Can any darknet activity be traced (by hackers or government) to oneself if one accesses DW from one's own internet that is provided by an ISP that knows one's identity? What about using Qubes with Whonix, VPN over Tor and obfuscated bridges?

  • 1
    Could you please choose the question you want to focus on because your title and the body of your question are asking 2 different questions?
    – dan
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 7:05

4 Answers 4


When it comes to security or anonymity, we leave the deterministic world for the probabilistic one. The only 100% secure system is a machine with no network, no user inside a bunker with no door. The only 100% anonymous way to visit a site is not to visit it.

If you are a lambda user, unrelated to terrorism, you can do many things without bothering too much for strict anonymity: the chances that somebody watches at you are low. Of course if you plan to buy a kalashnikov in countries where it is illegal to own such a weapon, a VPN or Tor is a minimum, and you must ensure that everything is strongly encrypted. And you also have to hope that you are not connected to a honeypot managed by the police...

If a government is involved, and they specifically watch you, and you are not a highly trained agent, it is too late, you have lost. How can you be sure that the guy sitting 3 chairs from you in an internet cafe is not a policeman?

So it is just a matter of risk. Who do you want to be anonymous from? What is the probability that someone specifically watches after you? What is the risk that the action you are doing will raise red warnings in corresponding security services? (security services here range from your parents or girl friend to the CIA and the NSA).

Anonymity is like security, just a matter of threat you want to be protected from.

  • It's always better with too much security and anonymity than too little. Suppose I was Edward Snowden, or some other targeted person. Would the tools I mentioned be enough? Also, would it be less secure to use internet paid for in my name than public wifi? (Would the tools make me so anonymous that it wouldn't matter?) Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 22:15
  • 2
    Targeted people are screwed people. If the government in your country is specifically targeting you, they don't need to catch you doing anything bad and they're not beholden to legal process. They just hit you with a wrench until you give up your secrets and/or cease to be a problem. You can either develop a realistic threat model that is actually going to be useful for you, or you can waste time endlessly theorising about wildly unlikely scenarios that require inconvenient and tiresome countermeasures which you'll get frustrated with and stop using within a week.
    – Polynomial
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 23:58
  • @hf4KlwoP2fm2 If you were Edward Snowden, you would simply be arrested at your home, regardless of what you do online. The use of anonymity networks would not help in any way whatsoever.
    – forest
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 0:19

One aspect is the internet connection, yes. But you should also consider from what device you access these services. Websites can exploit vulnerabilities in browsers and gain access to your machine in the worst case. I would not use a computer with personal files or other personal information on it as these files, if stolen, could also be used to identified.

  • Thanks. What about having Windows 10 installed on the computer, with personal files as you mentioned, but accessing the dark web from Qubes-Whonix, with appropriate internet protection tools? Can the personal files stored outside of the VM still be stolen? Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 22:49
  • If you do this, you make it significantly harder for an attacker. I can't give you a probability, but let's put it this way: If you ware worried about privacy, your approach should be more than enough. If your life is at stake, I would use a clean machine and boot a clean live distro from a USB flashdrive. One such distro is Tails.
    – Potaito
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 23:08
  • @Potatito Wait, is Tails more secure than Qubes-Whonix? I thought it was the other way around. Also, can I use Windows 10 as normal (Signing in to bank, Gmail and work accounts), while going on the DW in Qubes-Whonix (or possibly Tails)? Thanks for your help. Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 23:14
  • I don't think there is anything wrong with either one. I only mentioned tails because it is specifically designed to be booted from a flashdrive out of a security concern.
    – Potaito
    Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 9:42

The whole point of Tor is of course to make it difficult for adversaries to determine your real IP. That being said, it does not give you 100% anonymity as there are multiple attack scenarios that may still deanonymize you. For example tor nodes might be run by government agencies, and if they manage to spy on your entry and exit node, they may infer your identity.

It all depends on the kind of adversary you're expecting, and the resources you think they will use in order to find out your identity. Although public wifi would make it harder, an adversary that can deanonymize Tor probably will also have the capacity to request any and all video footage near your public wifi (and credit card payments and so on).

Whonix will e.g. protect you against malware that was designed to find out your real IP by breaking out of the Tor browser.

VPN over Tor does not allow you to access the dark web, as in this setup your exit point is the VPN. But maybe you meant Tor over VPN. People tend to question if a VPN brings more security. I personally would not believe them to be perfectly trustworthy, even if they say they don't log.

  • If one uses VPN->Tor, and the VPN gets compromised, one's real IP is disclosed. However, the people who say that one's real IP can be disclosed if the entry node is hacked when using Tor->VPN have a valid point. The Grugq said that Tor->VPN is ok, but VPN->Tor equals jail. I don't know what to believe. How does one protect oneself from IP disclosure induced by the entry node getting compromised? Also, I think one can access DW while running VPN over Tor with Tortilla. Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 22:19
  • -1 "Darknet" in the context of Tor usually implies hidden services, which do not use exit nodes.
    – forest
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 0:23
  • @hf4KlwoP2fm2 The Grugq has a different threat model. When you use Tor->VPN, then the VPN is the one single exit point that your traffic (in plaintext!) always goes through, since it defeats the purpose of Tor using rotating exit nodes, which is a very bad thing. If you use VPN->Tor on the other hand, then even if the VPN is compromised and recording all the traffic, the Tor connection is still encrypted.
    – forest
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 0:23
  • @forest: I know. I didn't say that. I said that if you put a VPN after your Tor connection, you cannot access hidden services. Is that wrong?
    – Lord Vapor
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 8:25
  • 1
    @forest: Ah ok. You were referencing my first paragraph not the last one. I get it. I'll change that.
    – Lord Vapor
    Commented Mar 30, 2019 at 12:50

They could track your IP to your ISP and then the ISP could tell them who used that IP address if they were compelled to.

  • What about using a VPN over Tor, configured with obfs4 or at least obfs3, running on Qubes with Whonix? Is it still unsafe to use one's internet provided by the ISP? Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 20:11
  • @hf4KlwoP2fm2 A properly implemented/trustworthy VPN that does not keep records, if used, should be immune to any records an ISP could cough up. All the ISP would say was "Yeah, they connected to the IP address owned by this VPN service." And if the VPN service doesn't keep records, the VPN service would not be able to provide any information, even if they wanted to.
    – Ranger
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 20:15
  • It's safe in terms of the average guy not being able to track you, but a government would still be able to talk to your ISP in some cases. Using software to hide what you do will never be 100% anonymous, because your ISP can see theres traffic going out even if its encrypted or whatever.
    – Vit
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 20:16
  • @NexTerren Yeah, they can't see exactly what you are doing in that case, but if you looked closely enough you could match up times someone was online with times a site was accessed or whatever.
    – Vit
    Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 20:17
  • Running a middle-man-node on the same machine can give a layer of plausible deniability. Commented Mar 29, 2019 at 20:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .