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Ahmia search engine: Should you use it?

Ahmia is a private search engine designed for use in the Tor network. It allows users to roam the internet protected by an additional layer of security thanks to onion routing – an inherent feature of the Tor browser. Find out how Ahmia compares with other private and dark web search engines and how to use it safely.

Ahmia search engine: Should you use it?

What is Ahmia?

Ahmia is a surface web search engine that allows users to access hidden onion sites on Tor’s network. It’s a free and open-source project created by a security researcher, Juha Murmi, and developed on the GitHub platform in 2014. Ahmia indexes onion sites from the Tor network, making websites more accessible on the Tor browser, and filters out illicit content on the dark web. Ahmia allows its users to search the internet through clearnet by using clear web URLs or through the Tor network and its dark web version.

Ahmia was designed specifically for the Tor browser, which uses onion routing to encrypt online traffic in multiple layers and route it through several volunteer-operated servers. The Tor network provides users with more privacy than clearnet when communicating and roaming online. It is known to be used by entities that handle extremely sensitive subjects. For instance, in the case of investigative journalism, journalists may use it to keep conversations with their informants as confidential as possible. However, the Tor network can be equally used for illicit purposes, such as circulating abusive content or malicious sites, raising the question of whether the Tor browser is safe.

What is Ahmia used for?

The main idea behind Ahmia is to eliminate fake, malicious, or generally unsafe onion websites originating in the Tor network and make navigating and accessing the dark web safer. For instance, in 2015, Ahmia published an extensive list of legitimate website clones that contained malware or phishing attacks.

An equally important purpose of the Ahmia project is to make searching for desired content within the onion network easier. Not many Tor browser search engines are established well enough to make this process easy. To make a change, Ahmia collects and indexes public onion addresses so that the users can find exactly what they’re searching for. At the same time, Ahmia enables onion service operators to register their sites so that the search engine can find them more easily. Ahmia aims to make secure onion sites available to the clearnet so that a wider audience can access their content.

Is Ahmia safe?

Ahmia is considered a safe search engine for the Tor browser and the dark web because of its stringent policies towards abusive content online. It claims to block illegal and malware-ridden websites and sites full of abuse material from its search results.

Though Ahmia is comparatively safe, its users have to exercise caution and remain alert to the dangers hiding on the dark web. Read on to learn how Ahmia compares against other search engines that operate on the dark web and tips for staying safe while using it.

Ahmia vs. other dark web search engines

Compared to other private search engines operating on the dark web, Ahmia stands out as one that is focused on making the dark web a safer place for users. It aims to eliminate malicious or abusive content from both the Tor network and the dark web.

Meanwhile, other popular private and dark web search engines are mainly oriented toward indexing websites and keeping the search private without the goal of clearing the darknet. For instance, one of the most popular private search systems, DuckDuckGo, is valued for its extensive attention to privacy: It uses a no-logs policy to keep users’ search history and personal data unrecorded. Another dark web search tool, Torch, boasts one of the largest numbers of indexed onion sites, providing abundant search results.

How to use Ahmia safely

Users who are willing to use Ahmia as safely as possible should take the initiative and consider taking the following advice:

  • Use a VPN. A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts your online traffic and spoofs your IP address, significantly lowering the chances of malicious entities snooping around your online activities. A VPN also ensures that whenever you’re using Ahmia to access the Tor sites, your internet service provider (ISP) will only see that encrypted traffic is going through a VPN server without discovering what sites you visit.
  • Use Onion Over VPN. Provided by NordVPN, this feature allows you to connect to the Tor network using a VPN without installing a Tor browser. Onion Over VPN enhances your privacy online because a VPN disguises your use of the Tor network and conceals your browsing activities from your ISP. If the Tor exit node ever becomes compromised, a cyberattacker couldn’t see your IP address, only a VPN server through which your traffic goes.
  • Be careful about the links. Even though Ahmia aims to clear as much illegal and abusive content from the dark web as possible, the darknet contains plenty of risky and illicit sites. Whenever you’re using a private search engine, you should be extra careful not to click on any dark web links that can lead you to web pages containing malware or illegal content.
  • Don’t share personal details. Because Ahmia can reach the dark web, you should make sure to share as little about yourself as possible, no matter the site you’re visiting. The dark web is swarming with cybercriminals, so you have to be even more cautious than you usually are.

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