Onion Website, VPN, and Tor: All You Need to Know

Last updated: 2022/08/29
How-to Guide5 minutes

The Deep Web

Webs that search engines cannot index. Tor is so far the largest Tor proxy network. Before we proceed to the .onion site list, you need to understand how to use a VPN with Tor to secure your connection and protect your privacy in the first place.

VPN and Tor to access .onion sites

There would be advantages and disadvantages of using either the Tor network or a Virtual Private Network as a standalone service. Both help to encrypt your internet traffic, but they each fall short of providing total privacy due to the way they function.

Combining powers and using VPNs alongside Tor is a solution. The solution provides you with double encryption and addresses some of the problems of privacy inherent in the standalone tools.

We will be sharing the advantages of using VPNs and Tor together in this post and revealing the various ways you can set them up.

Why use a VPN with Tor?

You can search anonymously and gain access to sites that are not visible via a transparent web when you link to the internet through the Tor network. The Tor network encrypts your internet traffic, also called “Tor” for short. Tor ensures that if anyone intercepts it, they won’t be able to decrypt its contents. Before reaching the destination website, Tor traffic passes through at least three random nodes (which are volunteer machines and may also be called relays).

Your (ISP) and any snoopers, such as government agencies, will detect that you are using Tor when you use Tor alone. It is not illegal to use Tor itself. The network has many legitimate applications, such as providing journalists, informants, law enforcement and military officials, victims of crime, and anyone else who may profit from a high degree of privacy, with an anonymous forum.

That said, there are many illegal uses for Tor, and there is a low reputation for the network. So much so that just communicating with law enforcement or government officials to the Tor network would raise a flag. In certain nations, governments go as far as to make ISPs block traffic from Tor.

This is where a VPN is convenient, covering the fact that it is passing through the Tor network since it will hide your internet traffic. This means it would only be possible for your VPN provider to see that you are using Tor. A VPN routes your traffic to a location through a secondary server. Your real IP address is replaced by one from that server. An extra layer of encryption is also applied to the VPN, further protecting your traffic.

How to use a VPN with Tor?

There are two possible setups when setting up a VPN with Tor:

  • Tor over VPN: Connect to the VPN server then open the Tor afterward.

  • VPN over Tor: Open the Tor then connect to the VPN afterward.

Although VPN over Tor sounds simple enough, it’s far from straightforward actually. To see if this configuration is feasible and, if so, exactly how to set it up, you will need to consult with your VPN provider. I will concentrate here on the more common Tor over VPN setup.

Here’s how you can set up the Tor over VPN:

  • 2. Choose a server and wait until a connection success.

  • 3. Open a tab with Tor.

  • 4. You can privately access the web now.

Because Tor appears to slow down your internet speeds dramatically, you should select the fastest available VPN server, preferably. If your VPN doesn’t include details on server speed, then your best bet is to go with a geographically close server.

Notice that this configuration will only route your Tor browser traffic through the Tor network. However, there are ways to configure other different applications to work with Tor.

How to determine which setup to use for Tor and VPN?

Let’s look at each one more in-depth to understand which choice is better for your situation. Notice that, in both cases, both the VPN and Tor encrypt your traffic.

Tor over VPN

When you first connect to the VPN, it goes to the VPN server and then into the Tor network until the traffic is encrypted. If you are searching for access to .onion sites and want to conceal the fact that you are using Tor, Tor over VPN is preferable.

Some VPNs provide Tor over VPN as a function built into apps. A benefit of using this built-in feature is that all traffic, not just Tor browser traffic, is routed through the Tor network. A downside, however, is that analyzing your traffic is technically possible for your VPN provider, so you need to have faith in your chosen provider.

VPN over Tor

When you first connect to Tor, the traffic goes through the Tor network after encryption, then through the VPN node. If you want to access sites that block Tor traffic anonymously, this configuration might be helpful.

The .onion site list

So here is the list of our favorite .onion sites you can check out.

Practice situational awareness and stay safe on your journey.

1 - ProPublica

The first online publication with a .onion address that won a Pulitzer is now also the first major publication. The Deep Wallet is the source of funding for ProPublica.

2 - DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is an excellent alternative to Google if you don’t want to give up your privacy. Action Check is not logged by default. Without the opportunity to learn about your actions.

3 - Riseup

Riseup is an email provider run by volunteers for activists around the world.

Established by activists in Seattle around 1999, it has expanded to over six million users worldwide since then. It publishes a multi-language newsletter and not only runs onion services for its website but also all its benefits for email and chat.

4 - archive.today

archive.today aims to preserve the web’s cultural and scientific heritage. It stores website snapshots, making it easy to see what websites look like and what data they contain.

5 - The CIA

The U.S. built Tor. Navy to help informants securely exchange knowledge in foreign countries.

6 - Keybase

Keybase makes it simple to connect your online identities cryptographically. You can upload your PGP key or build one for the web.

7 - Hidden Wiki

This community-edited .onion Wikipedia contains links to services and sources running on the dark web. It’s the only site in this list that already has the longer, more secure Version 3 onion URL.

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