Darknet Markets, also known as Dark Web Markets are the modern day online version of the traditional black market. These online black markets are not available on regular internet also known as the clearnet. Darknet Markets are typically only accessible on the Tor Network or I2P, which is only accessible by using a special internet browser called the Tor Browser. This special network is encrypted and offers very secure anonymity protocols which make it difficult to track users and the location of Darknet Markets.
Darknet Markets function similar to standard e-commerce platforms like eBay or Amazon as they allow people to not only purchase illegal products and services but give people the opportunity to become vendors of such illicit goods.
Many of these dark web markets primarily allow the buying and selling of drugs but also allow the sale of guns, forged documents and currency, counterfeit goods, hacking tools, stolen identities, stolen credit card information, and hacking services.
Another similarity commonly shared between the use of traditional e-commerce platform and darknet markets is they often have some variation of a feedback system. The feedback system allows verified purchases of s service or good to leave feedback on the over quality, shipping speed, level of package security and communication received from the vendor.
Because of the high amount of competition between darknet market vendors, the feedback system encourages vendors to provide the best level of service and product quality to its customers. If you are interested in seeing a list of both darknet market’s that are online and offline, you can find them all listed in our Darknet Markets directory.
What was the first Darknet Market?
While many may cite that Silk Road was the first darknet marketplace, they are incorrect. The history of Darknet Markets goes as far back as the 1970’s when Standford University and MIT students began coordinating the sale of marijuana on an early version of the internet called the ARPANET.
Once the modern style internet began to gain popularity in the 1990’s a forum emerged called The Hive. It was officially launched in 1997 and was a forum based around the sharing of information, with a large focus on synthesizing drugs.
There were also several other internet forums based around the sale of then legally grey “Research Chemicals”, however many of these websites were shut down, and admins arrested during a federal operation known as Operation Web Tryp.
The first traditional darknet market that used Tor as it’s only means of access was “The Farmer’s Market”. The Farmers Market launched in 2006 on the clearnet but later was relocated to an Onion website which is only accessible using the Tor Browser in 2010. However, the Farmer’s Market was only online for 2 more years before being shut down by the DEA in 2012 in Operation Adam Bomb.
Operation Adam Bomb was successful in not only taking down the Farmer’s Market but also leading to the arrest of several buyers, vendors and staff members behind the marketplace. Even though the Farmer’s Market had relocated to Tor for its security and encryption levels, they continued to conduct business using Western Union and PayPal as their primary payment methods, making it very easy for the DEA to trace payments.
When did Darknet Markets begin using Bitcoin?
The first Darknet Markets that began using both Tor and Cryptocurrency as a means of security and anonymity for themselves and their users were the Silk Road and Atlantis Market. Silk Road was launched in February 2011 and immediately used Bitcoin as their only option for its users to process payments. Atlantis Market opened in March 2013 and offered both Bitcoin and Litecoin as a payment option for its users.
How did Darknet Markets become so popular?
Darknet Markets grew in popularity by the takedown of some of the first markets because of the attention they received from the press. This immediately leads to the concept of darknet market’s becoming widely discovered and used as a method of acquiring drugs soon after, and lead to more darknet markets to appear in the response.
What Darknet Markets are still online?
Since 2013, hundreds of darknet markets have appeared and disappeared (mostly due to exit scams of law enforcement takedowns). As of now, there are several darknet markets still operating, with the most popular being Dream Market which has been online since 2013 and is considered by most to be the longest-running darknet market. Two other darknet markets that are the most popular, behind Dream Market are Tochka Market and Wall Street Market.
Some of the darknet markets that are currently online include:
- Dream Market (founded 2013)
- Tochka Market (founded 2014)
- Wall Street Market (founded 2015)
- Olympus Market (founded 2017)
- Empire Market (founded 2017)
- Rapture Market (founded 2018)
- Serpent Market (founded 2018)
- Zion Market (founded 2015)
- Apollon Market (founded 2017)
- CGMC (founded 2015)
- The Majestic Garden (founded 2013)
If you are interested in seeing an updated list of all the current darknet market’s that are still operating, along with additional information you can check our List of Darknet Markets.
Why are Darknet Markets able to avoid Law Enforcement takedowns?
Darknet Market’s are almost always accessible by using the Tor Browser as the level of encryption makes it difficult to trace the location of its primary server and its users. They also use certain types of cryptocurrency as it’s the only form of payment since, if used properly, offer an untraceable level of security to its users.
As a means of communication between the darknet market’s staff and users, they almost always use a messaging platform built into the marketplace, with a message encrypted with the users PGP key. They also offer several features that increase the level of security and protection of accounts for its buyers and vendors. Many of these Darknet Markets and dark web users often make their bitcoin transactions more anonymous by mixing their bitcoin with a bitcoin mixer or tumbler.
Because of these and other security implications, it makes it extremely difficult for law enforcement to trace and make arrests. Some past law enforcement operations were able to trace markets based on mistakes made by the market’s admins. For example, a server IP address was leaked and allowed Law Enforcement to trace the silk road back to its administrator. Another example is AlphaBay Market where allegedly, password request emails for market accounts were sent with the Admin’s personal email account displayed in the email header.
If the people behind the darknet markets are cautious about their security measures and personal OPSEC, they are often able to avoid Law Enforcement takedowns. Dream Market, which has been online since 2013 is a good example of this.
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