devices, Time Warp, ROBERT ad blocker and tons of advanced security options. As far as the strong sides of Windscribe go, the list includes flexible subscription plans, working browser extensions, user-friendly design, transparent service and good configuration options.

From a security perspective, Windscribe offers all the necessary tools such as AES 256-bit encryption, SHA 512-bit encryption for authentication and 4096-bit RSA key for handshake, strong protocols such as IKEv2, WireGuard, OpenVPN and StealthVPN. Additional security tools include a kill switch, auto-connect, split tunneling and location spoofing.

The price of Windscribe is $9 per month for the one-month package, $4.08 per month for the one-year package and an option to build a custom plan, which costs $1 per location per month.

$9
$4.08
$1

Currently, Windscribe is a private VPN company owned by the company’s founder Yegor Sak.

An image featuring a laptop and a tablet having VPN protection from the dark web concept

In terms of operation, Windscribe works just like any other good VPN. The service first hides the user’s IP address. Then Windscribe masks the user’s IP address with a new IP address belonging to the VPN service. This, in addition to encryption, allows users to hide activities online.

To use Windscribe for the dark web, subscribe to a package, download the appropriate VPN app, install the app, log in with the correct credentials and connect to a VPN server. Then, enable all advanced security features, such as the kill switch and obfuscation technology, get the Tor browser and start surfing.

Windscribe is considered the best VPN for the dark web because the service has great security features, a strict zero-logs policy, decent discounts, the ability to unblock all types of streaming sites and services and a good reputation.

2. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield is an experienced VPN service provider. The main usage of Hotspot Shield becomes apparent when users want to keep internet activities private and access content from any location quickly. The advantages of Hotspot Shield include a high number of locations, good security features, fast customer support and torrent support. The disadvantages of Hotspot Shield include the inability to work in countries with strict surveillance programs, less than ideal privacy policy and lack of payment options.

An image featuring Hotspot Shield VPN official website

As far as the unique features of Hotspot Shield are concerned, the list includes a mammoth money-back guarantee that lasts 45 days, a large number of users, Catapult Hydra protocol and a free version. Hotspot Shield also offers a seven-day free trial of the premium service.

The strong sides of Hotspot Shield include wide platform support, good privacy features and an acceptable update schedule. The security features of Hotspot Shield include AES 128-bit encryption, SHA 256-bit hash function for authentication and strong protocols such as OpenVPN and IKEv2. Extra features for more dark web security include a kill switch, split tunneling, malware blocker, spam-call blocker, personal data monitoring and WiFi security. All these benefits are covered to the full extent in a separate Hotspot Shield review.

The price of Hotspot Shield (apart from the free plan) is $7.99 per month for the one-year “Premium” plan and $11.99 per month for the one-year “Premium Family” plan. Both plans also have one-month editions. The “Premium” plan costs $12.99 per month for the one-month package, while the “Premium Family” plan costs $19.99 per month for the one-month package.

$7.99
$12.99
$11.99
$19.99

Hotspot Shield VPN is owned by Pango Inc dba Aura. In terms of how the service works, Hotspot Shield works by establishing an encrypted VPN tunnel between the user’s device and a company-owned VPN server. The user picks the location of the server.

An image featuring VPN servers concept

For the dark web, the best steps are to first sign up for a premium package, download the VPN app on the device (which will be used to access the dark web), install the app, launch the app and sign in. Then users should connect to a server, launch the Tor browser and start surfing the dark web.

Hotspot Shield is considered one of the best VPNs for the dark web because the service offers decent speeds, a decent security toolset, the ability to unblock most streaming sites and a free plan.

3. Hide.me

Hide.me is another VPN service provider with a good reputation. The main usage of Hide.me is when users want digital privacy, advanced security and censorship unblocking tools. The advantages of Hide.me include strong protocols, 10 simultaneous connections, advanced security features, torrenting support on some servers and easy-to-use apps. The disadvantages of Hide.me include a limited server network, average performance and too many restrictions on the free tier subscription plan.

An image featuring the Hide me VPN website homepage screenshot

The unique features of Hide.me include the fact the service is not owned by any megacorporation, complete IPv6 support and Gigabit servers. Hide.me’s main strong points, which are also covered in the full Hide.me review, are unlimited data transfer, over 2,000 servers in over 75 locations and a zero-logs policy.

As far as the security of Hide.me is concerned, the service is ranked highly because of features such as AES 256-bit encryption, SHA 256-bit encryption for authentication and strong protocols such as WireGuard, OpenVPN and IKEv2. Additionally, Hide.me also offers SoftEther, SSTP, encrypted DNS servers, a kill switch, split tunneling, IP leak protection, StealthGuard and independent audit reports.

The price of Hide.me is $7.95 per month for the one-month plan, $4.99 per month for the 12-month plan and $2.59 per month for the 24-month plan.

$7.95
$4.99
$2.59

As far as the company that owns Hide.me is concerned, the name is eVenture Ltg which is based in Malaysia.

An image featuring the incognito logo concept

Similar to other good VPNs, Hide.me works by creating an encrypted tunnel with the help of strong VPN protocols. Hide.me also hides the user’s IP address. With encryption protecting all communication, users can surf the web anonymously and securely.

To use Hide.me for the dark web, users have to first sign up for a subscription package, download the VPN app, install the VPN app on the device that will be used to access the dark web, launch the VPN app, input login details and connect to a server. Only after that should users launch a browser like Tor to access the dark web safely.

Hide.me is considered one of the best VPNs for the dark web because the service offers good security tools (AES encryption and a kill switch), deep discounts (on the two-year package), independent audit reports for a verifiable good privacy policy and decent speeds with over 2,000 servers.

4. CyberGhost

CyberGhost is another popular VPN service whose main usage is mainly in situations where users need unrivaled anonymity and digital information security. The main advantages of CyberGhost include a massive server network, lots of locations, customer support via live chat, strong security features and a straightforward installation process. The disadvantages of CyberGhost VPN include some slow servers, keeping track of logs, low performance on some protocols, complicated VPN apps and ties to companies with shady privacy records.

An image featuring CyberGhost VPN website homepage screenshot

As covered in the full CyberGhost review, this VPN offers several attractive advantages. The unique features of CyberGhost are a free trial lasting 24 hours, a 45-day money-back guarantee, free browser protection via extensions, cryptocurrency payment method availability and task-specific servers.

The strong sides of CyberGhost VPN include the ability to unblock streaming sites, lots of information about servers available on the official website, seven simultaneous connections and an expanding network of servers.

An image featuring VPN security on laptop and on the internet concept

In terms of security, CyberGhost VPN is up there with the best as users can avail of features such as AES 256-bit encryption, SHA 256-bit encryption for authentication, powerful and modern protocols such as WireGuard and IKEv2, a kill switch, split tunneling, auto-connect and auto HTTPS redirect.

The price of CyberGhost VPN is $12.99 per month for the one-month plan, $4.29 per month for the one-year plan, $3.25 per month for the two-year plan and $2.29 per month for the three-year plan, which also grants three months extra for free.

$12.99
$4.29
$3.25
$2.29

CyberGhost is owned by Kape Technologies, a company that also owns several other popular VPN services. That fact might be a problem for people with strict privacy requirements as Kape Technologies does not have a good record of respecting online privacy.

As far as the working principle goes, once a user has connected to a CyberGhost server, the service creates an encrypted tunnel through which all of the user’s traffic passes. CyberGhost also hides the user’s IP address with a company-owned server.

An image featuring VPN security on the internet concept

To use CyberGhost for the dark web, users first need to download/install the VPN app from the official website after signing up for a subscription package. Then users need to input login details after launching the app, connect to a server and launch the Tor browser to finally access the dark web via an onion address.

CyberGhost is considered one of the top VPNs for the dark web because the service has powerful security features (AES encryption and WireGuard), fast speeds (over 8,000 servers), deep discounts (over 80% discount on longer subscription packages) and the ability to unblock lots of content (such as Hulu and Netflix).

5. NordVPN

NordVPN is one of the world’s best VPNs for any task. The main usage of NordVPN is when users not only want secure and private internet access but also need protection from malware and trackers. The advantages of NordVPN include a strict money-back guarantee, fast customer support, user-friendly apps and good reliability. The disadvantages of NordVPN include limited router support, a lack of dedicated apps for the Linux platform and a slightly above average cost for the one-month package.

An image featuring NordVPN website homepage screenshot

The unique features of NordVPN include Onion over VPN, NordLynx, NordPass (users have to pay extra), NordLocker (paid addon) and NordLayer. NordVPN’s strong points include comprehensive mobile apps, the ability to work with Netflix without issues, support for all modern protocols, regular app updates and a big server network.

NordVPN is top-of-the-line when talking about security options. The service offers features such as double VPN, obfuscated servers, P2P-specific servers, dedicated IP address, split tunneling, a kill switch, auto-connect, AES 256-bit encryption, SHA 512-bit encryption for authentication, WireGuard and OpenVPN support, ad blocker, malware blocker, scanner, anti-tracker and dark web monitor.

The price of NordVPN is $11.99 per month for the one-month package, $4.99 per month for the one-year package and $3.99 per month for the two-year package.

$11.99
$4.99
$3.99

NordVPN is owned by Tefincom SA, a cybersecurity company based in Lithuania.

An image featuring VPN logo security concept

NordVPN works by encrypting the data that the user’s device generates and then sending the encrypted data to NordVPN servers before finally sending the data to the final destination. The data only gets decrypted on the NordVPN servers and then gets sent to the service/app/website the user wants to access. The reverse process happens when the third-party server responds with more data to fulfill the user’s request.

To use NordVPN for the dark web, users need to download/install the official VPN app on the device that will be used to access a service or website on the dark web. For that to happen, users need to sign up for a subscription package from the official NordVPN website. After launching the VPN app, providing login details and connecting to a suitable server, users can surf the dark web via the Tor browser. Other recommended steps include turning on all advanced security features, such as the kill switch, IP leak protection, double VPN and obfuscation. An informative guide on how to have everything running smoothly can also be found in Security Gladiators’ full NordVPN review.

NordVPN is considered the best VPN for the dark web because of the service’s great security features (AES encryption, double VPN, Tor over VPN), massive discounts (up to 80%), good privacy policy (independent audit reports are available), ability to unblock content (U.S. Netflix and Hulu) and many server locations (over 5,000 servers available).

6. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPN services in the world at the moment. The main usage of ExpressVPN is when users want secure access to any content on the web from any location via a trusted VPN app. The advantages of ExpressVPN include the ability to unblock almost all streaming services, task-specific servers, a fast server network and torrenting support. The disadvantages of ExpressVPN include a lack of modern security and privacy features, expensive monthly subscription packages, some slow servers and the service’s relationship with companies with less than stellar privacy records.

An image featuring the homepage of ExpressVPN

The unique features of ExpressVPN include the “Lightway” protocol, a fully functional .onion website, MediaStreamer, Bitcoin support, next-generation server technology, a threat manager and a kill switch under the name “Network Lock.”

ExpressVPN’s strong sides include a comprehensive router app, well-developed troubleshooting and content guides on the company’s website, fast customer support and a straightforward refund policy.

An image featuring VPN logo security concept

The security of ExpressVPN is top-notch with features such as browser extensions, AES 256-bit encryption, ChaCha20/Poly1305 encryption, SHA 512-bit encryption for authentication, support for modern protocols such as Lightway, OpenVPN and IKEv2, a kill switch, split tunneling, stealth servers and auto-connect.

As far as the price is concerned, ExpressVPN costs $12.95 per month for the one-month package, $9.99 per month for the six-month package and $8.32 per month for the 12-month package.

$12.95
$9.99
$8.32

ExpressVPN as a VPN service is owned by Kape Technologies since 2021. As mentioned before, Kape Technologies does not have a good record when talking about privacy. The Adware platform owns several VPN services as well as VPN review websites.

An image featuring a person standing next to a folder that is private and secure concept

ExpressVPN works by encrypting any data that the user’s device generates before leaving the said device. The encrypted data is decrypted once the ExpressVPN server (to which the user connects via the VPN app) is reached. The ExpressVPN server then sends the data to the final destination. The servers of the website/app/service the user wants to access (such as Netflix or Hulu) then respond to the user’s request. ExpressVPN servers encrypt that data as well and then send the data back to the user’s device. This process takes place whether or not the user is accessing the dark web.

To use ExpressVPN for the dark web, users need to subscribe to an ExpressVPN package, download/install the official VPN app, sign in with login credentials after launching the VPN app and finally connect to a server. Once connected, the user may use Tor to access the dark web.

ExpressVPN is considered a good VPN for the dark web because of advanced security features such as AES encryption and the Lightway protocol, fast speeds with thousands of servers and the ability to unblock a lot of content.

For more details, read the full ExpressVPN review.

7. TunnelBear VPN

TunnelBear VPN is a reputable VPN service whose main usage is when users want to browse the web in a secure manner. The advantages of TunnelBear VPN include an easy installation process, simple content organization across the website and apps and good streaming capability. The disadvantages of TunnelBear include expensive subscription packages, some slow servers, a lack of fast customer support options and rare connection drops (which is a problem even though the drops are rare).

An image featuring TunnelBear VPN homepage

As far as the unique features of TunnelBear VPN are concerned, the list includes a free trial, “Vigilant Mode,” GhostBear and several independent security audits.

The strong sides of TunnelBear VPN include efficient browser extensions and user-friendly applications for all major platforms.

In terms of security, TunnelBear VPN pretty much offers the standard feature package, which includes AES 256-bit encryption, SHA 256-bit encryption for authentication, OpenVPN and IKEv2 protocol support, a kill switch, auto-connect, startup launch, zero logs and WiFi protection.

The price (apart from the free trial, which comes with some restrictions) of TunnelBear VPN is $9.99 per month for the one-month plan, $4.99 per month for the one-year plan and $3.33 per month for the three-year plan. TunnelBear also has a “Team” line of subscription packages that comes with a seven-day free trial and costs $138 per year for two members. The price increases for the “Teams” package as the number of members increases.

$9.99
$4.99
$3.33

TunnelBear VPN is owned by McAfee, a reputable cybersecurity company offering antivirus products, among others. TunnelBear works by creating an encrypted tunnel and enabling users to connect to the internet via the encrypted tunnel. This way, TunnelBear is able to hide the user’s real IP address, and users can browse the web anonymously.

An image featuring VPN privacy and security on the PC with VPN server concept

To use TunnelBear for the dark web, simply download/install the VPN app from the official TunnelBear website, launch the app and then sign in to finally connect to a server for added protection. After that, users are free to use any dark web browser to unblock and view content anonymously.

The reasons why TunnelBear is considered one of the best VPNs for the dark web are a large server network (TunnelBear doesn’t mention the exact number, but various sources indicate close to 2,500), good security (AES encryption and GhostBear), and a strong privacy policy verifiable via independent security audits.

Read the TunnelBear VPN review for a more detailed look at the pros and cons of TunnelBear.

Note:

Prices may differ from the ones shown as new plans and deals are launched on a regular basis. Please be sure to check the most current price on the official website.

Why should You Use a VPN for the Dark Web?

An image featuring a person hacking with code concept

Even though users can surf the dark web without a VPN, using one is highly recommended because of the immense benefits of VPNs. The main reason why everyone should use a VPN for the dark web is to stop malicious websites from knowing the real IP address of the user’s device. Unlike the normal web (sometimes called the open, visible or superficial web), the dark web is filled with malware-infected websites. As soon as the user accesses such websites, malware can help third parties find out the real IP address of the user. Once that happens, the user’s privacy gets compromised, leading to potential cyberattacks assuming the third party has adequate skills.

Another reason why users should use a VPN for the dark web is to stop malicious websites and internet service providers from knowing that the user is on Tor. Using the Tor browser is not encouraged in many countries. Users should check the local laws before using a VPN to hide Tor usage, though.

Following that, in some countries, users cannot even download a browser like Tor to access the dark web safely. In such cases, a VPN can change the location of the user where the Tor browser is available for download/install.

Note:

Many elite VPNs now offer antivirus services as well. Such VPNs present users with another reason to use a VPN for the dark web. As alluded to earlier, the dark web is sprawling with shady websites that push people into clicking malicious links and losing personal data.

Trackers are bothersome for people, even on the open web. The dark web has exponentially more trackers. And most of the dark web trackers aren’t just trying to profile users. Dark web trackers also want to harm the user’s device. VPNs guard against that by changing the IP address of the user and hiding the user’s tracks.

Can VPNs Spot Malicious Websites on the Dark Web?

An image featuring a malicious website concept

Yes, VPNs can spot malicious websites on the dark web. But not all VPNs offer such a service. Even the VPNs that do aren’t highly competent at the task. The recommended way forward is to install a free antivirus product and then a browser extension to further cement watertight security while surfing the dark web.

Readers should also know that the market offers VPNs with antivirus features as well as antivirus with VPN features. Generally, antivirus products that offer VPNs do not do a good job of providing a competent VPN service. Conversely, VPNs that offer antivirus features do a decent job of protecting users from most forms of malware.

Other VPN services are able to inform the user if the personal information of the user has been leaked on the dark web. Such VPNs go beyond what a standard antivirus product can do for the user.

Does a VPN Impact Speed in the Dark Web?

Yes, a VPN does impact connection speed on the dark web. Users looking to access the dark web need to know two things. Enhanced security and privacy can be obtained with the use of a VPN and internet speed will decrease with VPN usage.

In other words, more likely than not, a VPN is going to slow down internet connection speed even if the user does not intend to go to the dark web.

Another problem is the Tor Browser. The vast majority of the users who will access the dark web will do so via the Tor Browser. The Tor Browser decreases internet speed even more so than any elite VPN. Hence, users looking to access the dark web with Tor and VPN will get internet speed decreased twofold.

An image featuring internet connection speed concept

To combat the problem, users can, first, sign up for a VPN that has fast servers and many locations (that ensures a VPN server close to the user’s real location is available at all times). Second, users should use a wired connection (which would also mean users won’t be able to access the dark web via a mobile device). A wired connection will lead to less speed reduction in any case. And users looking for the Tor Browser to access the dark web will need as much internet speed as possible.

Sometimes, if the Tor browser is unusually slow, users only need to close the Tor Browser, start the browser again and then form a new connection. If everything is set up right (an ethernet connection, a fast VPN server near the user’s real location and a new Tor connection), users can get close to 50% of the internet connection’s original speed with Tor and a VPN.

Are There Any Risks of Using a VPN on the Dark Web?

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Yes, there are some risks of using a VPN on the dark web. If a VPN has not implemented the security procedures properly, then the user’s data might be at risk. And the user may have no idea of the potential security problem. This is why users should only go for VPNs that have a good reputation for implementing the security measures that are claimed/promised on the company’s website.

An easy way to do that is to stick to VPNs that have at least one independent audit report from a reputable cybersecurity firm.

Another risk of using a VPN on the dark web is a lack of speed. If a VPN is slow enough, the benefits of increased privacy and security will most likely be nullified. A lagging dark web experience will hinder whatever task the user intended to complete in the first place.

A lesser-discussed risk with signing up for VPNs for the dark web is long-term subscription packages. No matter how hyped a VPN service is at a given moment, there is no way to know for sure if a VPN will continue to unblock the Tor Browser. Or even protect user privacy. Some VPNs, after an initial period of stellar performance, turn out to be botnet services. If a user has subscribed to a VPN for two or more years, all that investment might go down the drain if the VPN service goes out of business or starts tanking performance levels.

Note:

A very reasonable risk is a false sense of security. A VPN will enhance privacy and anonymity. But users shouldn’t take that as a license to abandon good internet habits on the dark web.

Less reputable VPN services that haven’t implemented security protocols properly may allow hackers on the dark web to infect the VPN network. That would put the security and privacy of all users connected to the VPN network at risk.

An image featuring dark web person hacking concept

The risk of using a VPN for the dark web can increase if the VPN is not trustworthy. All VPNs are going to claim zero logs. Very few undergo security audits to verify the zero-logs claim. If a VPN keeps logs, then that is a problem as well. Since using the Tor Browser may be problematic in some countries, and some VPNs have to respond to legal requests to divulge a given user’s information, users should make sure the VPN in use really has zero logs.

Finally, as a follow-on to the previous point, users are at risk if a VPN is registered in a country with strict data retention laws. Accidental doxxing is a common occurrence on the internet, and the dark web is no different. There is also the problem of hackers finding out the real IP address of the user. If a VPN is keeping such information for legal reasons, the user’s privacy is at risk in the case of a hack or leak.

Can a Free VPN be Used for the Dark Web?

An image featuring a hacker stealing private data concept

Yes, free VPN services can be used for the dark web. But the recommended way to stay away from free VPNs is not just for the dark web but in general. That’s because free VPNs aren’t adept at keeping users anonymous. Free VPNs are less private and secure. Such services usually log user data and may even record any dark web activity on the part of the user. After that, such services can sell that information to shady third-party companies.

The main usage of free VPNs is when users do not care much about privacy or security and only want to unblock content. Even in the case of bypassing georestricted content, free VPNs are generally unable to unblock in-demand streaming services or tools for the dark web.

Another risk of using a free VPN for the dark web is advertisements which may lead to malicious websites. Free VPNs have been known to inject advertisements directly into the content being viewed by the user. Ads can trick users into downloading malware. All of this increases the risk of navigating the dark web.

Other risks associated with free VPNs include less security options, extremely slow servers, bandwidth restrictions, data consumption restrictions, location restrictions and the possibility of malware infection.

Zohair A. Zohair is currently a content crafter at Security Gladiators and has been involved in the technology industry for more than a decade. He is an engineer by training and, naturally, likes to help people solve their tech related problems. When he is not writing, he can usually be found practicing his free-kicks in the ground beside his house.
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