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The Darknet

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The Internet's evil twin brother

Until recently, the idea of a parallel Internet seemed a little bit obscure to me. This all Darknet story started in August 2013 around a beer. The place I was at was crowded and someone I didn't know dropped the word "Darknet". Most of the people around the table didn't pay attention and didn't ask for more information. I did. And when this man told me about the Darknet, I was quite skeptical. The Darknet is basically a parallel Internet that doesn't use standard communication protocols making users pretty much invisible (until recently at least').

To start your journey on the Darknet you'll have to gain access to TOR (The Onion Router) a network that virtually gives "web anonymity" to anybody using it. TOR is the essence of the Darknet, without it you won't be able to access the "onion links" (URL links equivalent on TOR).
This article is not a tutorial ! People who want to use the Darknet always find their way. Today I'm only a "guide", so please follow me and watch the gap. Also let's get this straight : I'm not a so called drug user. The truth is, I smoked pot like pretty much everybody else in high school and' that's pretty much it. However I worked all over the world, I travel a lot, I meet a lot of people and you know what? Yes, a lot of people use drugs. Not judging, not advocating either. I am just saying' It doesn't make it right or wrong, it's a statement.

I started my journey on the popular Silk Road. This website is actually one of the biggest marketing platforms on the TOR network. It became popular a few months ago when some articles started populating the regular internet (you know, the one the grand parents use'). The first thing that I noticed on SR is the category. It ranges from drugs to money and services. Those are three most populated categories. And trust me. The first time I clicked on Drugs, I was very surprised. Not only by the amount of drugs that is available to buy but also by the diversity. Weed, hash, cocaine, ecstasy, psychedelics, you name it! What's that? What you're looking for is pretty common and available in pharmacy? That's fine, some sellers will get you all the Viagra and Xanax for which you're looking. What to think about such a thing? It's tricky' Let's be realistic, we live in era where people get what they want. If you show the money you'll always find a way to get pretty much anything.

Under the "Services" category it's a real surprise for me. Need to hack a Gmail account, to delete a Facebook account? You got it! For about $6 you can even listen to the past Skype conversations of a user. I tried some of these methods on some personal accounts. It's scary, but it works. What is even scarier is that SR has a on board review system. Each seller gets a rating from his transaction, so every time a transaction is being made you can rate from 0 to 5. Yes, just like on Amazon but' you know, a "little bit" different.

Without going over all the categories I'll only say this : SR is one of the biggest Market Place on TOR if not the biggest. You'll find pretty much anything you can imagine and if you can't find it some people will take your money and find "it" for you.
Between you and me, I was amused so far and intrigued. I don't think I've ever given so many "Really!?" looks at my computer screen .

I kept digging and asking around to understand how the TOR network was structured. An anonymous informant finally explained to me that every newbie should start on the Hidden Wiki. The hidden wiki takes the form of a wikipedia page and references a lot of popular services.

That's where I stopped smiling.

After a few other market places pretty similar to Silk Road I stumbled on a very somber page offering nothing else but Hitman Services. Three men who offer their services to take down anybody in the world. It will cost you between $10,000 and $12,000 to eliminate this girl who didn't want to go to the prom night with you. Wait she never got the memo? She didn't know you wanted to go out with her?! Well' Too late.

And it keeps getting weirder and more unbelievable. For $10,000 I got the opportunity to become a US citizen. How? "Trade Secret" but they assure that it works and that it's the way to go for anybody who wants to start fresh under a new name. Passport, Social Security Number, Driver License, Birth Certificate. Goodbye Julien Simiand and your stupid French name, welcome to your country Johnny Texas Burger.

Weapon trading is also a big part of TOR. It's really big. For personal reasons I won't name the links that will bring you there because I don't feel like advertising for these people. However, within a few clicks I was able to browse a large selection of weapons, bullet-proof vests and armor at an affordable price, delivered straight to your apartment by your favorite postal service.

OK so you're officially a crack head who likes to shoot cans in your back yard. How the hell are you going to buy all these illegal things? That's where you'll have to admit that it's brilliant even if you're absolutely against it.

Where do you swipe your credit card? Obviously nowhere' Where do you enter your debit card information? Nowhere! So what? You put your bills in an envelope like grandma use to do and send it to your favorite drug dealer? Of course not. The system is much smarter than that.

Ever heard of BitCoin? Bitcoin is the first digital currency that you can trade for "traditional" money. Check out the video to learn more about Bitcoin : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um63OQz3bjo

Here you are, technically browsing anonymously with your anonymous e-wallet. You think so?

Think again.
As I said at the beginning of this article, TOR is not out of control. Recently it's actually been the total opposite. In August a few TOR website were shut down by the FBI.
Why is it a good thing? Because to me there are three things you should never touch: kids' innocence, people in general and animals.

Because users thought they were anonymously browsing, a portion of them used and are still using TOR for Child Pornography. That's where the Darknet becomes darker and not amusing at all.
The amount doesn't matter, one is already too much but while doing my little investigation I could not believe the amount of child pornography available on TOR. People think they're hiding behind a safe wall and that their actions won't have any repercussions. They should have thought about it twice. Late August, the FBI took a peak at the TOR network and led to the major arrest of Eric Marques considered like the biggest Child Pornography facilitator on earth. Since then, the Darknet seems clearer but there will always be someone to upload illicit content and spread it, there's a long way to go until the TOR network gets cleaned for good.

So what? Is TOR only good for people who want to get high on shrooms, buy guns and hack their ex-girlfriend Facebook account ?

Not exactly. In fact the Darknet can be very useful to those who live in a country that refuses to open to the world because they want to control their population. Sure, you're probably sitting in a comfortable chair, the fridge is full and you're reading your favorite webzine (that's us). Think of those who live under the pressure of a dictatorship, where the information is filtered or nonexistent. Where the internet is a bunch of blocked pages' That's where TOR makes a difference, that is where TOR provides to those people a safe way to be connected to the world.

As always, nothing is all black or white. The TOR network IS a fantastic tool for those who want to have access to the "real" information. Unfortunately when such networks are not under control a small portion of people tend to use them for bad purposes. So let's put these networks under control? Oh wait if they're under control, it means they're being monitored and if they're being monitored then... Well you know... It's not anonymous anymore so I rather not say anything else.

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Updated May 10, 2017 12:29 PM EDT | More details

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