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
ATTENTION: The Evolution Marketplace has been taken down by the administrators and taking off with an estimated $30 to $35 million worth of bitcoins, in what is believed to be a well-executed exit scam.
You can only read or write about the darknet markets for so long before your curiosity gets the best of you, and you just have to take a look yourself. And that’s where I’m at. That means it’s time to boot up Tor and take a peek at the Evolution Marketplace.
Now, to be clear, I don’t plan on actually buying any illegal drugs or automatic machine guns. This will only be an educational field trip, with me figuring things out and breaking them down for you along the way. What you choose to do with that information is on you.
It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. Anyways, let’s get started.
Our first step will be to download and setup the Tor browser, which we’ll need for getting to the Evolution Marketplace and the rest of the Deep Web. The Tor browser is the only browser that you can use to access Evolution Marketplace as these such darknet markets are hosted on the encrypted Tor network. It only took a simple search to find the link on Tor’s official site, but here it is for your convenience: https://www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en
The file is fairly small and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes or so to download, depending on your internet speeds. The installation process is super straightforward and quick. Just select your language and then hit ‘Install’.
For extra security, you may consider assigning the file path to a USB drive (or transferring the files over after the fact). But that’s definitely not required, so I’ll be skipping this step and sticking with the default.
Another optional but HIGHLY recommended tactic for some added privacy is accessing Tor through a third-party VPN program. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a simple software app that encrypts all of your internet traffic so that no one will know what you are doing online and also hide your real location. Not even your ISP will know what you are doing online. By using a VPN then using Tor you will hide from your ISP, and anyone else watching eg. government agencies, that you are using Tor to access the Deep Web and Evolution Marketplace.
Once you download and install a VPN and the Tor installation is done you should go and close all other programs that might access the internet in the meantime. That means Skype, my e-mail client, Firefox, etc. I want Tor to be my only instance of online activity to make sure none of my less anonymous programs get caught in the cross-chatter and potentially reveal my IP.
Then you start your VPN and connect to a server, then run your Tor browser. Select the option to connect using the default settings, which takes a couple minutes to configure.
One thing you’ll quickly notice while using Tor is how much slower it is than your other browsers, since it’s running all your information through its extensive relay system. My internet isn’t great to begin with, so my nerves and anticipation have plenty of time to build as I wait for the page to load.
But the page I finally land on is a bit anticlimactic. It’s just a simple log-in screen with a normal CAPTCHA. Anyone with an e-mail or Facebook account has seen something like this a thousand times already.
In the upper right corner is a ‘Register’ button. That’s where I’m headed next. The account registration process is extremely simple. Just need to create a username, a password, and a PIN.
When creating usernames and passwords DO NOT use anything that can identify you, this goes for any site. It is a sure fire way to be exposed or hacked. Use something that non-identifying and that you have NEVER used before.
Success! The account has been registered. Now I can log in.
The first time you do so, you’ll be given a “security mnemonic”. It’s simply a random string of words, which I’m told is the only way to reset your PIN. Make sure to write this down, since you’ll have to reenter it on the next screen to make sure you were paying attention.
Browsing the Evolution Marketplace
With that, I’m in. The Evolution Marketplace welcome page is less intimidating than you might think. I’m not sure what I was expecting, maybe a black background with red font and flame graphics.
There’s a link to a buyer’s guide, along with this welcome message:
We would like to welcome you to Evolution, a marketplace where established vendors can sell down to the new guy selling a product for the first time.
Evolution’s goal is to combine the old and the new; using what made our predecessors great, infused with modern functionality and clean looks. It was designed and developed with simplicity in mind, and yet be as secure as possible.
Feel free to join us on the forum if you have any questions, bug reports or requests.
– Evolution Team”
Well, that was sweet of them.
Also on the front page is a timeline of recent news, like Evolution’s one year anniversary on January 14th. In the bottom left, you’ll see the current bitcoin exchange rates. One bitcoin was worth 209.4990 dollars. But proving what a volatile currency it is, it dropped by about a $1.50 within the roughly 30 minutes I spent on the site.
And then there’s what we came for, the product listings. There are 14 total categories, with ‘Drugs’ – at over 17,000 listings – being by far the biggest. The next highest, ‘Guides and Tutorials’, has less than 1/5th the number of products for sale, at just over 3,000.
We’ll start our journey at the top. And loading, loading – ah, there we go. Wow. You know, you read about this stuff and even see screenshots, but nothing really compares to when you’re sitting there staring at the real thing and there’s a clickable ‘Buy It Now’ button to the side.
Just on the first page is pure Psilocybin, MDMA, several exotic marijuana strains, LSD, Oxycodon, speed, hash, and lots and lots of cocaine.
Vendor Twisty The Clown offers crystal meth at .2973 bitcoins per gram – about $60. But there are deals for larger quantities. Believe it or not, Twisty has a 100% feedback rating.
It’s a bit surreal to imagine a satisfied buyer singing their dealer’s praises in an online review as they tweak on hard drugs, but there you have it.
Hitting the buy button brings you to a page where you set quantity and select a shipping option. Depending on the vendor and product, you’ll have choices like standard, standard with tracking, and express shipping. It’s pretty much exactly like buying anything else online.
‘Step 2’ will prompt you for your shipping info, but you’re also provided with a PGP key to keep it all private between you and the seller. ‘Step 3’ lets you set which of Evolution Marketplace’s escrow options you’ll use, either the standard on-site or a safer multi-sig.
Then you’ll have the chance to review your order, and finally the order confirmation and ‘thank you’ screen. This is Amazon checkout – except for black tar heroin.
That quarter ounce of mushrooms you ordered will be on your doorstep within the week. Joking.
After the novelty of browsing through the Evolution Marketplace’s seemingly endless collection of drugs and weed, I move on.
Working my way down, there’s the ‘Fraud Related’ section, where I find hacked Netflix and PayPal accounts, stolen credit card info, and more. This is where things start to get a little weird, to be honest.
Buying drugs is (mostly) victimless. But seeing people’s credit card numbers being bought and sold by the thousand feels a little…heavier.
The next category, ‘Guides & Tutorials’, offers to teach you exactly how to steal credit cards or hack accounts yourself, or at least where to use them once you do. The ‘Services’ section isn’t much better, and then there’s ‘Counterfeits’, where vendors offer fake dollars, euros, IDs, and more.
By the time I get down to ‘Weapons’, with its knives disguised as credit cards, Tasers disguised as flashlights, and gun schematics for 3D printers, I’ve become increasingly paranoid. I start to feel like a SWAT team is going to rappel from a helicopter into my living room any second, just for looking at this stuff.
That’s when I decide I’ve seen enough of the online black markets for one day and log out.
The Evolution of Darknet Markets
From start to finish, my trip to Evolution Marketplace only took about 30 minutes or so. Getting there took about 10. And that’s including Tor installation and my Evolution Marketplace account registration.
A return trip to Evolution Marketplace would likely take a fraction of the time, since I can simply jump on and log in. When you can buy illegal drugs in just a few minutes and have them delivered straight to your house, it’s not hard to see why these markets continue to grow.
Even with a couple rounds of busts and plenty of scamming, Evolution Marketplace is bigger than Silk Road and the like ever were. And Evolution Marketplace even offers things much of the competition steers away from, like the fraud items I talked about above.
In the roughly two years since they started gaining traction, darknet markets like the Evolution Marketplace have continually evolved (no pun intended). They’re becoming bigger, easier, and safer. What happens next only time will tell.