Many people who are reading this have probably never heard of the term Dark Web. Even those who have heard about it will not necessarily know what it means. There are countless products and services that are changing hands on the Dark Web every day. Here we will explore one of the hidden corners of the Internet where anonymous buyers and sellers make illegal deals worth millions of dollars every day.
What Is Meant By The Term Dark Web?
The Dark Web consists of secret websites that are theoretically part of the wider Internet. However, these websites can only be accessed using specialized software or require authorization to use. The biggest problem with finding the Dark Web is that these websites do not show up on search engines and they are not marketing themselves.
That is why not many people know who are behind these websites or where they are hosted. Both buyers and sellers typically use aliases or fake names to interact with each other. The 2-way anonymity offered to both hosts and visitors makes this the perfect place for illegal transactions.
Why more people should be aware of what is going on in the Dark Web
When it comes to the Dark Web, ignorance can be quite dangerous. A lot of the transactions that take place there have something to do with accessing, buying, or selling confidential information.
If you have a business, the Dark Web is where your latest top-secret research data might be sold to a competitor. Even if you are just an ordinary John or Jane Doe, and your bank details end up on the Dark Web, it may lead to sleepless nights in the future.
What types of products and services are typically sold on the Dark Web?
One of the top commodities people make money with on the Dark Web are different kinds of information that might benefit the buyer, but will without any doubt hurt the legitimate owner. Examples include:
Yes, the Dark Web is brimming with real spies. And with people who gather intelligence reports and other data in order to sell it to real spies. This is a highly rewarding but extremely dangerous game to play.
Top secret government information
Government budgets, as yet unpublished info about internal investigations, military plans, and confidential negotiations are all in high demand in the hidden corners of the Dark Web.
Formulas and Trade Secrets
Confidential manufacturing information such as that formula for an anti-aging cream that actually works you just developed will sell like hotcakes on the Dark Web.
Credit Card Information
One of the all-time bestsellers on the Dark Web remains skimmed or stolen credit card info plus the software one uses to capture it.
Security Plans and/or Blueprints
From computer networks to building plans, unsavory characters are forever looking to sell all types of planning data and schematics.
Personal and Business Financial Records
The Dark Web is literally riddled with unscrupulous characters who want this type of data for blackmail, identity theft, money laundering, or spearfishing.
These are highly popular among individuals who want to use the info to blackmail a particular individual. Imagine what the President of a rich nation or a major international business would pay to keep it out of the news that he or she suffers from a serious mental disorder.
Medical Research Data
Imagine how much money can be made by selling highly confidential medical research data about e.g. a new miracle cure for Covid-19. It’s a safe bet that the Dark Web is currently brimming with agents trying to get their hands on this kind of information and then sell it to unscrupulous competitors.
Other ways of making money on the Dark Web
Selling illicit products
In some ways the Dark Web is no different from any other online shopping site such as Amazon. These sites typically also act as a middleman to make sure both the seller and the buyer get a fair deal. In return for that, they take a percentage of the transaction. The difference is that the products on offer on the Dark Web are typically illegal and the buyers and sellers remain anonymous.
A few examples of physical products that are regularly sold on the Dark Web include weapons, drugs, credit card numbers, personal IDs, stolen smartphones, and stolen cars. To be fair though, some sites on the Dark Web sell products that are quite legit. However, these are normally weird, strange items that would be frowned upon by most people although they are in demand by members of certain subcultures. Of course, rather bizarre sex toys are high on the list here.
Many of us nowadays use Uber instead of an ordinary taxi to get from point A to point B and when we arrive there we stay in Airbnb accommodation instead of a hotel. So why should we not rent a thief if we want to steal the bank manager’s car? At least this is how some people’s brains seem to work.
It’s actually quite easy to hire a thief on the Dark Web. So why bother paying for a flat-screen TV if you can simply pay someone to steal one for you in return for a percentage of the item’s value? In recent years this practice has apparently become quite popular in Europe and the United States.
Selling your old identity and buying a new one
However bizarre that might sound, there are many hackers on the Dark Web who specialize in selling new identities to people who want to defraud others, open bank accounts, or…wait or it…become hackers themselves.
For the middlemen, this must be a lucrative business for the simple reason that a ‘good’ new identity will only stay good for one or two months before it becomes tainted by the buyer’s illegal activities and has to be replaced.
One of the most lucrative activities on the Dark Web is to make yourself available as a hacker to companies, government agencies, and individuals who want to hack their opponents’ IT systems.
Hackers also make money from stealing and then reselling valuable information, crashing websites, changing school grades, and numerous other illegal activities.
At this point, it has to be said that not all hackers are immoral geniuses. There’s a growing community of so-called “white hat hackers” who help protect businesses, individuals, and government agencies against the activities of their black hat counterparts. There are even educational institutions where you can get totally legal training to become a whitehat hacker.
Stealing and reselling other people’s identities
Sadly this activity is becoming increasingly common on the Dark Web. Hackers will, for example, target major corporations or government organizations because there are so many potentially lucrative business opportunities. With a single hack, one of them might obtain thousands of names, dates of birth, Social Insurance Numbers, and Social Security Numbers. There are always willing third-party buyers but sometimes the hackers would rather use the information to run scams or to impersonate or blackmail important people in order to gain financially.
Selling masks resembling another person
Few of us are 100 percent happy with the way we look. Changing your look on the Dark Web does, however, not mean getting a total physical makeover. An increasing number of Dark Web entrepreneurs offer silicone masks that can be used as a disguise. These masks are usually used for video conferences and online activities. Yet, they can also be used for offline activities as well.
What is particularly interesting here is that few would be able to notice that this is not your actual face. What you really look like would be completely indistinguishable from a ‘real’ face.
Increasing the number of your social media followers
While this might not be technically illegal and similar practices are sometimes used outside the Dark Web, it remains unethical. For a few dollars, you can easily become the proud owner of hundreds or thousands of fake Twitter, Facebook, or other social media followers. The aim of most buyers is apparently to impress their friends. One can, however, think of more than one way in which this practice can turn into much more than social media fraud.
Fixing matches illegally
This is another one of those scams that allow ‘investors’ to make a quick buck without risking much. The way it works is that a ‘fixer’ has a team or athlete already set up to lose a certain match or competition. This involves games where betting is legal (e.g. Las Vegas) or in illegal sports betting organizations. The ‘investor’ would ‘risk’ a certain amount of money and the ‘fixer’ would guarantee a high return. Usually this is for an amount exceeding a total return of 50 percent.
The minimum amount accepted for a bet is often around $20,000. The greatest risk being that the team undertaken to lose the game might decide not to keep their part of the deal.
Selling nude pictures of yourself or other people
While this practice is not limited to the Dark Web, there is a huge and active market for naked selfies. The people who are selling naked photos tend to specialize in a specific niche that excites buyers with certain fetishes. The images sold may not always have the consent of the person in the photograph.
How do the sellers get paid on the Dark Web?
In the past buyers reportedly used messengers to deliver the payment to the seller. In recent years, however, a new favorite payment system has evolved: Cryptocurrencies. There are various good reasons for this. Cryptocurrencies work in a way that’s similar to real money, except they are digital. The identities of the buyer and the seller usually remain anonymous. The blockchain technology and encryption being used ensure that it’s nearly impossible to trace the transaction flow. The Silk Road marketplace was one of the largest selling a mix of legal and illegal goods. All transactions were conducted in Bitcoin due to the anonymity it provides buyers and sellers. To this day, most transactions on the Dark Web are executed using cryptocurrencies.
Making money on the dark web can be fun and legal. Even though many money makers on the dark web gravitate towards illegal activities, you can find yourself a legal niche. You may need to sacrifice your ethics, but if you’re fine with that then you’re probably find a business that works for you.