Is the Shadow Web a Reality? (No!)

I was checking my stats earlier today, and I noticed that there are still a lot of people searching for the so-called “Shadow Web.” Plus, one of my most popular posts is the one called Is the Shadow Web a Reality? (Updated).

shadowweb

I hate to disappoint you, but there is no Shadow Web; I’m certain of it. I wrote that post back when I was new to the dark web, and still believed a lot of the myths. The image above is from a scam site that’s trying to capitalize on these myths. A lot of other similar sites exist as well, that claim to be red rooms, like this one:

Red-room-1024x576

Someone even contacted me not too long ago and said that he knows the operator of the hidden service that claims to be the “Shadow Web,” and that this person is “…a big troll.” That should tell you all you need to know. I could see why people would want to believe in such a thing, of course.

The dark web has a larger-than-life reputation, and numerous creepypastas have only added to this. Here’s one example: “Underground Families”. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good horror story as much as the next guy, but Tor has gained a terrible reputation because of things like this, and we need to separate fact from fiction.

Furthermore, there’s no Marianas Web either, so you can forget about finding that too. The things that do exist are networks like Tor, I2P, Freenet, GNUnet, ZeroNet, and Decentralized network 42 (dn42).

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If you haven’t used them, I could see where your imagination might go, but most of the sites revolve around things like technology, privacy, and anonymity. Here and there, you might find some disturbing things too, but those are in the minority.

There’s also Blockchain DNS, an alternative domain name system using blockchain technology, but that’s a bit different.

blockchain-dns-links

On very rare occasions, I’ve found creepy sites, but those are few and far between. I guess the dark web isn’t the best place to hang out on Halloween.

 

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Exploring More Dark Web Search Engines

Unbeknownst to me up until today, there are even more Tor search engines which can help you wade through the “ominous” dark web.

Granted, these vary in quality quite a bit. Some haven’t indexed as many links, while others don’t seem to return relevant results (which probably has a lot to do with their search algorithms, more than anything).

One of the search engines I just began experimenting with is called Poopak. That name would’ve made me snicker in first grade, but I’m a bit older than that now. It can be found at http://3cuarxyaxke2hmlk.onion.

poopak_edited

One of the things I found interesting about Poopak is that it lists the number of possible onions (1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176) as opposed to the number of alive onion pages (3274). That seems ridiculous when you think about it, doesn’t it?

As they said on All Onion Services, “…there aren’t very many online onion services.” Of course, these numbers can change, but the types of sites that you’ll find won’t change much.

I tried some of my usual searches on Poopak, like “video games,” “red rooms,” and “forum.” To my surprise, “red room” didn’t return any results! Maybe they decided to filter out that search? I’m disappointed.

red_room_1

I had much better luck when typing in “forum,” or “links.” Still, it looks as though Poopak hasn’t indexed as many onions as some of the tried and true search engines, like not Evil. At present, it seems to be rather hit-and-miss when it comes to finding specific results, but you can give it a shot if you like.

haystak

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haystak calls itself “the darknet’s largest search engine,” which is quite a feat, considering how many Tor hidden services there are, and how much competition it now has. It can be found at http://haystakvxad7wbk5.onion

At the time of this writing, it says, “We’ve indexed 1.5 billion pages over 260,000 onions (including historical onions).” Does this mean that the original Silk Road is on it, for instance? That would be interesting.

A search for “silk road” turned up mostly results for Silk Road 3.1, which is still active at the moment. My intention, of course, was to try to find a cached copy of the one and only Silk Road (yes, that one), but I was unsuccessful on the first try.

As it turns out, when your search results come up, you can also look for cached versions of sites (as on Google), or “historical versions” of sites that have been shut down (like SIGAINT), or just ones that have disappeared for one reason or another.

There’s a catch, though – to access certain content (such as the cached versions of sites), you need to upgrade to a paid account. Hey, nothing on the dark web is for free, right? Still, at least you can use its basic functions without paying.

I haven’t found anything of particular significance on Haystak yet, but that shouldn’t discourage you!

In any case, it sounds to me like the dark web hasn’t completely been “discovered” yet. 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 onions? I’m off to visit all of them!

 

 

 

 

Red Rooms and Hitmen and Scams, Oh My!

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Given that there are some disturbing things on the dark web, I could see how it would be easy to believe in the mythological stuff as well – and I know I’ll never convince everyone otherwise.

Still, I thought I’d take another trek onto Tor and see if I could find a few of these sites, in order to analyze their claims. Hopefully, no one else comes after me! (wink)

The Red Rooms of Pain

So, there are a plethora of sites on Tor that claim to be red rooms, as I’ve said on other posts. I’ve received a lot of comments saying that I’m incorrect about this, but if that’s the case, I want you to prove it to me!

The first few of these that I clicked on resulted in the ubiquitous “…connection has timed out” message. You know, like this one:

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Well, that’s Tor for you! I have heard the conjecture before that red rooms will stick around briefly, and then the operators will just “close up shop” and move to a different link, but that seems only partially true.

Finally, after exploring a little while, I did find one red room site that “worked,” so to speak:

redroom_edited

Of course, I didn’t join, nor did I contact them. All the other ones I’ve come across recently look the same, or similar, which is one of the reasons I believe that these are all fake. They look as though they could’ve been made very quickly and easily, and setting up a Tor hidden service, in the grand scheme of things, is not that difficult. Anyway, if you click “join,” the second page looks like this:

redroom_2ndpage_edited

One of the things that makes me curious is that on the second page, it reads:

red_room_download_edited

If you click that, it takes you to a “payment” page where, supposedly, if you pay 0.005 BTC, you can download a video of the previous show. (I’m highly dubious about this.)

redroom-pay_edited

If one of you feels comfortable paying this and downloading the video, go ahead – but as I’ve said before, you’re taking a chance of downloading malware or simply losing your bitcoin. I’m not willing to do either, to be honest.

Oh, But Wait a Moment…

On the other hand, someone I talked to recently questioned my belief about the non-existence of red rooms. He also seemed to be someone who was knowledgeable about these sorts of things (e.g. darknets and online crime). The person in question worked for a private security firm doing internet surveillance.

I don’t know this person well, but he asked if I had come across any sites on Tor that looked vague and mysterious, and required a username and password to enter. In fact, I have, many times.

A few of these sites did not even say what they were about; they simply had a login page. Most of these I found by hunting around – they weren’t catalogued in the popular link lists (such as The Hidden Wiki, for instance).

When I visited the sites, they looked somewhat like this:

loginpage_10

There were no other details or descriptions, simply a login form like that. Of course, I was very curious as to what these sites could be. The person I was talking to suggested that these sites could be red rooms. He also suggested that streaming video over Tor isn’t as difficult as people make it out to be. (Hmm…)

As I mentioned on PsychoTube: The YouTube of Tor?, it is possible to watch videos over the network, but I haven’t tried streaming anything live. Maybe it would be a good experiment for someone to try (albeit without the murder part). Granted, I don’t have proof that the above sites were red rooms, but I do have to wonder why they were so secretive.

They may also have been similar to Dark0de, which was a former cybercrime forum. I encountered its Tor hidden service early on in my dark web “travels.” Their login page, likewise, looked very vague and nondescript:

dark0de_login

So…what’s your take on this, readers? Are some of these “mysterious” sites actually red rooms? Or are they just boring forums and chat rooms?

A Shadow Web Request?

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Oh, Shadow Web – it’s been an interesting few years, hasn’t it? When I first started writing this blog, I wrote a post entitled Is the Shadow Web a Reality? (Updated); at present, it’s still one of my most popular posts!

I received a comment from a reader today asking how to “join” the Shadow Web, and she sounded very genuine about it. I’ll repeat what I said earlier – it’s a scam, definitely. I’m sure of it.

Let’s trace the history of this “shadow web” thing. To my knowledge, it all started with this creepypasta on Reddit: A warning to those thinking about accessing the shadow web.

shadow_web_reddit_edited

That was published three years ago, and it spawned all kinds of rumors and urban legends!

Eventually, people also started narrating the story on YouTube, which probably added to its intrigue. While it was a very creepy story, and well written, it was not true. If you listen to the technical details, there’s no way something like that would work (on Tor, at least).

Afterward, someone else wrote a “sequel” to the original, entitled 1) The shadow web is real. 2) Stay the hell away from it. I think it was supposed to be from the point-of-view of a cop, which lent some “credence” to it.

Somewhere along the line, a person on Tor picked up on the popularity of the stories, and decided to create some scam sites that claimed to offer “access” to the Shadow Web, and this is where I first got the idea that it might be real – but boy, was I wrong. This was what the original site looked like, I believe:

shadowweb_ss

I was a n00b to Tor back then, and couldn’t tell the difference between scams and non-scams. We’ve all been there.

So I contacted the “admin” of the Shadow Web, and we had a back-and-forth conversation about it – at the time, his email address was shadow-web@sigaint.org. (SIGAINT no longer exists, unfortunately.) It later came to my attention that this had all the features of other scams: pay now, watch later; no information; the details are vague.

The person I talked to claimed that you had to download a “special browser” just for “Shadow Web sites.” I don’t think any such browser exists, to be honest. There are numerous forks of Firefox (the Tor Browser being one of them), and all of them can be used with the clearnet – but sometimes with a proxy of sorts (like Freenet’s FProxy), you can connect to other networks. It would be amusing if the Shadow Web used one called “SProxy.” Someone should make that as a joke.

Anyhow, the admin told me that I had to pay an extravagant amount of bitcoin to gain access to the so-called Shadow Web, which I didn’t have. Ironically, I probably have enough now, but I know better than to pay it. Since then, there have been numerous other “shadow web” sites popping up:

shadow_web I think it’s the same guy creating all of them, and if I were you, I wouldn’t pay him a cent; it’s all bullshit. As a matter of fact, someone later commented on one of these posts and said that he knew the admin of these sites, and that he was “…a big troll.” Another commenter told me that he had been scammed out of a large amount of bitcoin on another one of the “red room” sites. For me, that confirmed what I had been thinking all along – that these sites were fake. I don’t know if they’ll give you malware or anything like that, but hopefully not.

Nonetheless, if you want to find sick things on the dark web, I don’t think you have to look very far. It’s just a matter of opinion what you consider “sick.”

Well, that’s the last I’d heard about the Shadow Web, but I’m willing to bet that any new sites going by that name are scams too. If you want my advice, don’t pay them any money – you’ll be out several bitcoins, at the very least.

Red Room Follow Up, Part II

Previously, on Secrets of the Dark…

We examined the claim that there are, in fact, red rooms on the dark web. Several readers had said that they had either witnessed a red room, or knew someone who had been victimized by one. Well, this is the only red room I’ve seen:

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Twin Peaks fans, anyone? But I digress. So, in the last post, I suggested that you could create a red room, if you wanted to – but how?

Assuming that Tor is too slow to stream video, you may be able to use something like a private network for this purpose, or a VPN. A private network is defined under RFC 1918: Address Allocation for Private Internets, if you want the technical details. However, even some VPNs have difficulty streaming video. If you’re curious about this, for further reading: 5 Best VPNs for Streaming 4K Video Online. I would think that a commercial VPN wouldn’t be cool with you streaming live murders over their connection either, however.

Once you had your network complete, you would still have to advertise your site in some way, and also attract victims (this, in my opinion, would be the most difficult part). Maybe some people assume that it’s like the Taken movies? I don’t know.

OK, so you have your VPN, your potential victims, and then you would have to set up your site somewhere, which would result in hosting costs (and thus, a potential paper trail). Plus, on top of that, if customers are paying in bitcoin, that means that the transactions would appear on the blockchain, which is public:

bitcoin-blockchain-2

I suppose that, in theory, like on the darknet markets, you could use a bitcoin mixer, but then the operators of the mixer would have blood on their hands, so to speak. They might not want to get involved with such a thing. So, to add to the complications, you would have to create your own mixer, or find one that didn’t care about what you were using the bitcoin for (including murder).

Ready to run your red room now? Remember, it still has to get attention, but not the wrong kind of attention!

Contrary to popular belief, Tor (and some other darknets) are monitored by law enforcement, as are potential bitcoin transactions tied to illegal activity. Just look at the AlphaBay/Hansa Market shutdown, or any of several other LE operations that target the dark web.

There are some sites that advertise themselves as red rooms, but these look suspicious at best:

http://redrooaujxcjyohj.onion

http://redroofvxabs3a3o.onion

http://redroocid5rlxm43.onion

Do they look real to you? Well, why don’t you pay the cost and let me know what happens? Don’t die, OK?

All in all, that’s my take on it – did I forget anything? Again, I know the dark web has some terrible stuff on it, but taking all these factors into consideration – would it really be worth it to run something like this as a business?

I leave it to you to answer that question.

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Red Room Follow-Up!

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by Ciphas

So, continuing on the subject of red rooms, I received a comment recently on my post Red Rooms Finally Debunked Forever? that said this:

“THANK YOU Bob Saget. Just because red rooms don’t fit under your perfect “criteria”, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I personally know somebody who has been a part of a red room, but he wasn’t the murderer. He was the victim.”

She was replying to an earlier comment by someone who went by the name of Bob Saget (yes, that was his name), who gave me a hard time for trying to disprove the existence of red rooms, and cited Peter Scully’s videos as an example – in other words, this guy:

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So here are my thoughts: what I’ve said so far about red rooms has been based partially on my personal experience, and also what I’ve researched about them. While I have not seen such a thing (or at least not one that I believe to be genuine), here is how I would define a red room:

A website (presumably on the dark web or a private network) where you can pay to witness torture and murder.

While I realize that some very sick things exist on Tor and other darknets (most notoriously child pornography),  streaming video over Tor would be incredibly difficult, at least the way it works at present. If you don’t understand how onion routing works, this link explains it quite well: What Is Onion Routing, Exactly?

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It is possible to watch video on Tor (and I have, in fact). As I mentioned on my recent post PsychoTube: The YouTube of Tor?, there are a few sites on which you can watch uploaded videos, but they certainly aren’t live. It’s very similar to LiveLeak, in that it features videos of murders, executions, and war. By the way, another dark web blog that I like, All Things Vice, has addressed this subject as well: You wanted darker web?

allthingsvice_darkerweb

That being said, how does this square with the above comment? Well, my heart goes out to anyone who’s a victim of torture or murder; nonetheless, as far as that having something to do with red rooms, the burden of proof is on the claimant. One site on the clearnet, Red Room Deep Web Complete Guide, goes into detail about what allegedly happens in a red room, and how to see one (in theory).

redroom_allabout

Without reviewing all the things this site says about it, I think a number of them are wrong – and it looks like they’re using a scam site as their example. But you could, of course, create your own red room.

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How would you create a red room, then? Stay tuned for Part 2.

Return of the Red Rooms ಠ_ಠ

by Ciphas

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Ah…I had been itching to return to one of my favorite subjects – red rooms! Let’s face it, most people know that they’re fake, but this doesn’t stop your average scammer. Wait – let me rephrase that – most people who understand how Tor works know that they’re fake.

Anyhow, I’m willing to bet that whoever runs these sites have made quite a bit of money on them. Well, there are several sites that look a lot like this one, and they all seem to have the same purpose. Promise a red room show, ask for bitcoin, and then in all likelihood, you’ll never see a bit of it again.

Red-room-1024x576

If you’re new to this whole “red room” thing, the idea is that you can supposedly watch a live murder take place on video over the Tor network. However, because of the constant packet switching, there’s no way that it would actually work. At best, a live video would be extremely slow. Trust me on this.

I brought this up because on one of my first “red room” posts, someone had left a comment, which you can view here: I paid for a red room…

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There’s a lot of rambling in there, but if there’s any truth to it, the guy got scammed, big time, and it sounds like he may have downloaded some ransomware (or something along those lines) as well!

So, for those of you who wondered what happens if you actually pay to “enter” one of these sites:

  1. You lose your bitcoin
  2. You contract malware
  3. Possibly something worse, like identity theft
  4. You get killed and become their next episode

Well, probably all except that last one. Aww, how disappointing!! What did you expect? Still, despite this, the morbid nut in me wants to see what other kinds of crazy things are on the dark web. So, just for you, my curious readers, I am going to explore further in the depths, to see if I can find something really insane.

If you have any suggestions, feel free to point me in the right (or wrong) direction…

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