What You Don’t Know About the Dark Net
Identity theft. Corporate Secrets. Free speech activists. Murder. The Dark Web is lurking right under your nose, and you’ll be amazed about the things found there that the government doesn’t want you to know about.
But what is the dark net?
Most of you filthy casuals spend your whole lives on the internet, where you can get access to about 1.7 billion websites with a simple .com address. If you were to try to browse every single website, it would probably take several lifetimes- but these websites only account for about 7-10% of the total internet. The surface web, as it’s known to anyone cool, is where you’ve lived your entire digital life, likely completely unaware you were standing on the tip of a very, very large iceberg.
Normal websites are accessible either directly with a.com address or through a search engine. When you google something like “Babylon 5 vs Battlestar Galactica – who would win?”, a search engine crawls through millions upon millions of websites to find related results, which get indexed for future reference and then provided to you on your computer screen. However, directly beneath the world wide web are what are huge repositories of information that you normally can’t navigate directly to yourself, think of it as a massive basement for storage. This is known as the deep web.
Underneath that, you have the dark web, which is the wild west of the internet. This is a place a normal browser can’t access, and while it exists alongside the normal web it requires special tools to access, and often pre-existing knowledge of how to navigate to the specific content you’re looking for. While dark web search engines exist, you’re not going to find the vast majority of what lurks below without a direct invitation.
So what kind of things can you find lurking in the murkiest depths of the internet? The answer might surprise you.
Sale of illegal drugs on the dark web search
The first, and most popular illegal item on the dark web by a stretch is drugs. The dark web is one of the best options for buying drugs available to users today, and you can find almost any illegal substance your heart desires on the dark web- all deliverable right to your door. But how does it work?
Surprisingly easy. First, you navigate to your favourite dark web drug marketplace- these used to be either AlphaBay or Silk Road, though both have been shut down. Once on the marketplace of your choice, you simply browse no different than you would browse Amazon- go to your search bar and type in your preferred drug of choice, then simply scroll down to see all listings available. And there are thousands upon thousands of listings to choose from, drugs on the dark web are in no short supply. This generally makes the dark web dangerous for the unsuspecting.
Encrypted internet checkout
To set your mind at ease, sellers are often rated by customers, no different than Amazon. The product itself is often rated as well, and on some sites, users can even leave reviews. In essence, it’s simple internet economics at work, and the same things that matter on legitimate online marketplaces- product and seller reviews- matter here too.
So you can be sure that a seller is going to work extra hard to make their customers happy, and this makes online marketplaces a dramatic improvement over buying drugs from a local street dealer. A street dealer may get you your product faster and with fewer hoops to jump through, but they’re far less bothered by bad reviews. You’re also not going to get shot over your computer trying to buy drugs.
Once you’ve made your selection of items, checking out is just like on Amazon, only instead of using a credit/debit card or Paypal, you pay with cryptocurrency. Typically this is going to be bitcoin, but most marketplaces accept different currencies. Now you enter your mailing address and wait for your package to arrive.
Thanks to encryption during the entire checkout process, it’s almost impossible for authorities to track buyer and seller, and cryptocurrency leaves practically no money trail to follow. For a buyer, the only real point of risk is on receipt of the drugs- but it’s not illegal to receive drugs over the mail, and a buyer could simply feign ignorance if caught. Authorities must prove that the drugs were intentionally bought, and that is extremely difficult.
For sellers the benefits of selling drugs online over on the streets are hundredfold. First, there’s the added safety of working remotely- an online seller doesn’t have to worry about getting hustled out on the street, having their cash and stash stolen, or being muscled out by rival sellers. The darknet has eliminated violence from the equation. The fact that vendor and buyer never actually meet also protects the seller, as the buyer has no way to inform the seller if caught by police and pressured into acting as an informant.
But how legit are online drugs? You’d be surprised at how few scams are run on the darknet- while there is some risk, buyers live and die by their reputation, and a new seller is going to have a very difficult time establishing themselves enough to be trusted. Think about when you’ve browsed eBay or amazon- were you more likely to buy a product from a vendor with hundreds of sales and a good rating, or a brand new vendor with a few sales and no reviews? A seller could scam customers, but they would then have to create a new identity with zero reviews and zero ratings, making it incredibly inefficient to run a scam on the dark web.
Purity is also surprisingly standard between online and offline drugs, despite there being a greater potential for cheating customers thanks to the darknet’s anonymity. In a study conducted in The Netherlands, researchers found that drugs bought online and those bought offline measured almost equally in purity the online drugs were slightly more pure than those sold on the streets. Other studies have varied, with some finding lower quality, suppose it probably matters who you’re buying from- as many of you who have bought from Wish vs Amazon have discovered.
And the best part about online drug marketplaces is that like normal marketplaces, they ship globally.
The Dark Web Today is a Marketplace for Weapons
But some customers on the dark web aren’t interested in drugs, they’re more interested in violence. To that end, the dark web browser has become a huge marketplace for weapons, though the selection is still limited. If you’re looking to pick up some extra firepower on the dark web, you’re limited to what can be physically shipped to you in discreet packaging- so you’re not likely to find much in the way of heavy explosives or large calibre weapons, though there is always an exception to the rules depending on where you live and how lax your government is about the postal inspection.
Pistols are the most commonly listed item on dark web marketplaces, making up nearly 84% of listings discovered in a RAND Europe and University of Manchester study. Next were rifles, making up 10% of listings, and finally sub-machine guns at 6% of listings. Of all firearm-related products, actual firearms made up 42% of the listings, with arms-related digital products such as manuals showing how to modify existing firearms making up 27% of listings, and finally things like ammunition and accessories making up 22% of listings. The other 4% was not elaborated on by the study- or maybe the researchers are just bad at math.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of these firearms all originated from the United States, which made up a whopping 60% of listings. Next was European countries, making up a quarter of listings, and the rest were from unspecified locations of origin. If you’re a purchaser worried about quality, then fret not, as weapons available on the dark web were discovered to be of the same quality as a store or street-bought weapons, and often available either cheaper or at the same price as one would pay a physical vendor.
Despite fears though, dark web sites are not a significant source of firearms, as sales of dark web guns are estimated at only around $80,000 a month, or about 136 firearms. Given the greater difficulty in procuring and shipping firearms, this is perhaps unsurprising. You’re also not going to find large enough quantities of weapons on the dark web to stage an uprising against your local government, the logistical challenges of shipping weapons to a customer makes it impossible to send large amounts of weapons around the world, and also limits the types of weapons available for purchase.
Hitman Services on the deep web
But what if you don’t want to commit the violence yourself? Can you hire a hitman on the dark web today?
In February 2020 an anonymous scammer tipped off the FBI about a murder-for-hire plot. It seems that this particular scammer may have been happy ripping people off, but murder was a line too far for him or her. What they revealed to authorities was chilling.
The scammer was provided with the address and name of the target to be eliminated, a woman working in Bellevue, Washington. The chilling message read, “Just kill her ASAP. I don’t care how just make sure she’s dead. I’d prefer if you shoot her in the head. She works in [name of corporation] in Bellevue but I don’t know where exactly. I don’t know if that helps you in some way. She has a three-year-old son that she picks him up at 5 P.M. So she usually gets home around 5-ish. Please don’t do anything to the boy… Send me proof when the job’s done.”
The client then sent a payment of .53 bitcoin, worth about $5,000 at the time.
The FBI immediately identified the target and discreetly approached her so as not to tip off the client. They interviewed her and asked her who would have occasion to want her dead. She revealed that her husband had had an affair with a woman he had met while at a business conference, and further investigation revealed that he had been giving her money- including a one-time gift of $5,000 that she had asked for.
The Feds got a search warrant for the woman’s email accounts and were able to piece together that she was the client. After arrest, she admitted to the deed.
Hire a hitman scam services on the dark web sites
Most hitman services on the dark web websites are a scam as has been discovered, but in April of this year, a plot was unravelled in Italy which could have been all too real. Italian citizen Tommaso Girotti was discovered paying $12,000 in cryptocurrency to an intermediary who would hire a hitman on his behalf. While the customer, in this case, didn’t want the target- an ex-girlfriend- killed, he did want her disfigured with acid and beaten so badly that she would be wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life, in fact, he insisted on the latter half.
How exactly the planned hit was discovered is something authorities are keeping close to their chest, but they were able to not only discover the planned hit but trace the transaction back to the client, leading to his arrest. The intermediary and the hitman that was to be hired however remain undiscovered, and the planned victim is safe and sound today.
It’s unknown if this was a legitimate service or if Girotti was simply being scammed as is so often the case, directly tracing actual murders to services being offered on the dark web is very difficult. The consensus however seems to be that the vast majority of hitman-for-hire services on the dark web are simply scams, and given the fact that most murders are crimes of passion, it’s no surprise that this is a relatively easy scam to pull off. For once, we feel no sympathy for the victims- so if you’re out there scamming would-be murderers, keep up the good work.
But what you most commonly find on the dark web is something you probably take for granted every day- free speech.
Dark Web Websites are a platform for Free Speech
The dark web privacy and anonymity makes it the go-to for everyone from dissidents to journalists in free-speech hostile countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, and any number of dictatorships around the world. Many journalists use the dark web to securely communicate with sources or to share reports out of the country to media outlets in the free world.
Given that the most popular tool for accessing the dark web- the Tor browser- was created by the United States to allow its spies to communicate securely from anywhere in the world, it’s perhaps no surprise that the dark web is now the primary way of smuggling news out of free-speech hostile states, or for hosting debates and making plans for political activists in places that would see them arrested or worse in the real world. The dark web was instrumental for pro-democracy activists in evading Chinese censorship and intelligence agencies during the Hong Kong riots that rocked the city for weeks. See more