Digital Citizens Alliance just released a study of the “DarkNet” revealing a growth in limitless marketplaces.
For those unfamiliar with the DarkNet, Deep Web, or Tor Network it is essentially an alternative version of the “surface” Internet that we all use.
The ability to navigate through this anonymous web was made simple by the Tor Project (Tor ia an acronym for The Onion Router).
The Tor Project was actually funded by the U.S. Government “to aid democracy advocates in authoritarian states.”
Of course, when a system is built to prevent a user’s activity from being traced, the buyers or sellers of black market products and services are sure to join in the fun.
Ironically, the anonymous Internet funded by the government is now something they have to fight.
Several “onion” sites (“.onion” is the “.com” of the Deep Web) are known for offering a black-marketplace for everything from drugs to weapons to stolen credit cards. Many of these sites are the veritable eBay for illegal goods.
One of the most popular onion sites, Silk Road, offered anything that fell into what the operators considered the “victimless crime” category.
The FBI took down Silk Road in 2013 and again in November of 2014.
The result of the Silk Road shutdown, according to the Digital Citizens Alliance, is the rise of other illegal marketplaces that have even fewer limits than Silk Road.
Evolution Revolution has now been identified as the leading marketplace on the Deep Web, accounting for 45% of drug listings.
Commenting on the clear lack of progress by law enforcement, the Digital Citizens Alliance stated in a press release, “Now, four of the top five DarkNet Marketplaces sell weapons while three of the top five sell stolen financial data. This is a darker DarkNet.”
Rather than taking the word of an advocacy group, we explored the Deep Web ourselves for the first time to see if it is really THAT bad.
Before we get to that, we might was well do a quick walkthrough on how you can take a dive into darkness yourself . . . it took us less than five minutes.
Go to TorProject.org. Download the TOR Browser. Install and open.
From there, you’ll have to find a directory of Deep Web sites (urls are jibberish). A directory can be found at deepdotweb.com.
We found Evolution Marketplace with a quick search.
At first glance, we were unimpressed.
Of the 229 weapons listed for sale, only 74 were under the “Guns” category.
But when we dove deeper, we only found seven complete firearms for sale. That’s less firepower than you would find at a garage sale in Alabama.
One “illegal” weapon listed was a Russian “Krinkov” in an odd caliber. The list price (converted from bitcoin) is a whopping $1,042.
A similar weapon from a reputable online dealer, BudsGunShop.com ran only $466.
The primary difference between the two weapons was a folding stock on the rifle from the Deep Web. This makes the weapon technically a “Short Barrel Rifle” and restricted by the ATF. It is still legal to own with a tax stamp from the ATF.
Another firearm, this time a 7.62 caliber pistol, was priced in the “legal” world at only $261. On the Deep Web, $758.
We assume that’s the price people will pay for untraceable weapons, although for the informed, legal firearms are easy enough to build inexpensively and off the radar of the government.
Moving onto the “Drugs” category on Evolution Marketplace, there was no similar disappointment.
There are enough drugs listed there to fuel 1969’s Woodstock for a good 16 years.
After browsing through listings of stolen credits cards, the creep factor set in and we were out.
In the end the U.S. Government, through their funding, created and opened this Pandora’s Box and now have to spend millions in taxpayer dollars in attempts to control it.
Good job government!