How to Get Smartphone Dark Web Access: For Android Users

By Sydney Butler / June 5, 2019

The world is going mobile and Tor access has traditionally been via a traditional computer. In response to this, the Tor Project has finally released a mobile solution to access Hidden Services. So if you’re ready to take your Dark Web or private browsing mobile, these are the things you need to know for smartphone Dark Web access.

The Dark Web is a group of websites hidden from the open internet by powerful encryption software. Most Dark Web sites reside on something called the Tor Hidden Services network. This is a special collection of volunteer computers, software, and rules that hide the identities of both users and server hosts.

The Tor Browser isn’t just used to access Dark Web sites. It’s also a powerful way to browse the internet privately. So it’s really an incredibly useful tool for anyone who wants superior privacy on the net.

Only Androids Need to Apply

Android Mascot Loto

Thanks to Apple’s famously draconian App Store rules, it’s no surprise that you won’t find anything Tor related for iOS devices. For now, the only mobile platform you can access Tor on is Android. Still, Android makes up an almost complete majority of the mobile device install base, so it’s not a big problem. If you don’t have an Android device, buying a low-end smartphone is pretty cheap these days.

The Apps You Need

Not too long ago, you actually needed two separate apps in order to access Tor from your smartphone. The first is, of course, the Tor Browser app itself. This is the piece of software that you will use to browse sites. Whether on the Dark Web or the surface web.

In order to actually make the connection to Tor Hidden services, you needed to get an app known as the Orbit Tor Proxy.

As the name suggests, Orbot creates a proxy profile on your phone which other apps and system services can then use to route all traffic through. Unfortunately, it seems Orbot is not all its cracked up to be, so there are some issues to discuss.

The Problem with Orbot

If you look at the reviews for Orbot: Proxy with Tor, things don’t look great. Especially recently. While performance related complaints are part and parcel for Tor, it is worrying to see negative comments about privacy.

According to users reviewing the app, Orbot is not as reliable as it should be or as well-maintained. The good news is that the Tor browser app no longer needs Orbot at all.

If you want to route other apps through Tor, you still need Orbot, but that's the last we need to care about it here.

The Need for a VPN


You still need a VPN in addition to the Tor browser. Why is a VPN so important? To be absolutely clear, you access to Tor will work just fine on your smartphone without a VPN. No one will know which sites you are visiting using Tor. The sites you visit will also still be ignorant of your real location and identity. However, your ISP and anyone else sniffing your connection will know that you are accessing Tor. A VPN will hide this fact, which makes it impossible to later cross-reference things such as session times and data volumes to activity on Tor.

Even if you don't really mind your ISP and government knowing that you are using Tor, there are plenty of other reasons you should be using a VPN. Especially if you use work or public internet when out and about. As such, we strongly suggest installing a reputable VPN on your device.

Putting it All Together Step-by-Step

OK, now that you have all the background info you need, it's time to actually set up Tor on your Android device.

Note: Because of the strict privacy policies the app enforces, you can't actually take screenshots. You just get an error message. So you'll have to work from the descriptions below, but luckily it's so easy you could figure it out blindfolded.

Step 1: Let's install Tor from the Play Store.

Step 2: First you need to launch your VPN and quickly establish a connection to any nearest VPN server location.

Step 3: Then start the Tor Browser app from the launcher.

Step 4: The first time you start the app up, you'll see a short tutorial. Once that's done, just click "connect" and wait for the app to let you know that everything is OK to proceed.

Step 5: To test that it works, try to visit any site. A safe onion site to try is facebookcorewwwi.onion, which is the official Facebook onion domain. If it works, then everything is good to go!

Always Be Careful on the Dark Web

You are perfectly within your rights to access Tor Hidden Services, whether from your phone or desktop computer. With the exception of Germany, there are no specific laws prohibiting simply accessing the service. At least for now.

That being said, you can still get into a lot of trouble for accessing illegal content on the Dark Web or buying items that are restricted by law in your country. In some parts of the world, simply accessing Tor can draw the attention of authorities. Dark Web safety is incredibly important and you should not browse onion sites lightly.

The Future is Mobile

It's actually surprising that it took this long for an official mobile Tor solution. Of course, getting your app onto an official app store is a little harder than putting Open Source software on the internet for anyone to download. On top of this, mobile development has its own unique set of challenges.

Do you use the Dark Web from your phone? Let us know in the comments. Lastly, we’d like to ask you to share this article online. And don’t forget that you can follow TechNadu on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks!

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