If you want to stay anonymous and dive into what the darknet has to offer, The Onion Router (Tor) is your safest bet. The Tor browser is a powerful free tool used to browse the Internet anonymously, where you can open various websites using the onion domain.
Nowadays, anonymity seems to be disappearing, with ISPs watching your every move, and big tech websites selling your data to the highest bidder. If you are looking to create a new website, or even if you already have one, it might be worth looking at what the onion site has to offer you in terms of protection for both you and your visitors.
What is the onion field?
Onion Domain is an IP suffix that is exclusively for use through the Tor anonymity browser. This means that standard browsers such as Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and Mozilla Firefox will not be able to access sites using the onion domain, as they cannot navigate the proxy relays from which Tor is built.
The standard web domains you are likely familiar with, such as .com, .org, .biz, are issued by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Users must submit proposals to ICANN to register a domain or subdomain before they can use it on their new website.
There are thousands of different domains available, but not all of them are available to everyone who wants to use them. The .apple domain is one such domain that requires a special request to retrieve. There are usually costs associated with registering and maintaining the domain of your choice. As such, anyone looking to get a specific domain will need a small initial capital to acquire it once their application is approved.
When it comes to using an onion site domain, there are both advantages and disadvantages. One of the best features is that it can only be accessed through the Tor browser. In fact, this can be seen as an advantage of and as a disadvantage.
Given that Tor is not considered a very popular browser, it is likely that a website using the onion domain will not see too much regular traffic. However, security aware and interested people will appreciate the multiple levels of anonymity that Tor provides that are not available in more popular browsers.
Why create an Onion website?
When you decide to create an onion site, you are doing it more for anonymity than anything else. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the domain name is automatically generated for you. You will get a randomized string of 16 lowercase letters and numbers from 2 to 7. This string allows the Tor browser to navigate to your server.
Understand that a domain name can be changed, but for a fee. Any vanity domains you want to create, with one or two more recognizable words, will be computationally expensive and resource intensive. It took Facebook just 8 characters to create its onion domain – facebookcorewwwi.onion – but at a significant cost in computer resources. It can take one computer randomizing data over a billion years to get the exact desired 16 characters as a domain name.
Yes, all these random strings are 16 characters long. No more no less. This can often make the string difficult to remember, making it even more difficult for users to remember your website. It can also make it easier for attackers to create a similar but different domain, leading to even more confusion for your potential visitors.
However, not having to register with ICANN just to create your own domain can be seen as an advantage. There is no need to hide your details from â€œwhoisâ€ requests, and your ICANN account will not be vulnerable to malicious hijackings. You are in complete control of your privacy and your domain as a bow user.
Before you start building your own onion website, make sure you know how to safely access the dark web. Launching privacy tools is also a must before building your own onion site. Once you understand the prerequisites, you can move on to the next section.
Create a web server with Tor
You need to set up your existing web server before the Tor onion service will provide your existing web server with the onion domain. If your server is leaking personal data or information, then the powerful anonymity provided by Tor doesn’t make much sense.
Tor offers to bind your server to localhost. This is great for protecting your real IP, because when you later configure your onion services, you can create a virtual port through which visitors can connect.
You will also want to clear your server of any identifying information that might lead to you. This means removing any links to information about your server from error messages that may be sent to visitors.
Configure Onion Services for Server
The procedure is fairly straightforward if you follow the instructions on the Tor project website. The site will provide more details on how to modify the “torrc” file to create an onion server. Make sure Tor is up and running on your computer, and that you are installing the web server locally, as described in the previous section.
After completing the setup, enable the Tor browser to generate a public key or domain for your website. Distribute this key however you want to everyone you want to visit your website to start generating traffic.
Make sure the public key is public and not private. Keep your site and visitors safe by ensuring that the private key is only for your eyes.