So, if you’re new to this topic, you may be curious about what darknet markets are and how they operate. They are a lot different from traditional online markets, which you’re already familiar with. In short, DNMs are online marketplaces where goods and services are exchanged for cryptocurrency, and transactions are designed to be anonymous, especially where the items fall outside the boundaries of what is legal in a given jurisdiction.
A “DNM” is a darknet marketplace. In this post, we’ll explain how they work as well as their owner’s efforts to keep them hidden from authorities. We’ll also explore why law enforcement was successful in taking some down by infiltrating what appears to be a fool-proof setup.
First, the markets are scattered across the globe, and many only cater to a specific country or region. While not every market will have English-translated content, it is important to note that the goods and services offered are usually described in English in many of these markets on the dark web.
While transactions are typically in cryptocurrency, many of which are anonymous like Monero, for those done in Bitcoin, the buyers and sellers use tumblers to obscure the origin, path, and destination of the sales funnel.
Although criminals frequently utilize crypto mixers, a new report from Chainalysis found that only 23% of the cryptocurrency sent to mixers is actually from illicit activities on dark web markets. However, it’s worth noting that crypto mixers are not explicitly illegal in most jurisdictions (that is, until the Tornado Cash fiasco).
Unfortunately, many darknet markets have been known to exit scam with people’s money. A tiny French darknet market was recently defrauded by an admin scam on Cocorico Market. Vendors also stated that they were unable to access their pages. Many vendors maintain several marketplaces where they list their items and services in order to protect their reputation even if a single marketplace closes.
DeSnake, for example, was one of the greatest AlphaBay site administrators who avoided being nabbed by the US government when AlphaBay was shut down; he has resurfaced numerous times to sell on various platforms. It’s impossible to predict where many of these merchants and site admins will appear next because it’s difficult to say whether or not they’ll try again.
Many darknet markets that have rules against selling data stolen from former USSR countries are likely connected to Russia. This is because Russian hackers want to protect themselves from Russian law enforcement, so they are careful about what they do.
So what is for sale on DNMs? The most common pharmaceuticals are there, but you’ll discover a lot more than that, fakes and knock-offs of popular brands, credit card data, passport services, and driver’s licenses, precious stones, jewelry, and precious metals. Non-drugs related goods and services also include things related to identity theft and counterfeit goods as well as non-scarce commodities like pirated software; hacking software; malware; security tools; and the like.
The development of DNM technologies accompanied the rise of the darknet. People began using the darknet pseudonymously to sell illegal content without having to meet face-to-face. Ambitions grew among enterprising people who built up infrastructure for these transactions, allowing vendors access to a digital “storefront” where they may sell their items in a central marketplace for a fee. It is possible that a digital black market exists that law enforcement cannot reach, but there are certainly agencies striving to beat the criminals in what has become a game of cat-and-mouse. For this reason, it’s better to just do your research before visiting a DNM via Tor or Tails.