The internet is supposed to be synonymous with words like openness and access. However, the dark net is in fact quite the opposite. The World Wide Web we use everyday is only a small part of a deeper, darker network that remains hidden from most people. To access the dark net, which is a small portion of the much larger deep web, users need special software such as the TOR browser that reroutes internet traffic through proxy servers and encrypts and decrypts it along the way. This process obscures a user’s presence on the dark net from prying eyes such as law enforcement and intelligence services. The dark net offers a lot of illicit and illegal products and services including drugs and prostitution, but it is also a refuge for political dissidents who fear retribution from their government.
“Bit” was used in 18th century Britain to describe a coin of small denomination. Since its emergence in 2009, the bitcoin has generally enjoyed a high value. It is a cryptocurrency, whose security is a priority so its value can fluctuate quite a bit. On 5 May 2017 a Bitcoin was worth $2,000, but because of its association with the black markets of the dark net some experts consider it an investment rather than a viable currency. It could make you some money in the short term, but bitcoin is a bad bet in the long term.
14. Animal Pharma
Most people who know about the dark net were probably made aware of it because of Ross Ulbricht’s Silk Road. This was a web site that sold every illegal drug available from 2011 and to 2013 when the FBI shut it down. Silk Road was the Amazon and Ebay of the internet drug world with everything from prescription drugs to crystal meth and everything in between. The internet made it so easy to find the most niche products with only a few clicks.
13. Sex in the Deep Web
According to tradition prostitution is the oldest profession, but modern prostitutes and their Johns are taking advantage of the latest technology. The dark net is well-suited for the illegal sex trade because the transactions are hidden from law enforcement’s prying eyes. A John can sit in front of his computer and find what he’s looking for instead of cruising a dangerous red light district. Reports suggests there are a dizzying array of adult products and services available for a price to whomever is willing to look for them.
12. Game of Chances
Sports gambling, particularly the gambling associated with online fantasy leagues has transformed betting into an accessible, almost ubiquitous activity. The dark net is the perfect platform to exploit and expand on both the legal and illegal aspects of sports gambling. Rumors of selling soccer game scores are rampant on the internet. Las Vegas has a reputation for being a place where the gambling action is. However, the real action may be happening out of sight and away from the neon lights on the dark net. Gamblers can supposedly log on and purchase a particular game’s score in advance for around .3 bitcoins or $200.
11. There be Pirates
Many of us think of Johnny Depp or Somali gunmen attacking freighters when we think of pirates. However, the world’s most successful pirates don’t brave the high seas, they navigate cyberspace. Pirated goods are a huge problem for manufacturers and a growing boon for criminals. “Pirated” copies of DVDs, stolen and forged art and imitation handbags sold on street corners are definitely a problem. The real black market has moved to the dark net where buyers and sellers are shielded from investigators. These “shadow shops” do world wide business totaling in the billions of dollars every year and take a serious chunk away from legitimate commerce.
10. Cyber Hitmen
Drugs, porn and prostitution are one thing, but a paid hitman is something else entirely. There are advertisements on the dark net that offer this service for around 75 bitcoins $10,000. There are also debates about whether these advertisements are real or just scams to separate fools from their bitcoins. Accurate research about the dark net can be hard to come by so urban legend gets mixed with rumors and some facts. “Hitmen” have occasionally given interviews, but it’s hard to know if they are legitimate or just attention seekers.
9. We’re From the Government – We’re Here to Help
The most important job of the government is to protect people from criminals and other threats. These efforts have become more complicated with the internet and especially with the shadowy dark net. Because of the difficulty law enforcement and intelligence agencies have tracking criminal movements on the dark net, all kinds of nefarious schemes have proliferated. Criminals, terrorists, hackers and casual users assume that police and spies are monitoring as much of the illicit traffic as they can to catch the most serious criminals. But like much of what’s happening in the shadows of the dark net it’s very difficult to know how much real criminal activity there is and how much is paranoia.
8. Deep Tech
The internet is rife with all kinds of threats including spyware, trojans, viruses and worms. Businesses and individuals are forced to constantly be on guard for the next software innovation that can crash their computers and steal thousands of customers’ identities. Anyone with some bitcoins and a good grasp of how computers work can search the dark net for illicit software and use it for their own purposes. Some people are just curious about the technology, but too many would be hackers want to make some quick money or create as much chaos as possible.
7. Information is Power
The internet is all about information; the free flow of information can be a great thing. But information can be used for nefarious purposes and such information is for sale on the dark net. This is a broad category that includes embarrassing celebrity stories fit for blackmail, insider trading, industrial espionage and political speech. Like other commodities on the dark net, it is difficult to know what is real and what is simply a money making scam. The controversy over people spreading political ideas on the dark net is interesting. Much of it can be dismissed as crazy hate speech, but there are also legitimate individuals and groups advocating unpopular ideas that their governments don’t like. There are freedom and democracy activists on the dark net hiding from authoritarian regimes like that of China and Russia that punish dissent.
6. Campfire Stories
Since the dawn of mankind we have told each other stories. For much of our history civilizations used an oral tradition to transmit their culture to succeeding generations. The printed page and now the computer screen have replaced the oral tradition, but not our need to tell each other stories. Many people go on the dark net to search for bizarre, scary and disturbing stories. Many of them are the usual urban legends of the “bogeyman” variety or rooted in the latest government conspiracy theory. However, there are other kinds of stories that could be classified as “special interest”, or fetish. These stories usually contain a mix of violent or sexual content or are simply too out there to appeal to most people. Perhaps some of them are true, but either way people continue to be fascinated by them.
5. How to Disappear
The digital information age has burdened us with an ever growing digital footprint as a price for the convenience and productivity we enjoy. Traces of our lives are woven through the internet like the filaments of a spider web. For various reasons ranging from legal troubles, divorce and paranoia some people decide to change their identity and try to get a fresh start. The dark net is the place to go for counterfeit documents including driver licenses, birth certificates and passports. How-to-manuals are available with tips on how to change your appearance, what types of communities to live in and what kinds of jobs to take.
4. Just What You See Pal?
There is a memorable scene in the 1984 movie, The Terminator, where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg asks an impatient gun shop owner for a rifle that has yet to be invented. But unless you need a plasma weapon with a 40 watt range the dark net has all the weapons you’ll ever need. Handguns, shotguns, semi-automatic rifles and the ammunition to use them are all for sale. Rumors suggests more serious fire power like rocket propelled grenades and heavy machine guns are also available. Most guns aren’t hard to buy legally, but the anonymous click and buy process makes illegal purchases very hard to trace. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are worried that devastating weapons like smallpox or even components for nuclear weapons will eventually show up on the dark net.
3. Hunger Game
It would be nice if this one falls under the category of urban legend or hoax. There’s seems to be a community using the dark net to trade information about cannibalism. They’re not content to just talk about it though; they try to meet up with like-minded people willing to “sample” them or be “sampled” by other people.” This community seems to be particularly adverse to unwanted publicity so accurate information about them is difficult to come by. Cannibalism is as old as humanity and apparently still exists even in cyberspace. If this is a real thing, let’s hope it’s just a few strange people indulging in a horrifying, but passing fad.
2. Worst of the Worst
One of the allures of the dark net is the feeling of exploring a mysterious, uncharted region where you’ll see a lot of strange things. There is nothing wrong with this to a point, but human nature being what it is we tend to want to seek out the dark places, literally and figuratively, even when we should know better. The dark net is filled with literal evil or at least is said to be. Supposedly so called Red Rooms can be rented on the dark net where someone will torture or even kill someone on your direction. These reports are reminiscent of the stories about murder or “snuff” films circulated in the 1980’s. This sounds too disturbing to be true – on the other hand…
This is not another angle on the Grim Reaper it’s about you or someone like you. With the scope of our digital footprints constantly expanding it is becoming increasingly difficult to live off the grid. Some people are trying to evade law enforcement, but others have grown tired of the constant barrage of noise our online existence directs at us. Social media, blogging, and photo-sharing saturate many people’s lives. Add to this corporations’ relentless data mining and customer research efforts and we see why our privacy is quickly evaporating . Sites on the dark net promise to give one the tools and information to erase their digital footprint, allowing them to fade from the internet’s bright glare. Once they’re off the internet they would have to stay vigilant in order stay off the grid, using cash instead of credit cards and avoiding cell phones. Other than for criminal fugitives, it seems unlikely this lifestyle would appeal to many people in the long run.