This post is a basic overview of different ways of researching items on the dark net. Specifically, this post addresses how to access the dark net and, once there, how to find what you are looking for. Because regular open net search engines like Google cannot search dark net websites, there are three categories of search engines available.
Background: For a primer on what the dark net actually is, see post “Deep Net Dark Net, and the Open Net.” If you don’t want to read that post, just read the key points below.
1 – To access the dark net you must download and run the free software TOR (which can be downloaded safely from torproject.org).
2 – All dark net websites have urls that end in “.onion” instead of “.com”.
3 – And, you generally must know the url of the dark net website you want to view beforehand, or else it is hard to find.
Dark Net Directories
Given the lack of good search engines on the dark net it is often a good idea to rely on dark net website directories on the open net or the dark net. One can use the open net directories Deep Onion Net and Onion Live in addition to The Hidden Wiki on the dark net.
DEEP ONION NET
A website on the open net called Deep Onion Net (deeponionnet.com) has a good directory of dark net websites, including vendors, forums, and markets, along with their dark net urls.
If you are looking for a vendor but do not know who to trust, you can search Onion Live (onion.live), a good resource for checking if a given dark net vendor is in their list of scam vendors and checking if a url is used for phishing purposes.
There are websites that you can access on the regular open net that will let you search for things on the dark net from the open net.
THE HIDDEN WIKI
Finally, the one dark net website that is possibly the most consistent and helpful for navigating is The Hidden Wiki (located at “wikiylbkloo2sahu.onion” as of April 2020).
While The Hidden Wiki looks and feels like wikipedia, it is actually more like an internet directory, which makes sense given that much of the dark net looks like websites from the 90s. The main page of The Hidden Wiki has several different sections that identify various kinds of websites that one might be seeking. From here you are ready to browse the dark net.
While there is no “Google” for the dark net, there are search engines for the dark net, but they do not function as well.
Dark Search (darksearch.io) is one of these sites. Dark Search is a search engine on the open net that can be accessed without using TOR and it will let you search for a search term on dark net websites. After you type your search term and hit enter, Dark Search will show you results, much like Google or any search engine, but you cannot actually click on any of the results. You can only see that the results exist, see a portion of the text on the website, and note the url of the dark net site so that you can go there via TOR.
Ahmia is a special search engine because it can be accessed from the open net AND the dark net. On the open net it is located at “ahmia.fi” and at the url “msydqstlz2kzerdg.onion” on the dark net side. From the open net side, Ahmia operates much like Dark Search, where you can search but cannot click on the results. From the dark net side, one can of course search and click on the results.
Ahmia also helps to deal with one problem of the dark net, the websites’ urls are often changing. It can be hard to find the new url of a dark net site, but this is not the case with Ahmia. If you have lost or forgotten all of your dark net urls, you can still do the following. When you launch your TOR browser, go to the Ahmia site on the open net at “ahmia.fi” and, as you see below, there it has the current dark net version of the url listed on the bottom next to “Onion service.” Since you are already in your TOR browser you can click directly on the link to go to the dark net version of Ahmia.
NOT EVIL (is the name of a search engine)
Once you have downloaded and opened the Tor Browser, one of the best search engines you can go to on the dark net is Not Evil, (located at the url “hss3uro2hsxfogfq.onion” as of April 2020). Not Evil can only be accessed through the Tor Browser and by directly typing the url into the browser, which is effectively browsing the dark net.
The following table by Webhose.io provides details on the capabilities of five popular dark web search engines: