Should You Use a VPN with Tor? (Well, No.)

vpn-graphic-100022486-orig

This seems to be a very frequently asked question, and on many sites, people will tell you that you should use a VPN with Tor, for “extra protection.”

Based on my research, however, I disagree – and this seems to be an unpopular opinion. One reference I’d like to cite is a blog post by Matt Traudt, a.k.a. system33-, who is someone I respect with regard to Tor. The post in question is VPN + Tor: Not Necessarily a Net Gain.

One of the points he brings up here is the following:

Tor is trustless, a VPN is trusted. Users don’t have to trust every Tor relay that they use in order to stay safe with Tor. As long as the right ones aren’t compromised, working together, or otherwise malicious, the user stays protected.

This is the main problem with insisting on combining Tor and a VPN. VPNs can keep logs of your activity online (though some claim not to), whereas Tor does not.

However, using a VPN can hide your Tor usage from your ISP, especially if said ISP is suspicious of Tor.

The Tin Hat, on their post Tor And VPN – Using Both for Added Security, also makes the point that “Where this setup fails is at hiding your traffic from a malicious Tor exit node. Because the traffic goes through the VPN, and then to the Tor network, exit nodes can still watch your traffic unencrypted.”

My preference, personally, is to use a Linux distribution with Tor, like Tails or Qubes, or for the more advanced, Arch Linux or Manjaro Linux. These, of course, take time to learn and won’t do everything for you, but they are designed for security. While this doesn’t mean they are vulnerability-free, they can improve your protection, particularly if you understand their ins and outs.

Don’t get me wrong – Unix-like OS’s are not invincible – see Sophos: Don’t believe these four myths about Linux security, but depending on the situation, it’s preferable to using an OS like Windows.

Oddly enough, I haven’t “contracted” any malware via the dark web – at least not to my knowledge. This has happened more often on the clearnet, ironically. Maybe it’s because I don’t download mysterious files or install programs that I find randomly on networks like Tor.

I’m paranoid that way.

What about you, readers? What OS’s do you prefer to use (specifically in combination with Tor, I2P, Freenet, etc.)?

In the meantime, enjoy your dark web adventures, my friends – and please research any VPN or other “privacy” software before trusting it blindly.

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What are Some AlphaBay Alternatives?

For those of you who were regular customers on AlphaBay Market, if everything is as it appears, AlphaBay is indeed gone for good.

So, if you’re curious as to where to turn next, there are some great articles (and other sites) you can look to for alternatives.

DeepDotWeb, which is one of my favorite news outlets for the dark web, featured an article today entitled Alphabay Death: Wondering which market is headed to the top? Here is some insider info!

The author gathered data from the site’s “Dark Net Markets Comparison Chart”, which, in real time, lists the up/down statuses of all the major markets:

darknet_market_chart

Besides just listing their online statuses, the chart also has the URLs of each market, whether or not they allow open registration, whether or not they allow multisig, and other factors, such as whether or not they have 2FA (two-factor authentication).

DeepDotWeb also predicted, via some analytics, which market may be the next big one – and the answer may surprise you. Based on their table, it appears to be RAMP (Russian Anonymous Marketplace)!

Ramp-Homepage-after-login.jpg

While RAMP is not an English-language marketplace (and doesn’t have that option), they do have an excellent reputation, and some anti-scam methods in place. Good work, RAMP!!

If you want an alternative site to use as a comparison, I’ve mentioned DNStats in an earlier post. Like DeepDotWeb’s chart, they list the online statuses of the major markets, as well as some vendor shops (independent shops set up by successful vendors) and forums.

DNStats_alphabay

Just bear in mind – any business you do on the dark web carries a risk factor, so protect your identity, and keep yourself informed! Happy tripping.

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Are Terrorists Really Using the Dark Web?

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I see this question popping up in the media a lot lately, particularly after there have been several awful terrorist attacks. The answer to it, however, probably depends on whom you ask.

Let me state, for the record, that I do not support terrorism in any way – in fact, I’m a Nichiren Buddhist (with SGI), and one of our main messages is tolerance and peace.

That aside, the article Terrorists and dark web, what is their relationship?, by Security Affairs, says that if they are, it’s not to a large degree (contrary to popular belief). If you read knowledgeable sources with regard to what kind of content is on the dark web, though there may be some terrible things (like child pornography), terrorist groups are one of the things you’d be hard-pressed to find.

What brought this to mind, however, was an article on DeepDotWeb, entitled UK Targets Dark Web Users in Anti-Terrorism Pamphlet. Supposedly, some law enforcement agencies have found a connection between the dark web and terrorist organizations, and if you ask USA Today, that’s what the truth is…

Be that as it may, I think the general problem is the public’s misunderstanding, as a whole, of what the “dark web” is. I’ve addressed this concept many times on this blog, but because a good majority of people don’t understand what the dark web is, or how it works, they tend to assume that it’s just a haven for “bad stuff.” In this case, the “bad stuff” would include terrorism.

I’m not saying that the dark web is free of anything terrible – I’m repulsed by the fact that so much child abuse material is on there, or that there are people who watch “crush videos” of animals being killed. Nonetheless, just because those things exist, it doesn’t mean that every single bad thing you can think of is there – which is another urban legend about it.

What I suggest is – do your research and find out the truth about this statement. You’ll probably hear conflicting ideas, but my belief is that the dark web is not really a haven for terrorists.

Ironically, you’re more likely to find websites of that nature on the clearnet – as hard as that may be to believe.

 

What’s the State of AlphaBay Market?

alphabay (1)

Update: AlphaBay has definitely exit scammed and is gone for good. Please don’t get your hopes up about it coming back.

If you’re interested in darknet markets and have seen the news lately, you probably know that AlphaBay, which up until now has been one of the most successful markets, is down (and has been since July 4th).

(NOTE: If you’re curious to see some sites you can use in place of it, check DNStats, or its Tor hidden service, http://dnstatstzgfcalax.onion.)

DNStats_alphabay

Numerous media outlets have already covered this story, including the New York Times, The Verge, and Gizmodo. If you haven’t heard about this, here are a few links to catch you up:

AlphaBay, Biggest Online Drug Bazaar, Goes Dark – The New York Times

A Dark Web marketplace is down and users suspect foul play – The Verge

World’s largest online illegal drug marketplace goes dark – Axios

While many of these stories are written by mainstream media outlets and are geared toward the layperson, it’s interesting to think about it from the point-of-view of someone who spends a lot of time on the dark web (or someone who’s bought and/or sold goods on the market, for that matter).

The subreddit /r/DarkNetMarkets, which is your guide to all things darknet market-related, has a bit more inside info, although even those involved with the market aren’t necessarily sure what happened.

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Though he did not give proof, one of the vendors on this subreddit speculated that the market’s downtime might be due to a hardware seizure in Quebec of dark web site owners: Vente dans le «Dark Web»: la police procède à deux perquisitions (As you can see, the article is in French, but you can loosely translate.)

In English, the article says that “…the RCMP’s integrated technology crime group conducted two searches in connection with a global network of illicit drug sales in the Dark Web [sic].” At least that’s the Google translation – no, I don’t speak French.

This points to a couple of possibilities: either the FBI seized one of AlphaBay’s servers (and all the data that would be included, such as hashed passwords, vendor information, private messages, etc.); or that the admins of the site closed it down in anticipation of a raid. Even if it’s the former, I doubt they were able to confiscate everything.

Again, however, just like those in the conversation over on Reddit, I’m just hypothesizing, so don’t take what I’m saying here as gospel. I’m not a member of LE (I swear!), nor do I want to be. Even if the feds did seize evidence from AlphaBay, I hope that it will be up and running again.

If that’s not the case, then I suppose you’ll have to take your business elsewhere.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping an eye on the developments.

Stay trippy, my friends!

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A Few Pseudo-Random Onion Links

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I’ve been told repeatedly that there is no such thing as “true” randomness, because everything has some kind of pattern to it.

That aside, I’ve been trying to constantly come up with onion links to share, and thought that perhaps I could do this by using the onion list at All Onion Services. What I’m going to do is hit the “Random” button a few times, and then list some of the links that come up.

Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee that there will be anything on these links, but it’s worth a shot. If there isn’t anything on the page, either it’s down, it’s unreachable, or no one has built a site at that particular address yet.

WARNING: Visit these at your own risk. I haven’t checked them all out personally.

http://n77rmxpuyhpr2g22.onion/

http://awhrkdwx3qsmgnot.onion/

http://22qbqzw6qcs2eku3.onion/

http://25sewxptlwhap3c2.onion/

http://wmrumtlwo3l37w22.onion/

http://nb2awtjoa4vpmwha.onion/

http://rscnq5uvtwj5x6od.onion/

http://cszmfevi6owywum6.onion/

http://xioqywsfdtsjr33d.onion/

http://li5w5cnmaeuqceou.onion/

http://5tepdchtxovcecp3.onion/

http://3y5d7pcjxpbukzxf.onion/

http://e6o5qjghi2umqech.onion/

http://pa3ldnwz2tyv7hcw.onion/

Tell me in the comments if you found anything interesting. If not, maybe I’ll try this again!

 

Creating a Hidden Network?

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One of my readers, with whom I’ve been corresponding on and off, wrote to me with an idea about creating a hidden network from scratch. It may have been inspired by one of my earlier posts, The “Shadow Web” Cited Me? Awesome!

In this post, I speculated about how you could create your own “shadow web,” i.e. a network that offered anonymity, and that you and only a select few people could access. In response, this reader had a few suggestions for such a network (I’m paraphrasing his (or her?) words here):

  1. One in which you could communicate via Telnet or Netcat over the Tor network.
  2. No DNS, no sites, just chats.
  3. Each user has his own list of peers.
  4. No nicknames, just onion domains.
  5. Everything is done manually, to avoid potential security flaws.
  6. Users select someone to chat with from the peer list and connect via TCP socket over Tor.

 

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This is, more or less, what I had in mind when I described the idea of creating a hidden network, although I had hoped that you could build websites on top of it too. What I’m unsure of, in his description, is what he means by “no nicknames,” as I would think you would need some kind of identifier to use a chat feature.

Even if the names weren’t user-generated, you could have this encrypted chat generate them for you. To use the example of the “nonsense word generators” again, perhaps the program could generate two names like this:

Hokr

Ngwood

It could also generate cryptographic keys for each identity, like:

6U-^QoM&m{z?H]g~c”AX3VgQqzVVo+

VtjHjR00ZCYVvU7Gs2iuWXQd2lX6oPDi

It’s similar to Freenet’s WebOfTrust plugin, which also generates identities for users of the network. In the case of Freenet, you have to solve some puzzles (which are more or less CAPTCHAs) in order to introduce your identity to other users. This is done to prevent bots from “joining” the network.

setup004

Personally, I love this idea, although I’m still in the process of studying some of this, and I might need a little help getting started. Anyone else have ideas to contribute? Feel free!

Hey, sooner or later I may actually have my own darknet! (And of course, I’d have to make it dark and scary.)

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Fresh Onions: Best Tor Link List?

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It doesn’t surprise me in the least that you dark web explorers are constantly looking for new links.

I used to often use Harry71’s Onion Spider as a go-to link list when I was looking for new and unusual onion sites. Unfortunately, he no longer updates the site (even though the URL is still active).

That being said, have you heard of the site Fresh Onions? It can be found at http://zlal32teyptf4tvi.onion/.

freshonions

Fresh Onions has its fair share of onion links, and like Harry71’s former site, it’s updated frequently. I was going to take a screenshot of the whole site, but on the device I’m currently using, that function was disabled.

Basically, the list of onions can be sorted by URL, Title, how recently it was added, when it was last visited, or when it was last up (i.e. active). At the time of this writing, it lists 4470 onions, and growing.

So you may be wondering – what kinds of sites are on it?? Well, at first glance, I see a lot of tech sites, some markets, a few forums, and some scam sites. Just what I expected!

While I have yet to create my own onion crawler, here’s a short sampling of some of the sites that are listed on Fresh Onions (note – I make no claim as to the authenticity of any of these; if it sounds like a scam, it probably is.):

http://geekrakaz7kioics.onion – Dark Forum (an anonymous hacking forum)

http://answerstedhctbek.onion – Hidden Answers

http://atmskima36v2nqdc.onion – ATM Skimmer for Sale (likely a scam)

http://hbwc3pyawkeixqtk.onion – DeepHouse – Bienvenue sur DeepHouse!

http://sourcel3zg2kzu4k.onion – Sourcery

http://by5cptxw44znwsbn.onion – Index of /

http://onicoyceokzquk4i.onion – .onion searcher

http://kwf4zz4colvmzb42.onion – Ooga Booga

http://4pf5lakpitrmnpnp.onion – Dungeon Masters: Welcome to Pier!

http://tordox5bgdpmnong.onion – couldn’t connect to this one, but it sounds like a doxing site.

http://nsz6gzlqldxhrvex.onion – NEMESIS Ransomware

http://dark666b5l2e3lcu.onion – Dark Host – real TORland hosting with onion address

Anyhow, if you want to check out the full list, visit the Fresh Onions link above. Have fun, dark web explorers, and don’t get scammed (or kidnapped, for that matter)! I kid.

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