Deep Web to Deep Pan, Part 2
I left off last time with the realisation that I needed to find something called ‘The Hidden Wiki’. Now, it’s not my intention to lead a bunch of people astray and inadvertently hand you a step by step guide on how to ‘accidently’ buy ricin from the deep web, a la Mr. Ali (see the first part for more information), so I will omit how exactly I found the hidden wiki, suffice to say, if you want to find it, you do so of your own free will. #moraldisclaimer.
As I mentioned in my previous entry, I am by no means an expert of the deep and/or dark web. This blog is nothing more a collection of thoughts and actions I undertook from my first and last foray into the deep web, which in turn led to the enigmatic dark web. If you’re looking for something more detailed, I’d recommend the documentary ‘Deep Web’.
Before you begin, if you’ve missed it, read the first part of the story here. As mentioned before; Take care if you have chosen to access the deep web, research all risks beforehand, the Dark Web is dangerous, Ebuyer.com does not endorse or encouragement illegal or immoral behavior …
The Hidden Wiki
I wasn’t sure what to anticipate, but with a name worthy for the sequel of the 2010 film, ‘The Social Network’, I couldn’t help but feel ‘The Hidden Wiki’ was anything but blockbuster. On an average Wikipedia visit, I can start off by reading about the social criticism of the Harry Potter franchise and within three clicks be in engrossed about the global overfishing crisis (and for those wondering, it really is a crisis). In my mind, I was going to start with how the NSA spied on the Japanese government before working my way to things beyond my wildest imagination. Ultimately, it was nothing really more than a list segmented like a stereotypical wiki page (I wasn’t quite brave enough to try the ‘Random Article’ button). In fairness, it was relatively well structured and I was slightly surprised at how legal everything seemed to be at a glance, the top few sections covering things such as news, email and blogs. It was only when I started to scroll down the list, I noticed things started to get a bit more ropey. The first ‘you wouldn’t find that on the internet’ site that caught my eye was for a hitman for hire site.
Taking the obligatory dramatic deep breath, I clicked the link. I’m not sure what I expected to feel. Maybe grossed out? Perhaps shocked? But one thing I wasn’t expecting to feel was impressed. From a technical stand point, it was like visiting a website circa 2001 but what impressed me was possibly the greatest business model I’ve ever seen. Now, I can’t remember the exact figure to get someone killed but the price ladder was neatly presented on the left, but I do remember thinking it was surprisingly cheap but of course that does vary depending on how ‘accidental’ you want it to look. The process was as simple as sending the correct amount of bitcoin to the designated wallet (something I’ll get on to shortly). As you transfer the bitcoin, you include a note stating who you wish to be the target. It’d all be absolutely terrifying, except for the fact you aren’t allowed any examples of ‘past work’, no contact before or after sending the money and the massive red flag of having to pay upfront in full.
To quickly clarify, you send a sizeable amount of bitcoin upfront via an untraceable medium, to a completely anonymous person who makes a living from being a professional hitman, who you can’t contact either before or after you place the ‘hit’ and can’t provide you with any past references. The point I’m trying to make here is if they do take the money and run.. well.. you can’t exactly go the police about it can you. I would like to add a caveat, purely from a self-preservation point of view, I’m in no doubt that these services are very real and very much available.. but if someone does wish to make an example out of me for poking a little fun at it… my name is Donald John Trump, of Apartment 1, Trump Tower, Manhattan, NY.
Going back to the wiki, I hit the section dedicated to the infamous ‘market places’. For those of you who aren’t aware of what these are, the most famous was called Silk Road several years ago, and it was the first to really pioneer the concept. Essentially think eBay, where the only limit on what you can buy is your imagination. Vendors post products, anonymously, and people buy it, anonymously. You may be wondering how it differs from the hitman example above, couldn’t people still take the money and run? Well, arguably they could… but there are a few differences as well as a few safeguards that have made the marketplaces thrive. The first is the user review system, where like eBay, once an item has been purchased you are encouraged to leave a positive rating. The second is the pricing, I imagine people are a lot more willing to take a punt on loosing £20, than they are thousands and third and finally, the escrow system, which I will cover shortly in more detail below. It was at this point, amazed at the sheer quantity of available products I got distracted from my original task of looking for some leaked information, or perhaps the overwhelming sense that I was somewhere I didn’t belong just went to my head.
From what I can gather since the closure of Silkroad, the marketplaces have become a lot more fragmented, so I had a nosy round a couple of them. A good proportion of products were surprisingly legal, things such as ebooks, web hosting and music. However, the ‘Dark web’ must have got its name from somewhere, and when it came to the ‘darker’ side of things, it all felt very surreal. I’ll be completely honest and upfront and say I have absolutely no idea what I was really looking at. I spent a decent length of time idly navigating through page after page of listings, and suddenly I had the urge to actually buy something. However, I was only going to buy something if I plan on using it or if I actually need it, there is also the large fact I didn’t have the slightest intention of actually doing anything illegal.
Just as I was about to give up and stop looking, I saw it.. the perfect listing. Nestled between a discounted Spotify Premium Account and creatively named ###SPACE COW PRIMO KUSH### was a deal offering discounted pizza of all things. I clicked on the listing, as like shopping on eBay, the first thing I did was to check the sellers rating. It seemed legit, with over 400 positive feedback accrued, which by no means is the most, but certainly not to be sniffed at. I then read through the ‘offer’, which to summarise was £200 worth of pizza for only £30, delivered right to my door. That’s a lot of melted cheese.
In that instant a plan was hatched. The time, the following weekend. The location, my house. The event? Pizza party. The plan was as follows, I’d invite 15 of my friends over for drinks and pizza. I’d order £200 worth of pizza, paying a meagre £30. I’d then ask my friends for donations towards the food, £10 each. The result? Everyone wins. I’m £120 the richer. Don Calzone (my affectionate nickname for the supplier) on the other side of the screen gets his money and some nice customer feedback and finally my friends get a large amount of pizza for their respective contributions. I was a little perturbed that the offer didn’t have the option for ‘escrow’, which I mentioned above. Escrow is basically a ‘third party’ option when it comes to transferring money. You transfer your money to a third party account I’m assuming usually ran by the Marketplace. Once the marketplace has the money, the vendor sends the order. When the order arrives, I tell the marketplace I have received it and the money is then released to the vendor. It’s a way of raising disputes, whilst the money is in limbo. Otherwise the vendor could potentially cut and run. It’s not uncommon for vendors not to offer escrow, and those that do offer it usually cost a little bit more, for the trouble of going through a third party I guess. However, that said, with 400 positive feedback, £30 seemed worth the risk, if nothing else I’d have a story to tell. There was one thing missing though, before I could put my plan into action… I needed bitcoin.
The Bitcoin Purchase
From my experience, there is a lot of confusion around Bitcoin but the main one I was concerned with was, ‘Is it legal?’. Now it differs depending on your country, but if you’re from the UK like me, then yes it is. So what exactly is Bitcoin? I mentioned in my first part that it is a ‘cryptographic currency’, which aside from making me sound like I actually kind of know what I’m talking… sort of, it doesn’t actually mean too much to an average computer user. Courtesy of reddit user dolphinastronaut, “Bitcoin is an online currency that can be sent and received by anyone in the world, relying on computers to control the transfer and creation of money without human intervention, which results in low costs, no government corruption, and super-fast transfer”.
I struggled to get bitcoin, so much so I wouldn’t feel comfortable guiding you through the process step by step, but that said, I will guide you through where I struggled. The first thing I struggled with was setting up an account on a Bitcoin trading site. Whilst the dark web doesn’t care who you are, out here in the real world, everything needs to be traceable. My plan was to place my order, and never go back (aside from to leave feedback to give pizza mind to the next intrepid buyer), I only wanted to see what the “fuss was all about”. I didn’t feel overly comfortable having to provide proof of identification to the traders along with my bank details for something that was going to be a one-off, but in the end, I did and once I was set up it threw up a few more challenges. Bitcoin like most currencies rises and falls in value, except unlike the GDP or Dollar whose value traditionally is relatively stable (*cough* Brexit), it changes constantly. I bought £30 of bitcoin, and by the time I went to place my order it was worth £28.78.
These are arguably niggly things, but something else which I didn’t realise was like real money.. you need a ‘wallet’ as it’s dubbed to keep your coins in, seeing as you can’t keep your coins in your bank account. Now, like most things, a bitcoin wallet comes at a cost. Once I got my coins, I had 7 days to transfer it to a new wallet, otherwise it’d charge be a small fee a day for the privilege of keeping them safe. I looked around for ‘free’ wallets, but either my exploration luck was out, or they simply don’t exist on the web. I didn’t want to pay for a wallet, seeing as it was only going to be used once… so I turned back to the dark web.
On the marketplaces, you are granted a free wallet to store your money in. So why doesn’t everyone do it then? Because if the marketplace shuts down be it through law intervention or the owner decides to do a runner, you lose it all, and from my limited experience of it, the Dark web doesn’t strike me as the reliable and stable of places. Ultimately though, I decided to store it on the marketplace, it was just over a week, I figured it should be good till then. The actual process of transferring is easy, you simply type in the unique wallet code and hit transfer, naturally checking it at least 10 times because if you get it wrong, you ain’t getting that money back. Then you sit and spam refresh on the wallet you’re sending it do hoping you got it right and that it will appear. Thankfully it did, and so the day came for the operation.
A single bead of sweat dripped down my forehead as I opened the door to let my friends in.
“Wayhey! We’ve got the booze. You got the pizza?” they jeered, holding up champagne and a crate of cheap fosters larger.
“Just about to order it!” I replied, smiling as I ushered them to the lounge.
Aware how much my life was like an episode of Friends in that particular moment, I wandered over to my laptop set up away from the hubbub of the party. As my girlfriend went around collecting everyone’s money, I painstakingly typed out the order for my unknowing co-conspirator on the other side of the web. My mouse hovered over the confirmation button, everything was in place, I paused. It was in this split second I realised that one click could change my life forever.
Now of course, I’m pretty confident I wouldn’t actually go to prison for illicit pizza dealings, but I did entertain the idea of how some of these vendors are really undercover police. What if they arrived instead of my Veggie Supreme… is it illegal to be on these marketplaces in the first instance? I’d promised my friends the night of their life, and instead, I’d be frog marched and placed into the back of a police car. From there it’d only be a matter of time before the truth came out. My friends and family would discover my betrayal, how I’d been prepared to lose everything I had, all in the name of making a quick buck at their expense. As I paused, I looked up to the room full of friends and realised I’m no Tony Soprano or Carol from the Walking Dead able to take advantage of a situation for my own gain. I suppose I could of always gave their money back and just ordered it anyway, but artistic licence aside something about having to disclose my name, address and phone number (everything that’s needed to order a pizza these days) to a faceless entity, who to be fair also sold highly illegal goods didn’t sit well for me when push came to shove.
I did the honourable thing, I transferred my bitcoin out of the marketplace, closed TOR down and actually ordered an eye-watering £200 worth of pizza. I later sold my bitcoin for a cool 23p profit.
And that’s that, my journey into the deep dark web! As uneventful as it started, just to note I didn’t go down any further on the wiki. The next section after the Marketplaces was ‘Erotica’, which given the amount of controversial content found on the normal web, just seemed a step too far for little old me.
I’m sure like most things, the dark net is what you make of it, but one final #moraldisclaimer, you do so at your own risk. I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and found it somewhat interesting. I’d seriously recommend the documentary above. Now if you excuse me, I have some leftover pizza to go eat J.
Hope you enjoyed the post, thanks for sticking with it… comments below always welcome.
This article was a guest post by author Chris Hine.
NOTE: Take care if trying to access the Deep or Dark web. Research any necessary security measures to protect yourself. If you gain access to the Dark Web, you will be able to view sites that are potentially illegal in your country. This article is intended as a novice guide, to an experience with the Dark Web. Ebuyer.com do not endorse or encouragement illegal or immoral behaviour.