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.

 

Red Rooms Don’t Exist (Here’s Why)

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by Ciphas

In an effort to get more connected with you, my readers, I’ve decided to do a little how-to here. So I thought that, rather than just say “all red rooms are fake,” I’m going to go through how to spot a fake red room on the dark web.

What prompted this? Well, on my previous post, I received this comment:

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In case that’s hard to read, here it is in slightly larger text:

“there are many red rooms its [sic] just a matter of finding them although I wouldn’t suggest it, i posted a link below. http://222222222kjhiqzb.onion/”

I actually checked out that link, and it looked all too familiar. Why’s that? Well, Mutahar (a.k.a. SomeOrdinaryGamers) featured it on his “Deep Web Browsing” series: THE “REAL” RED ROOM!?!

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I watch those videos purely for entertainment, but yes, Muta does visit some real sites on the Tor network. (And a few on the clearnet too.)

That does not mean, however, that any of these are real red rooms. In fact, he even says so in the same video!!

The experts say they’re all fake (and I’m inclined to believe them), but let’s just play devil’s advocate and say that there are a few real ones.

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I have come across more than my fair share of sites on Tor (and elsewhere) that claim to be red rooms. Most of them have a few things in common:

  1. They claim to show video streams of live torture, murder, and other acts.
  2. They require you to pay – usually large amounts of bitcoin or other cryptocurrency.
  3. They often ask you to download “special software,” like an alternative browser.
  4. They sometimes will link you to an alternate site to do the transactions.
  5. They almost always use a Tor-based email service – a common one is SIGAINT.
  6. They sometimes have a graphic image on the main site, usually taken from a horror film, to symbolize the acts of violence that would take place in the red room.
  7. They sometimes have a login page, which you can supposedly access after you pay.
  8. They won’t show you any sort of sample content beforehand.

That’s all I can think of at the moment.

Anyhow, if any of you have really used Tor, you probably have some idea of how slow it is. If you don’t understand why it’s slow, then allow me to direct you to their FAQ: Why is Tor so slow?

Part of the answer is: “Before we answer, though, you should realize that Tor is never going to be blazing fast. Your traffic is bouncing through volunteers’ computers in various parts of the world, and some bottlenecks and network latency will always be present. You shouldn’t expect to see university-style bandwidth through Tor.”

OK…but the red room sites say that I have download a special browser to watch the show!

Why is this? Because, in all likelihood, if these sites are asking you to download and install special software, the software in question probably has some kind of malware embedded in it.

Do you know what a RAT (remote access trojan) is? Allow me to direct you to TechTarget: What is RAT (remote access trojan)? Essentially, it’s a type of malware program that includes a back door to allow remote access to the victim’s computer.

I don’t know this from personal experience, but it’s my best educated guess. And a lot of these sites started popping up on Tor after the creepypastas and YouTube videos about red rooms became more popular – are you really that surprised?

The Shadow Web – Re-Re-Visited!!

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I’ve done several previous posts about the so-called Shadow Web, an urban legend which I believe became popular after the creepypasta “A Warning To Those Accessing The Shadow Web” passed around.

After this, a plethora of sites popped up on the Tor network (and other networks, like Freenet) claiming to offer access to the Shadow Web.

In a similar manner to the red room sites, the Shadow Web sites claim that this is a special portion of the dark web only accessible through “special software” that you need to pay to download.

Again, not to repeat myself too much – I’ve never gone so far as to actually download the software, but I suspect that it’s infected with some kind of malware – what, I couldn’t say. I’m glad that I haven’t fallen victim to this, to be honest.

I have actually corresponded with the admin in charge of some of these Shadow Web sites, and he basically told me what I said on the “fact list” above – it’s a live torture show, you need to pay, and you need download a special browser to view it.

And yes, I know that lots of the creepypastas on Reddit and YouTube talk about the “shadow web”; I assume that they’re all bullshit. I still find them entertaining anyway. But I also find The Texas Chainsaw Massacre entertaining!

If any of you want to take the risk of paying for this and viewing it, go right ahead. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I imagine there are other sites like this, too – but I have my doubts that any of them are genuine.

Questions? Comments? Please! Let me know!

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Red Room Response!

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by Ciphas

So, I received an interesting comment on one of my older posts today, specifically the one Red Rooms Finally Debunked Forever? The comment read as follows:

Are you crazy? Have you not even heard of the likes of people such as Peter Scully? People who have been put in jail for doing stuff EXACTLY like this?? What confuses you about these?? Just cuz it doesn’t fit under the perfect, stupid made-up “red room” criteria that a bunch of basement-dwelling, reddit and 4chan teen faggots created?? This stuff is very real.

Let me clarify something: in spite of the title of the post using the word “debunked,” I wasn’t necessarily saying that nothing like that exists. I was merely speculating about the possibility that it might or might not exist (which I’ve done a lot on this blog).

I am well aware of the case of Peter Scully and his torture/CP videos. I’m also aware of the case of Matthew David Graham (a.k.a. “Lux”), who ran the hurtcore sites “PedoEmpire,” “Hurt 2 The Core,” and “Love 2 the Core.” For more information about that case, read Deepdotweb: PedoEmpire’s “Lux”: Matthew David Graham Jailed for 15 Years.

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Trust me – I know that there is sick shit on the dark web, and have even seen a few things that made me want to throw up or go hide underground. What I was trying to debunk was the idea of live murder in which the audience could participate.

As I’ve said in other posts, the Tor network, Freenet, and some other darknets tend to load pages so slowly that it would be near-impossible to live stream video over them.

If the definition of a red room is: “A web site on the dark web that shows the live torture and/or murder of a victim, and is one in which audience members can pay to participate,” then these networks would barely be able to support that because of latency.

On the other hand, one of the things which does exist on certain sites is that dedicated members have special access to hidden sections of the site. In the case of Mr. Graham, some of his sites allowed members with special privileges to direct and film their own CP videos, which they then would upload on the sites.

The notorious Peter Scully was one such member, and he eventually started his own production company called No Limits Fun, which would produce such videos. Apparently, he also offered pay-per-view streams of these videos. (In case you haven’t heard, people are now calling for the death penalty in his case; he hasn’t officially been sentenced yet.)

As horrific as this all may be, I don’t think the audience members could participate in the videos; they were previously recorded.

That being said, there might be something of this nature that still exists, but if there is, I haven’t found it.

I’m not denying that there are sick things or sick people on the internet, but I was merely trying to look at it from a rational point of view.

I have read stories from a few people who say that they’ve seen such things, but I don’t have enough evidence to confirm or deny these stories. One of the stories you can find here: My visits to the darkest sites on the deep web. (Make of that what you will; I don’t know if it’s true or not.)

I also talked to a writer on Quora who wrote about such an experience, but again, I can’t verify whether it’s true or not – it just seemed very genuine, so judge for yourself: What is the worst thing you’ve seen on the deep web? (And yes, I know they said “deep web” and not “dark web.” They meant “dark web.” Cut them a little slack.)

Finally – if you are someone who has personal experience viewing a red room, then I stand corrected. I was only speaking from my experience, and what I had read and learned about how most darknets work.

If you have seen this and have the guts to comment on it, feel free.

TsalalNet: Another Urban Legend? Probably.

In the process of writing this blog, I’ve been doing a lot of research, and a common factor that keeps coming up is that there are “deeper” levels of the dark web than the ones that we commonly see (e.g. Tor, I2P, Freenet).

One of the urban legends of this nature that’s been passed around is that of the so-called “Mariana’s Web,” which was likely based on the infographic that described levels of the web as being akin to layers of the ocean.  I’m almost 100% certain that this is pure myth, and was invented by someone who wanted to troll people who had never used Tor or other darknets.

And now, supposedly, I’m hearing about another layer of the web called “TsalalNet,” which I’ve come across on sites like this one: Girls Who Like Dragons: tsalalnet.  While I’ve never “been to” this part of the web (if it exists at all), my feeling is that it should be lumped together with the Shadow Web and the Mariana’s Web – a pure urban legend. I believe this in particular because the paragraph below has been reproduced entirely on several different websites; they call them “creepypastas” for a reason!

Notwithstanding, I’ll share the source of the “legend” with you here:

“A lot of discussion has been going around on the subject of the Deep Web (also called Deepnet, the invisible Web, DarkNet, Undernet or the hidden web), though little has been discussed on TsalalNet. I could understand why though; it’s one of the more obscure sites in there. Even for veteraned [sic] members of the deep web, it still remains to be one of the less discussed sites on there.

TsalalNet is a site reserved for the unexplainable areas of the deep web, a place dedicated to media and discussion of the strange and unusual.  Most videos and images contain the usual content found on deep web sites, including child pornography, snuff videos, etc., but with what is described by many as an unusual edge or underlying factor to it all.

The content found in TsalalNet may trouble even some of the [veterans, as] the raw footage of acts including necrophilia or snuff contain a layer of the mystical or unnatural that could not be explained.  Unworldly sounds are heard in accompaniment to the usual grotesque sounds, whilst visuals suggest something ritualistic at play.

This can even be found in pornographic content, with videos of nude children covered in animal entrails becoming subjects to strange ceremonies performed by men in dark suits.  Popular videos include footage of women having miscarriages of grotesque creatures, complex and perhaps occult snuff videos, videos of unexplainable events deemed too graphic and unusual for other sites, and more. 

There are several parts to this story that raise doubts in my mind, in particular the “raw footage of acts…contain a layer of the mystical or unnatural that could not be explained,” and “…footage of women having miscarriages of grotesque creatures.”  If this site does exist at all, then it’s more than likely that these videos are staged.

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Although I did find this one picture…

Beyond the fact that it sounds dubious, I had actually searched for the word “TsalalNet” on Tor and Freenet, and came up with nothing.  I would think that if it existed, people would at least be talking about it on the dark web somewhere.  Of course, if I am wrong about this, and such a site exists, please feel free to correct me!

Early on, when I changed the theme of this blog to be technology-related, I had attempted to explain the whole deep web/dark web phenomenon, and I’m not sure I really succeeded. So let me just put it all out there: terms like “deep web” and “dark web” are really just metaphors!

In the technical sense, the “deep web” means web pages that aren’t indexed by standard search engines, like Google and Bing.  The “dark web” is the part of the web that I frequently talk about on this blog: sites that use anonymity networks and require special software or configurations to access (e.g. Tor, I2P, Freenet, GNUnet).  This diagram explains it the most accurately:

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If it’s any consolation to the jaded dark web explorers out there – even though these names like “shadow web” and “TsalalNet” may be mythical, this does not mean that different parts of the web are nonexistent.  If you visit the Wikipedia page for Anonymity networks, you’ll come across many examples of other networks designed for privacy. Personally, I haven’t explored them all, and there may be interesting content that I have yet to see or discover.

If you go by the infographic above, however, the closest thing to a so-called “Marianas Web” that actually exists would be the private networks or alternative networks that do not use the public internet.

There are also newer anonymity networks that are in the process of being developed – if you want to consider those to be “deeper” than the ones that already exist, go right ahead.

Of note: I’ve read from more than one source that this picture is a more accurate representation of the internet than any of the other infographics – it seems more like a brain or a central nervous system:

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What are your thoughts on this?  I, for one, am not disappointed; I still believe there is much to discover out there.