Best Darknet Markets 2021 As many other controversial and shady phenomena, dark web sparks a whole spectrum of reactions, including fear, curiosity, excitement, disapproval, and even resentment. However, being a magnet to a variety of illegal vendors trading in the darknet markets doesn't necessarily mean something ill-intentioned, harmful, or scammy. With a thorough action plan, research, and security measures in place you can find real treasures in there.
When something is hidden from the public eye, there is always room for speculations. Darknet is not an exception. Even as the time goes by, and it gets more accessible than ever, dark web is still surrounded by plenty of misconceptions or stereotypes. So, is it the last stronghold of privacy on the Internet or a safe house for criminals? Let’s find out.
What Is the Dark Web?
Generally, complete anonymity and invisibility to the search engines are the two essential features that define the darknet. Despite the common assumption, its use is not limited to buying and selling illicit products. After all, the purpose of protecting privacy initially meant avoiding censorship, political prosecution, and proclaiming the highest value of free speech. Thus, as the regulations of online presence have become stricter over the years, the darknet evolved into a place where the Internet exists in its most unfiltered state.
Dark web or Deep Web?
First, let’s get the definitions and conceptual framework that we operate in straight. The structure of the Internet is commonly portrait as an iceberg, where only 4% of all the websites are indexed by the search engines, or, metaphorically speaking, displayed on the surface (“surface net” or “clearnet”). This category includes the platforms that we all know, such as YouTube, Spotify, Instagram, Reddit, Google, etc. This layer of the Internet is simple, visible, and accessible, there is nothing here that needs further explanation.
Yet, the remaining 96% known as “the deep web” indeed calls for a thorough research. Plainly, this term incorporates all the web pages that don’t appear in the search results. Actually, it is a large section comprised of:
- corporate portals,
- financial records,
- databases for the particular audience,
- subscription only sites, etc.
Evidently, most of this content isn’t even remotely connected to any criminal activity. On the contrary, major part of these websites uses encryption and other security measures to protect the privacy of their users. Still, 6% of these domains promote a complete anonymity among their visitors. For that reason, you can gain access to these resources only via special anonymizing software, such as Tor browser. This subcategory of the deep web is what we commonly refer to as the “dark web”.
The surface, deep, and dark web structure explained in an iceberg diagram.
Here you can find almost everything that is banned on the clearnet, including books, films, news, information leakages, etc. You can even join the Dark Web Social Network (DWSN) to make friends, like and comment on posts or chat on forums. However, you’ll have to stay completely anonymous, but this requirement is understandable for a darknet social media platform. In addition, even the Facebook joined the dark side and created a hidden version of its website to bend some legal boundaries.
However, the dark web is a place where naive and idealistic beliefs should be put aside. Indeed, people created this space with the noble intentions in mind. But with almost complete absence of punishment and personal responsibility, there is always a room for fraud, scamming, stealing, cheating, or something even worse. Therefore, if you decided to join the darknet community, you should proceed with caution. Otherwise, you’re jeopardizing your security and risk encountering some rather unpleasant things, like:
- child pornography,
- information disclosure,
- human trafficking,
- money laundering, etc.
Dark web content according to the study of Gareth Owen of Portsmouth University. Retrieved from the Information Security Squad portal.
How Do the Darknet Markets Operate?
Of course, it is impossible to cover every type of the websites published in the dark web. Hence, let’s focus on the main subject of the article, the darknet markets. Obviously, special places to trade illicit goods or render illegal services have existed since the beginning of times. But with the help from technological progress now you can do that comfortably in your chair instead of going to some suspicious alley in the back of the street.
Commonly, this kind of marketplaces is no different from any other online shopping platforms. Darknet markets exist with the purpose to provide vendors and buyers with a platform to find each other and strike a mutually beneficial deal. The onion link used for Tor browser might look a little confusing, but all the other elements of the interface are the same as on Amazon, eBay, or AliExpress. Sure, the lists of item don’t match, plus, some additional preparations in terms of security and payment are in order, but the ordering procedure follows all the basic steps:
- Select the category you are looking for
- Choose the product or service you like
- Read the information on the vendor, delivery process, price, additional costs, etc.
- Check the reviews (pay attention to the ones that sound reasonable and scrupulous because those that bear no significant information might be forged too)
- Add the product to your card
- Fill in the order form (usually, it’s up to the buyer to decide whether to use his/her real name or come up with a fake one)
- Pick up the most suitable delivery option
- Pay for your order
- Wait for the package to arrive
- Mark the goods as received and enjoy your new purchase.
Of course, such marketplaces were designed to present a whole range of illegal or semi-legal products and services. Here are some of the most popular categories the dark web can present.
Obviously, drugs are the largest segment of any darknet markets. Vendors sell illegal, recreational, and prescription drugs, such as Cannabis, Ecstasy, and Steroids. They offer pills, edibles, powder, seeds, or any other shape/form to meet the requirements of the most demanding customers.
Traditionally, this section incorporates items related to the financial and business matters. You go there if you want to buy credit/debit card, login, or bank account details.
This unit includes pieces of code or software dedicated to cyberattacks, such as Botnets, Malware, Exploits, and many others.
This segment is for those who strive to find luxurious items that would look just like genuine brand products, but cost less due to their counterfeit origin.
This category is very vague and may contain almost anything. For instance, providers can freely render such services as fake documents or accounts, carding, and hacking.
White House Market categories as an example of the typical darknet market product range
The dark web commerce might seem unethical. However, the majority of marketplace values its reputation and prohibit certain items and services that might damage it. Generally, the most common among the banned ones are:
- Unethical pornography (e.g. child or animal)
- Hitman services
- Any products/services causing harm to humans and animals
- Terrorism supporting goods/services
- Weapons, explosives and poisons
- Fentanyl or similar substances.
Despite the user-friendly and familiar interface of the darknet markets, it is still a place where many criminals find their victims. So, remember to always be on guard.
Dark Web and Cryptocurrencies
Financial matters are always tricky to address. It is especially complicated when it comes to the darknet transactions because both customer and seller have to remain anonymous. Cryptocurrencies really became a viable solution for this problem. Most of the dark web marketplaces allow to process the payments in Bitcoins (BTC) or Monero (XMR). If you cannot choose between them keep in mind that:
- Bitcoin is easier to acquire and spend
- Monero is more secure in terms of privacy.
Despite the rising popularity of the cryptocurrencies, it might still be a challenge to purchase them before placing an order. However, the majority of the darknet markets publishes an explicit guide with detailed instructions and a list of trusted wallets.
Generally, darknet trading platforms apply the Escrow system to process the payments. This means that you pay the money and the marketplace transfers it to the vendor’s account after a deal is finalized. In case you’re dealing with the trusted and familiar seller, some websites allow the Finalize Early (FE) option. Moreover, some dark web markets have started to incorporate the Multisig system. This implies that the owner of the Bitcoin funds requires multiple signatures to perform a transaction. This feature is intended to make the financial operations even more secure.