How Do Tor Onion Addresses Actually Work?

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How Do Tor Onion Addresses Actually Work?

If you spend enough time on the internet, you will surely come across the phrases “black web” and “tor.” While it is well known that the dark web is full with nefarious sites, few people understand what they are and how they operate.

Websites on the dark web function differently than ordinary websites. To begin, the sites use onion addresses rather than domain names. Second, Tor addresses are encrypted. Most of the time, they are merely a random string of characters.

Do you want to learn more? Continue reading to learn all there is to know about it.

What Is the Dark Web and Tor?

We can divide the internet into three parts:

1. Surface net

2. Deep web

3. Dark web

The surface net, often known as the visible portion of the internet, is the web that is visible to the general public. Anything you can locate using Google or other search engines, for example, is part of the surface web. In other words, anything indexed by search engines like Google is part of the public-facing surface web.

The deep web is the portion of the surface web that is not indexed by search engines yet is accessible using standard web browsers. Google, for example, does not index web sites containing sensitive government material such as reports and legislation. As a result, they stay concealed from the general public, thus the moniker “Deep Web.”

Related: Little-Known Deep Web Sites You Might Actually Like

The dark web is a section of the internet that is inaccessible using normal web browsers. Sites on the dark web do not function like conventional websites, and search engines such as Google do not index them. As a result, if you wish to browse the black web, you must utilize the Tor Browser. Tor sites use “.onion” addresses rather of the more common “.com” ones.

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It’s no secret that nefarious transactions take place on the dark web, but that’s just one portion of the network. The dark web is widely used for encrypted, untraceable communication. People in countries where free expression is strongly censored utilize the dark web to circumvent DNS-based geoblocks.

Journalists and whistleblowers, for example, utilize the Tor protocol to communicate privately on the black web.

Related: Dark Web vs. Deep Web: What’s the Difference?

What Are Tor Sites?

Tor sites can only be accessed using The Onion Router (Tor).Tor sites, unlike ordinary “.com” domains, contain the “.onion” suffix at the end of their URLs.

Before we go into Tor sites, let’s take a look at how regular websites function.

When you input a website name, such as, into your browser’s address bar, a Domain Name System (DNS) converts the website name into an IP address. The IP address identifies the machine on the network where the website is stored. Using the IP address, your browser connects to that machine, gets the website data, and displays it on the screen.

Authorities may now know what website you are attempting to visit and ban it from the DNS since a DNS is required to search up the IP address of a certain website. Authorities may effectively restrict sites that they do not want you to visit in this manner.

Tor sites, on the other hand, lack DNS. Tor domain names are directly related to the IP address of the server that hosts the site. When you combine that with end-to-end encryption, it’s easy to understand why Tor is completely anonymous.

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In brief, due to the nature of The Onion Routing, you may avoid any restrictions while being secure.

Related: How Does the Dark Web Affect Your Security?

Apart from that, Tor sites are identical to conventional websites in every aspect. There is, for example, a Tor version of Facebook with all the typical bells and whistles. The New York Times, too, has a Tor site on the black web.

What Are .onion Addresses, and How Do They Work?

The “.onion” addresses are web addresses for websites on the dark web. Because, as previously stated, the Tor network lacks a DNS, there is no query for IP addresses matching to domain names.

The addresses that finish in the top-level domain “.onion” are alphanumeric, with 16 or 56 characters for Onion Services V2 and V3. They are based on a publicly available cryptographic key.

To have a unique “.onion” address, you must create one using the public key. Depending on whatever version of the onion service you use, the generated address will be a random string of 16 or 56 characters with no input.

Any server on the Tor network with a “.onion” address is an onion service, and you may visit it using the Tor Browser.

In summary, “.onion” addresses are URLs that do not appear in public DNS records, such as those found on the surface web. They are public key cryptographic hashes. When you connect to an onion service, the Tor network decrypts the cryptographic hash using the public key and connects to the service.

When you enter a “.onion” address, Tor routes your communication via three random nodes in succession. And the communication is encrypted each time it passes through a node.

When the traffic reaches its ultimate destination—in this example, the website you wish to visit—the browser loads the data, and the process is reversed.

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Is Tor Browser the Only Way In?

The Tor Browser is the Tor protocol’s official browser. It is also the most widely used. You must use a browser that supports the Tor protocol to access the dark web and view sites on the Tor network.

Related: You Can Now Use the Tor Browser on Android

Tor Browser alternatives include the Onion Browser for iOS, JonDoFox, and Brave. All of these alternatives are open-source and free to download. Tor, on the other hand, strongly advises against using a third-party browser to access its network.

However, if you do not like to utilize the Tor network, alternative anonymous networks such as I2P and Freenet are available. Both are peer-to-peer networks that encrypt all data. As a result, they are ideal for those who wish to connect with their friends directly without having to worry about their internet privacy.

Don’t Get Lost in the Dark Web

The dark web is not governed in the same way that the surface web is. The dark web is plenty of places you don’t want to go, from identity theft to drug markets. As a result, if you don’t know where to look for secure sites on the dark web, you’ll wind up jeopardizing your privacy.

Fortunately, there are several methods to identify active dark web sites, such as lists, Reddit conversations, and search engines.

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