Update: If you are looking for a Darknet Market then I would head over to Dream Market. They are the biggest, have been around for a long time and they are constantly upgrading the system to make it more secure
The Onion Router, better known as Tor, is the base that dark market sites are built on. It’s not called the Tor Network for no reason, after all.
Between its massive network of relays stretching across the globe and top notch encryption, the browser alone provides the foundation for anonymity the Dark Web is known for. They’ve also teamed with the Electronic Frontier Foundation to include the HTTPS Everywhere plug-in with the browser package. This adds a cryptographic protocol which creates yet another layer of encryption.
It verifies that you’re dealing with the website you think you are, then exchanges a key and encrypts the data sent between you and the other party.
Pretty Good Privacy
Speaking of encryption, there’s more. Dark market sites employ even further encryption with PGP, otherwise known as Pretty Good Privacy. This allows all communication between the vendor and buyer to be kept private.
Each party will use PGP to encrypt the message before sending, then decode what they receive using the appropriate key. Meanwhile, middle men – including the market admins themselves – are left in the dark. This keeps things like specifics, addresses, names, and more under wraps.
It’s just another piece of the puzzle which helps completely eliminate any and all paper trails that could be traced back to the purchase and used to prove illegal activity took place.
The better markets give a big focus towards weeding out certain vendors, whether they’re scammers or law enforcement in disguise. This is implemented from the moment someone tries to become a seller.
There’s an application and review process before they’re even able to put products up for sale. Then there’s the feedback system, where people who buy from a particular vendor can leave a review and any comments, good or bad. Bad reviews will not only ensure they don’t get much business in terms of future customers, it can even get them banned from the site.
There’s also a dispute function that essentially summons the admins to help get to the bottom of a problem, whether it’s missing product, failure to pay, or whatever else.
For payments, there are a few technologies implemented to keep things as safe, fair, and anonymous as possible. First of all, all transactions are done using bitcoins. These are digital currency that make purchasing things online possible, without leaving behind records and statements like a credit card.
Bitcoins can be used from any country, are completely unregulated by any government, and carry smaller transaction fees than credit cards. They do have a few disadvantages though, the biggest of which is how easy they can be to steal, especially when dealing with the sometimes less than savory characters that populate the dark market sites.
That’s why markets use escrow and, more recently, multi-sig escrow. With escrow, the buyer funds a third party account, and funds are released only once they’ve received what was agreed upon. This way, neither the buyer nor the seller can take the money and run.
Unfortunately, not all dark market sites are honest, and some were using their access to the escrow funds to make off with the loot themselves. Multi-sig escrow helps with that, since it requires two out of the three parties to sign off before the funds are released.
Further Down the Rabbit Hole
With all these things in place, a buyer can hopefully order and receive product without even a single sliver of evidence that a transaction took place. Even if they were busted with a package, they’d be able to deny they even ordered it in the first place.
Now, this is still only half the story. Any site relying solely on these security methods is not going to last very long. Implementing their own, unique safety measures behind the scenes is the difference between the dark market sites that get hacked or raided by the government and those that are still standing.
Hundreds of dark market sites were shut down during the early November raids, but the two biggest markets – Evolution Marketplace and Agora – survived. This just goes to prove that there’s a reason they’re so successful.
In the meantime, the constant tug-o-war between dark market sites and hackers/law enforcement rages on. With each breach, the security becomes stronger to fill the hole.