Interview: Eileen Ormsby, Author of Silk Road & All Things VICE

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Photo credit: Philip Gao Photography

I must say, it’s always interesting (and enlightening) to meet people who actually know their stuff when it comes to the dark web. Not long ago, on Twitter, I had that opportunity.

Eileen Ormsby, the Melbourne-based author of Silk Road and All Things VICE, was the perfect person to talk to regarding the ins and outs of the dark web in all its shady glory. According to her, her interest in the dark web emerged as a result of doing research for the Silk Road book, and eventually led to the creation of the blog.

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Given that I, too, am aiming to find the truth about the dark web amongst all the disinformation, it seems that Ormsby and I have something in common.  We even touched on my “favorite” dark web myth, red rooms!

Secrets of the Dark: What were your initial experiences on the dark web? Did you use Tor or some other service?

Eileen Ormsby: Yes, started with Tor and, specifically, Silk Road. It was some time in 2011 when a friend who was using it showed it to me. Instant fascination!

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The original Silk Road Marketplace

SoTD: You have interviewed a number of individuals who are involved in various aspects of the dark web. Which interviews did you find to be the most informative or interesting?

EO: Probably the most interesting for me was my interview with the administrators of Atlantis when they were trying to break Silk Road’s stranglehold on the darknet markets. They contacted me and asked for the interview – in fact, several times before I agreed to do it.  They’d been asking whether I would carry their paid advertising (no) and then were always sending me snippets of news to put on my blog. They sent me previews of their infamous Youtube commercial before it was put on. They were really marketing hard, desperate to get some sort of good publicity because Silk Road monopolised the market and their customers were a really strong, loyal fanbase. Nobody trusted Atlantis, even though they offered a smoother interface, lower commissions and better customer service.

Eventually I agreed I would interview them provided it would be real-time, candid and I would not make it positive if I didn’t feel it should be. I agreed to give them a hearing and be fair. It was all done over real-time encrypted chat (I think it was cryptocat, which is now defunct after being proven to be not that crypto after all!) [actually, it’s back up again! – ed.].

It lasted several hours and I did, indeed, feel it was candid. I think they were trying to make a better market, but it failed because of distrust among DNM users and loyalty to Silk Road.

Other than that, I interviewed or engaged with most of the staff of Silk Road from time to time, including [Dread Pirate Roberts] 1&2 and still remain in contact with several of them to this day – the difference being that I now know the real identities of many of them!  I was in constant email contact with Peter Nash, the Australian moderator, during his time in prison in the US and served as his communication to the outside. He gave me an awesome interview when he got out.

SoTD: What are some of the urban legends and dubious information that, in your experience, continue to pass around about the dark web? (e.g. hitmen services, red rooms, bizarre things for sale)

EO: The one that is most persistent is the myth of the “Red Room” – live streaming of torture/rape that ends in the murder of the victim and which people can pay to watch, or even bid to type in commands for the torturer to carry out (highest bid wins!).  People have this idea of Hostel with webcams exist[ing] all over the dark web, but you just need an invite to get into them.  It’s ridiculous.  They don’t exist.  They certainly wouldn’t exist on Tor.  But people are desperate to believe and they always come back with “You can’t prove they don’t exist, people are crazy, therefore they must exist.”  Picture my eyes rolling here.

I don’t think many people are taken in by the hitmen sites anymore, though the press loves playing up the fact that there are sites offering up hitman services. And of course, after the Ross Ulbricht trial, people kept pointing to his alleged attempts to have hits carried out as pointing to him trying to use ‘hitman sites,’ which wasn’t the case at all.

People are always asking where they can find markets for exotic animals. Obviously the illegal trade in exotic animals exists, and some communications and transactions may well take place over Tor, but there are no markets like the drug markets where you can go and look at a picture and then put a tiger or ocelot or something into your basket and buy it with bitcoin.

SoTD: Have you used networks other than Tor to explore the dark web? (e.g. I2P, Freenet, GNUnet, Netsukuku)  If so, how did the experience compare?

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Nerdageddon on Freenet

EO: I used I2P and Freenet back in the beginning when I was researching the dark web in general, but they just weren’t as user-friendly as Tor and didn’t have the user base.

SoTD: What kind of research did you do when writing your book Silk Road (beyond just visiting the website itself)?  What did you discover in the process?

EO: In a lot of ways, I didn’t do any research at all.  I was in there from the early days, an active part of the community.  I spent part of pretty much every single day in there for two years.  I got involved in stuff.  I spoke to people, sometimes they came to me with their stories.  It was totally organic.

As well as the ground-level stuff, I got involved with a lot of the academics involved in researching cryptomarkets. Dr. Monica Barratt was one of the first – we’re still friends today – and she has probably done more rigorous academic analysis of the darknet markets than just about anyone in the world. Nicolas Cristin was another one who could be counted on for impartial analysis. There’s now a large circle of people involved in cryptomarket research and we have a very cool private forum where we share stuff.

SoTD: Have you found that you needed to increase your knowledge of internet security in order to research networks like Tor (i.e. to protect yourself and your identity)?

EO: Well, I’ve always hidden in plain sight.  Once I came out on Silk Road, I used the name OzFreelancer everywhere on the dark web. Everyone knew who I was. I always thought being up front about who I was to be the best way. Of course I have second logins for everything under different names, but they are usually for lurking rather than contributing.

The one thing I’ve found invaluable and that everyone – not just journos or DNM users but everyone – should take the time to learn is PGP. It is the one thing we can still count on.

SoTD: On your blog All Things VICE, you seem to get a lot of comments from the owner(s) of the Besa Mafia website; do you have any inside information as to what the truth is about the site? Is it a scam, honeypot, or what?

EO: LOL, yes I have inside information which I can’t go into detail about at the moment, but it will all come out at some point. Yes, they are a scam, but a very successful one – they have stooged a lot of people out of money.

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Besa Mafia’s website

SoTD: In spite of the negative attention that darknet markets have received, do you think that they have any positive aspects?

EO: The drug markets certainly do. They offer a safer alternative for people who are going to do drugs anyway. There is no possibility of any violence. The vast majority of the time a buyer knows exactly what they are getting, because of the feedback and rating system – if someone is selling 25i as acid or pipes as ecstasy, they will very quickly be called out for it and their ratings will plummet. That’s not the case in a nightclub, or even friends-of-friends, where you just blindly accept that pill, powder or tab is what the seller says it is.

SoTD: Have you explored some of the darknet markets that are still in business, such as Alphabay, Dream Market, Valhalla, Python Market, or Hansa Market? If yes, what was the experience like?

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Apple Market

EO: Yes, all of them. And they are boring. Which is exactly what a market should be to stay in business. One of Ross Ulbricht’s biggest mistakes was being too damn interesting and developing a cult following. It really got up the nose of the TLAs and they threw a ridiculously disproportionate number of resources into tracking him down and prosecuting him. There’s been several markets far larger than Silk Road ever was, but law enforcement just don’t care (or at least don’t care enough) because they are quietly running as a commercial enterprise and don’t have any political or disruptive motivations. They certainly don’t have enigmatic leaders posting rousing calls to arms with devout followers drinking the Koolaid. None of us journos are writing about them much, so they are out of sight, out of mind for politicians.

I don’t mean to say that LE doesn’t still work on arresting DNM dealers and, where possible, closing the markets. It’s just that the political pressure to close them down is off.

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Ross Ulbricht, a.k.a. Dread Pirate Roberts

SoTD: There are many, many so-called “horror stories” that pass around about the dark web; do you have any of your own to share from your research?

EO: Haha, none! I did get bombarded by the owner of Besa Mafia (hitman site) after my article about them, with emails telling me he knows where I live and was sending people around to “beat and rape” me, but I was never really worried that he would go through with it. My partner on the other hand gets nervous about what I do sometimes.

Of course, there’s been disturbing things. I attended the court hearings of people involved in hurtcore sites. I heard and saw things that I need to put in little compartments of my brain that I lock away and rarely visit. But never any of the creepypasta stuff people love to boast about on Reddit.

SoTD: Do you think that Tor is still a good tool for journalists to use, or as a privacy tool for people living under repressive regimes? (e.g. North Korea, ISIL)

EO: Absolutely. Every journo should have a working knowledge of Tor, VPNs and PGP. Especially PGP.

SoTD: Given that darknets and other privacy tools are still being developed, do you think that something else may eventually replace Tor?

EO: Yes. I’m not clever enough to know what though.

SoTD: Answer this question once and for all: is it called the “deep web” or the “dark web”? Or are they two entirely different things?

EO: They are two different things. You know when you hear that stuff about the deep web being 500x larger than the surface web? That’s true (well, I don’t know the exact figure – nobody does – but it is massively larger). But that is all boring stuff, being anything that’s not indexed by search engines. So anything behind a paywall, or password protected, backend stuff for companies, etc. The dark web is a very small part of the deep web. Teeny tiny. It is just a media-friendly way of saying Hidden Services.
I have to admit, I hate seeing people use “deep web” when they mean “dark web.”

 

Me too, Eileen!  Me too.  Well, I encourage you to check out All Things VICE.

And next time you hear some crazy rumors about the dark web…check there first.

 

 

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ChaosVPN: Making Friends with Hackers!

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Alright, I admit it!  I’d been debating what to write my next post about, because everything that I had in mind required a lot of reading, research, and experimentation.

Fortunately, I came across something called ChaosVPN not too long ago.  I had heard about it via a deep web/dark web-themed Google+ group, in which I’ve made friends with many coders and fellow dark web explorers.  The name conjured up all sorts of silly tech-related movie tropes in my mind.

So what is it?

It’s a VPN designed to connect hackers and hackerspaces.  Keep in mind that this doesn’t necessarily constitute malicious (or “black hat”) hacking.  ChaosVPN has a wiki maintained by the Chaos Computer Club in Hamburg, Germany.

The idea sounded cool enough, but what really inspired me to look into it further was this image on the main page:

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If that’s hard to read, the quote I’m thinking of is the one in red that says

“ChaosVPN is a VPN to connect Hackers and Hackerspaces – it does NOT provide anonymous internet access!  For this look at tor or other similar services.

It will also not help you to reach domains like .rdos, .lll, .clos or any other strange things supposed to be available on the ‘dark web.'”

Does that sound familiar?  No?  Let me refresh your memory:

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*Sigh* Yes, it’s our old friend “The Shadow Web” again.  The text is cut off in the screenshot, but the original page claimed that if you downloaded the software, you would be able to “access hundreds of other domains like .LLL and .RDOS sites.” ಠ_ಠ

By the way, if you’re still interested in that, you can contact the owner at shadow-web@sigaint.org.  Just don’t give him your money, OK?

So, if you can’t access .lll or .rdos sites, why install ChaosVPN? (I kid.)  Well, personally I love the idea that it connects different networks of hackers, and makes communication simpler.

If you read the “Goals” section of the wiki, the creators actually outline the purposes of ChaosVPN:

“Design principals [sic] include that it should be without Single Point of Failure, make usage of full encryption, use RFC1918 ip ranges, scales well on >100 connected networks and is…able to run on a embedded hardware you will find in [today’s] router…

“Therefore we came up with the tinc solution. tinc does a fully meshed peer to peer network and it defines endpoints and not tunnels.

“ChaosVPN connects hacker[s] wherever they are. We connect roadwarriors with their notebook. Servers, even virtual ones in Datacenters, Hackerhouses and hackerspaces. To sum it up we connect networks – maybe down to a small /32.

“So there we are. ChaosVPN is working and it seems [as] the usage increases, more nodes join in and more [services] pop up.” 

(For full text go to ChaosVPN – CCCHHWiki).

I may not be a hacker [yet], but as an investigative tech blogger and aspiring coder, this is definitely something that interests me (and I figured it would interest you too, readers!).

Tinc-erbell? 

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As the creators of ChaosVPN mention above, the network uses tinc, a VPN “daemon that uses tunneling and encryption to create a secure private network between hosts on the Internet. tinc is Free Software and is licensed under the GNU General Public License version 2 or later,” according to their official site.

“Because the VPN appears to the IP level network code as a normal network device, there is no need to adapt any existing software.  This allows VPN sites to share information with each other over the internet without exposing any information to others.” 

Wow – am I wrong in saying that that sounds like some technobabble they would use on CSI: Cyber or something?

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Nope.  It’s 100% accurate!  From the description, this sounds ideal for a VPN designed to connect hackers, as ChaosVPN is intended to do.  I know I’ve been quoting a lot of technobabble in this post, but I felt it was somewhat necessary to get an understanding of how ChaosVPN worked!

I’ll be honest – I’m really not an expert with it yet, and I’m still in the process of building ChaosVPN on my system.  I’m determined to get it working, though, and I thought you all could accompany me along the way!

Wiki of Chaos

The ChaosVPN wiki has a set of excellent how-tos for the following operating systems:

I went with the Ubuntu Howto, since I have that installed on my system.  (When I do finish setting it up, I think that would warrant a sequel to this post.)

No matter which operating system you’re using, you need to install Tinc VPN (mentioned above) first.

Initially, I was going to quote portions of the setup instructions in this post, but the ChaosVPN wiki is currently down.  I should’ve printed them when I had the chance! 

Oh wait, never mind – it’s up again.  Well, perhaps I’ve done enough plagiarizing in this post, but you can look at any of the links above for detailed instructions.

Fortunately, they also have a repository on GitHub: GitHub – ryd/chaosvpn: Config generator for chaosvpn.  I think that should help!

If any of you are able to get the VPN up and running, feel free to let me know.  I’m sure I’ll be able to put it together soon.

Well, that just means we’ll have a part 2 to this post!

In the meantime, I return to my ARG – real life, that is.

 

 

Exposed: Mariana’s Web Scam on Tor!

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Good morning, readers!  How is everyone?  (Or as I say to my Italian fans, “Buongiorno, lettori! Come stanno tutti?”)

Since I recently branched out into the “business” of exposing scams on Tor and other networks, I thought I should share another one that I came across recently.

In my earlier post A Blog About So-Called Mariana’s Web?, I speculated about the possible existence of a network called Mariana’s Web (although my suspicion is that it doesn’t really exist).  It’s an enjoyable blog to read, but some of it has the feel of a sci-fi novel.

The creator of the site that I found the other day entitled it Your only chance to ACCESS the Marianas Web, and it looks very similar to the Shadow Web sites that I had written about on other posts.

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Here are the sites that went by the name of “Shadow Web” or “Gateway to the Shadow Web”:

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I could’ve made this page in about 5 minutes.

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Ooh, now they’re using creepy graphics!

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And now they’ve added a big yellow logo at the top!

Are you sensing a theme here yet? Not only do these sites look similar, but several of the bitcoin addresses use the Satoshibox site for sending bitcoins, which seems suspicious to me:

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I’ve heard of other scammers using the same service for payment as well.  Although there’s no way to know for certain, it isn’t a good sign when there are three or four sites advertising what is essentially the same thing with different graphics.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t legitimate reasons for using Satoshibox, but it’s rare that I come across people using that specific site on the dark web, with the exception of this “Shadow Web” crap.

Granted, they do use different BTC addresses, but if it is the same scammer, then he or she is probably just using multiple addresses to appear as different individuals.  In the previous post, where I had looked at the “dark web ponzis” on Tor, it looked as though the same individual was using a number of different BTC addresses as well – but the sites looked so similar that it was obvious that the same person was running them.

A few of the “Shadow Web” sites even featured the same email address as the contact email, which is why I suspect that it’s just the same person that I talked to in Dark Web Sites That *Claim* To Be Red Rooms. He’s even posted on several Tor forums advertising his site, which makes me think he was getting desperate for money.

My point is that it looks as though someone (possibly the same person in all cases) is simply trying to profit off of a popular urban legend and creepypasta.

I’ve said it before, but “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”  This applies to the dark web as well – in fact, it especially applies to the dark web!

If you really want to, you can shell out the money to access the “Mariana’s Web,” but I DON’T recommend it, because I know that several people have been scammed by the “shadow web” sites.  If it’s the same person running them, then you’re SOL.

In any case, have fun on the dark web.  Keep your cash close, and your bitcoins closer!

 

 

Hitmen on the Dark Web? Ooh, I Am Scared!!

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Some of you may read that headline and think, “Dude, they’re gonna come after you next!”  Well, maybe if one of them is actually real.

Let me preface this by saying – I know that real contract killers exist.  Just look at the Zetas, Gotti family, etc.  These are not those guys.

What sparked my inspiration for this was one of the YouTube videos by Top15s entitled Top 15 TERRIFYING Deep Web Facts.  The first “fact” featured on the video reads (and you have to read this like you have a cold – watch the video and you’ll know what I mean):

Another key component of what makes up the world of deep web shopping is the hitman services that are offered by several different sites. Much like the Silk Road, transactions are made using the bitcoin currency to maintain as much anonymity as possible. One site, offers an assassination in the US or Canada for 10,000 dollars and one in Europe for 12,000 dollars. Although commonly prices range depending on the person you’re looking to kill…

Had I never experienced the dark web at all prior to watching this video, I would have found this idea terrifying as well.  Notwithstanding, I’ve gained a lot more firsthand experience and done quite a bit more research since watching these “scare tactic” videos.

If you look at the actual “hitman” websites and break down their claims, most if not all of them don’t hold up.  One of the most comical sites is the *cough* notorious Besa Mafia, who had been featured in these articles:

Pirate dot london: Assassination scams, the next generation

Besa Mafia murder-for-hire scam exposed following hack

VICE Motherboard: This Fake Hitman Site Is the Most Elaborate, Twisted Dark Web Scam Yet.

Don’t believe me?  Have a look at them in person! Besa Albanian Mafia: Hire a Killer or Hitman

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Even without hacking into their site, I still find it rather obvious that it’s a fake.

Forget the fact that their spelling and grammar is awful; you see that on many sites, legit or not.

As Deku-shrub a.k.a. Chris Monteiro, the author of Pirate dot London, points out:

That said, on closer inspection many details don’t add up. First of all you can apply to be a killer on the site directly. This seems highly unlikely given the close-knit nature of the mafia organization that supposedly runs it. 

I would tend to agree, Mr. Deku!  Of course, it doesn’t stop there. You have to see their site menu…

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 Oh, well in that case, I’m definitely the “beater” type!

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Here’s my resume.

And if you think that’s funny, you should read their FAQ.  (Yeah, the assassins have an FAQ!)

13. Why people claim there are no hitmen on deep web or all are fake?

People who claim this are undercover police who want to scare away newbies from using hitmen. On deep web there are fake drug vendors and real drug vendors, fake credit card providers and real credit card providers, fake gun sellers and real gun sellers, it’s only escrow that can protect you

They also offer a hilarious explanation of how Tor works:

1. If you have not done so already, download the Tor Browser . It’s free and protects your privacy by hiding your IP through 3 Proxies and does not leave any traces on your computer about visited sites. You won’t have investigators coming to your door, but if ever that happens they won’t find anything…

Doesn’t leave any traces??  Does it count if I bookmarked your site on the Tor browser?

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Hey, wait a second!  There’s my hitman transaction on the bitcoin blockchain!  Oooops, I left a trace!

And I think the Besa guys need to re-read this and get their facts straight: Tor Project: Overview

Well, if you aren’t convinced yet, Besa Mafia are not the only group on the dark web who claim to be assassins.  There are quite a few others, and just to plead the fifth, I don’t know with absolute certainty that all of them are fake.  They do, however, have several things in common:

cthulhu_Resume

All of these sites claim to offer killings for hefty sums of bitcoin (or other cryptocurrencies), and most have a list of whom they will or will not kill.  Or, at the very least, they have much higher prices for, say, someone like a president, prime minister, or secretary of state.  There’s some risk involved, you know!!

Out of all of these, Besa Mafia has to be the corniest one I’ve ever read (in my humble opinion, of course).

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Oh crap – Unfriendlysolution says, “Do not talk about my service in real life or in the clear web.”  Am I screwed now or what?  Hey, I’m giving you free advertising!

Actually, I’ve heard on the dark web that the one above is real, but we all know everyone tells the truth on there, right?  It’s likely that that information may have come from the site owner(s) themselves.

For those who still aren’t convinced that any of these are scams, I’d like to direct you to this flowchart (also courtesy of Pirate dot London):

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I’m still waiting for them to answer my “questions and clarifications.”

Speaking of which, has anyone seen this blog? Fighting Besa Mafia – yeah, it’s written by someone who claims to be “fighting against the Besa-Mafia and the criminal activities carried out by them.”  Excuse me while I stifle my laughter.

I would be shocked, if the blog weren’t every bit as ridiculous as the original Besa Mafia site.  In fact, it looks as if it were made by the same people who created the Besa Mafia site:

fighting_besa_mafia

So, why would the same people try to “fight” their own site?  Simple.  It’s an attempt to lend legitimacy to the organization, and make it sound more like a genuine hitman network.

Besides, would a real hitman whistleblower use Blogspot?

I rest my case.

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The So-Called *Shadow Web* is Fake!

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Yeah…this is probably another one of those “I told you so” moments, but according to one of my favorite YouTubers, namely SomeOrdinaryGamers, all the sites that call themselves “The Shadow Web” are fake: BEST CUSTOM POKEMON!! – Deep Web Browsing 45  (It’s the first site he reviews in the video.)

He backs up his claim by saying that people had specifically messaged him and told him that they had been ripped off by this specific site!

I really am not that surprised by this, because in my earlier post Dark Web Sites That *Claim* To Be Red Rooms, I corresponded with whomever the webmaster of this site was, and he refused to even show samples of his content unless you paid all the bitcoin up front.  (Geez, even legal porn sites usually show you a few pictures first.)

And I’ve come across several other sites that have also claimed to be red rooms (which I think I mentioned in some of my first few posts). Now that I have a bit more experience on the dark web, I’m guessing that those sites were fake too.

On the Other Hand…

Nevertheless (and you may find this surprising), it’s still my opinion that something like red rooms may exist, although not quite in the way that people think.

Yes, you heard that right. Despite the fact that many people make claims to the contrary, I still think that they could exist. Now, I don’t have definitive proof of this, but let me explain.

Given that there are already incredibly sick things on the dark web (and I don’t just mean Tor!), it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to think that there could be snuff films. One of the main arguments that red rooms couldn’t exist on the “dark web” is that its routing tends to be so slow that it would be impossible to live-stream something.

While murder is obviously illegal (in most countries, to my knowledge), people have made videos of torture and murder before, and there’s also a market for it.  It must be the human fascination with death or something.

In the video Do Red Rooms Exist? 3 Deep Web Clues That Hint At the Existence of Red Rooms, YouTuber Be.Busta gives compelling evidence for their existence.  One of the cases he refers to is that of Peter Scully, the man behind the notorious Daisy’s Destruction and other child abuse films (made by his production company, No Limits Fun).

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Scully apparently did show videos of torture online through the dark web (although not necessarily over Tor).  This is one of the major misconceptions about the dark web: it’s comprised of many networks – Tor is just the most popular.  If you had the knowledge to create your own darknet, you probably could figure out how to stream video over it.

Is anyone familiar with the HORNET (high-speed onion-routing network) project?  I’m still working on understanding it, but it aims to create the same privacy as Tor, but at a much faster speed.  If you could have both the anonymity and the ability to stream video, I think that you could at least revise that part of the argument (that the dark is web too slow to live-stream anything.)

It definitely wouldn’t be advertised so blatantly.  Once you knew how to access it, you would probably also have to pay a fortune in bitcoin.  An operation like that would not be offered cheaply, and if it’s something that people have a genuine desire to see, I’m sure it would be lucrative.

Interestingly, I came across this article today while researching: Random Interviews: The Red Room Human Trafficker.  Now, before you jump all over me and say that it’s fake, I never claimed that I could verify it – but, at the very least, it’s convincing.

To sum it up: the author, Daclaud Lee, interviews a man who claims to be a “red room human trafficker.”  He describes how he got involved with a group who make “red room” videos, and that he’s one of the people who actually kidnaps the victims. I think the interview is fictitious, but it makes a compelling argument.

Are Snuff Films the Stuff of Legend?

Well, OK – it depends on your definition of “snuff film,” but The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “a movie in a purported genre of movies in which an actor is actually murdered or commits suicide.”  Some would include in this definition that they must be made for profit, which isn’t always the case, but videos of real murders and suicides exist.

It’s worth noting.  Consider the fact that some serial killers like David Parker Ray, Luka Magnotta, Tsutomu Miyazaki, and the Dnepropetrovsk maniacs, Viktor Sayenko and Igor Suprunyuk (i.e. the creators of the video “3 Guys 1 Hammer”) have photographed and filmed the torture and murder of their victims.  Also, consider the fact that “3 Guys 1 Hammer” and “1 Lunatic 1 Ice Pick” have gone viral, and it doesn’t seem so strange to imagine that people would want to watch live murder.

Just to clarify: I’m not saying that I support such a thing, or that I’d want to watch it, but just the mere fact that so many people deny the existence (or even the possibility) of red rooms makes me consider the opposite.

And were I ever to come across a real one, well…I wouldn’t be able to unsee it.  I can say that with absolute certainty.

I think I’ll go watch cat videos now.

 

 

 

Beware: “Facebook” Phishing Sites on Tor!

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I know, I know! I said I was leaving the dark web, but there was a subject I’d been meaning to talk about and never did.  Specifically, there are a ridiculous number of phishing sites on Tor (and on the web in general).

For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, they look almost exactly like a site you would normally use, but are designed to steal your login credentials and such.  Most dark web users seem to be aware of this, but newcomers often fall for the fake sites.

Since Facebook announced its Tor-friendly URL (https://facebookcorewwwi.onion) at the end of 2014, many users likely flocked to the Tor network to try and use it with some degree of anonymity.

During my research on the Tor network, I was using a search engine called VisiTOR, and came across this link: Facebook phishing link.

At least I’m 99.9% sure that’s what it is – please don’t enter any personal information into that page!!!  As I said before, it looks almost exactly like the real one (with some minor differences), but as far as I know, there are no other official Facebook .onion URLs, so I wouldn’t trust it!  (Heck, some people don’t even trust the real one!)  

It’s not uncommon to come across clone sites of many other pages on Tor – the same thing happens with many of the marketplaces, social sites, forums, etc.  This is why so many of them have a message that says: “Make sure you’re using the real [insert site name here].”   Believe it or not, this is why I’ve attempted to memorize the URLs of some of the Tor sites (and succeeded, on occasion).  They sure don’t make it easy, though.  Could you memorize a URL like “mhpcpptjshjgdierfio.onion”?  I understand that this is because onion addresses are usually made of a base32 string of the first 80 bits of the SHA1 hash of the server’s private key, but it’s still tough on us humans. (Yes, that was English.)

I almost fell victim to something like this back in the good ol’ days of AOL (around 1993).  Someone had sent me a fake “AOL InstaKiss” email, which claimed that you had to enter your screen name and password:

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Being that this was the 90’s, I fell for it and actually did so (because I was a net n00b) but realized my mistake soon after, and immediately changed my login info – so nothing happened.

Anyhow, I basically just wanted to warn Tor users who weren’t aware of this problem.  On the plus side, the real Facebook onion URL is pretty easy to memorize, unlike many of the other Tor sites.  So, in theory, it would be less likely to fall for a phishing attack.

Be careful, and use common sense.  Always verify that a site you’re using is the real one (whether on the clearnet or the dark web), particularly if it’s one that requires login credentials.  And if anything looks suspicious, it probably is!!

 

 

Exploring Darknet Markets (One Pill Makes You Larger)

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DISCLAIMER: This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to condone illegal activity.  Anything you do on the dark web is at your own risk.

As those who regularly keep up with Tor news know, the original Silk Road marketplace was shut down in 2013. Its successor, Silk Road 2.0, was shut down in 2014.

Obviously, this has barely stopped the darknet market business from booming (in fact, it probably helped).  Currently, there is a market going by the name of Silk Road 3.0.  Perhaps you’ve heard of it:

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Be that as it may, I’ve heard from some sources that this site is a scam (basically trying to capitalize on the Silk Road name), while others have said that they’ve had no problems.  It may depend on the individual vendors.

“I Used to Do Drugs…I Still Do, But I Used to, Too!” – Mitch Hedberg

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So, you may wonder, where else can I get reliable recommendations? Well, let me start off by saying that I’m not the requisite expert in darknet markets, but I do my research.

Someone had recently asked me on another site, “Which is the best darknet market?” I’m not sure if I can really answer that question, but I can compare them.

First of all, most darknet markets accept bitcoin, although some accept other cryptocurrencies as well (Dogecoin, Litecoin, Peercoin, etc.).

Second of all, they offer a variety of products (not just drugs) – although some specialize in products such as psychedelics, stolen credit cards, banned books, etc.

Third of all, different customers will inevitably have better or worse experiences than others on various sites (hey, the same thing happens on Amazon, right?)  This is where customer reviews and word-of-mouth come in extra handy, because you don’t always know whom you can trust…

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Shout-Out to Deepdotweb!!

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Hey guys!!  Beyond visiting the markets themselves, one of my most reliable sources for information on darknet markets is DeepDotWeb – Surfacing the News from the Deep Web.  You can also visit them at the above onion URL: DeepDotWeb on Tor.

They feature a Darknet Markets List that’s updated pretty frequently, and generally has very accurate information.  

According to them, some of the top markets are these:

Alphabay

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Valhalla (a.k.a. Silkkitie)

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Outlaw Market

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Dream Market

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Also among their list of trusted markets are:

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Vendor Shops

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Of note: it is sometimes helpful to read the customer reviews on each of these sites, because often the markets may look trustworthy, and they’re the farthest thing from it.

Scams and Phishing Links

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Darknetmarkets o r g / markets also features a list of markets, but this site, according to Beware of Phishing Scams On Clearnet Sites! (darknetmarkets.org) is a list of phishing links that will steal your login credentials for darknet markets. So stay away from that site altogether.

Good ‘Ol Reddit

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Finally, I would further recommend you check out the subreddits /r/DarkNetMarkets and /r/DarkNetMarketsNoobs.  They tend to give reliable, up-to-date information as well.

There are, of course, quite a few other markets and vendors, too!  In my experience, general word-of-mouth is one way you can .  Or you could just try them out yourself and learn the hard way…

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What do you see in the center??

Investigation Underway!!

Of course, I don’t simply want to take everyone else’s word for it – I’m in the process of checking some of these out as well.  That doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll be trying out the individual products (although that may help with the creativity part)…

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In the meantime, perhaps you can find the answer(s) to the question, “What were they smoking?”