The internet is full of surprises. We’re not just talking about that pop up offering you $20 off your order of that new coat you were planning on purchasing anyway.
What we’re referring to here are darknet markets, a collection of online marketplaces that are only accessible to those in the know, and can contain a wealth of surprises.
Here we take you through just what a darknet market is, what is for sale on the market and how anyone with an internet connection can access it.
A darknet market is another internet marketplace
You can liken a darknet market to other online marketplaces such as Ebay, Amazon, and AliBaba. The setup is very similar. On both types of markets you have:
- Product or service listings
- Feedback systems (star ratings) for both sellers and buyers
- Site administrators to moderate fraudulent activity
There are small differences between the two; however, this is the basis of a darknet market.
Darknet markets can only be accessed via the dark web
Unlike other internet marketplaces such as Ebay, you cannot access a darknet market through the “regular” internet.
This means if you type the URL of a darknet market into a regular browser address bar (like Chrome), you won’t be able to see the site.
Darknet markets exist only on the dark web, a part of the internet only accessible via special software. The most common software used to access the dark web is Tor.
If you download the Tor browser bundle and start up the Tor browser, then you can type in a darknet market website address into the address bar and be able to access the website.
Tor is a software developed to encrypt data over network connections so that neither machine on either end of a darknet connection knows who each other is, and no one on the network can see the data being passed along.
This, in essence, makes both parties anonymous, and makes the data the two parties are communicating unintelligible to anyone except the two of them.
You can access both “regular” internet websites, and dark web websites with the Tor browser.
The dark web is thus deemed a good method of communication for those who:
- live in countries where people have restricted freedom of speech (as no one can snoop on any private internet conversations)
- are whistleblowing, and require their identities to be secret
- are engaging in illegal activities and want to stay hidden from the gaze of law officials
- are concerned about governments or companies gathering user browsing data
There are many other reasons that people choose to use the dark web, too.
They’re usually full of illegal products and services
If you go browsing through a darknet market you’re unlikely to run into listings for clothes, homeware items and concert tickets like you would on “regular” internet marketplaces.
While there are some listings like this, the majority of darknet market posts are for illegal products and services, with a major emphasis on drugs.
While these sites carry illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, there are also darknet listings for controlled substances, such as oxycodone and Ritalin.
Other illegal items and services include such things as bomb making materials, hacking guides, fraudulent credit card and Netflix details, and hitmen for hire.
You use digital money to pay for goods and services
Unlike regular online marketplaces, which generally offer the payment options of credit card, PayPal, bank transfer or cash on delivery, the majority of darknet marketplaces accept only digital currency as payment.
A standard darknet market will accept only Bitcoin in a sale transaction; however, others may provide a few other digital currency options such as Litecoin or Ethereum.
Bitcoin exists purely in the digital realm, and the currency has no physical element like regular money. Bitcoin transactions are performed in a distributed manner, across a number of computers working together.
The currency has gained a fair amount of traction in recent years and has made some inroads, as it is not tied to any one country’s economy—it’s a global currency.
If you’re thinking about having a browse around a darknet market to see what it’s like, then you will need to use a Tor browser to do so. Some of the more popular current markets are AlphaBay, Dream Market and Valhalla.
You are urged to use caution when accessing these markets. Always use verified website addresses for the market, use fake identities and do not replicate any usernames or passwords that you use in other places online.