The Dark Web is not easy to visit. In any case, the websites cannot be found with conventional search engines such as Google or Bing, but you can come there via so-called ‘Hidden Wikis‘, index pages with links to the hidden sites.
The websites also work on the .onion protocol, which means that they can only be visited via special software such as the Tor-browser. Tor (‘ The Onion Router’) can be downloaded free of charge and is open source, so it can be used for everyone. It is also very easy to install, just like installing a normal browser.
Incidentally, the Tor browser is not only used to visit such Dark Web sites. The browser also makes it possible be anonymous on the Internet. That’s why, for example, the browser was frequently used during the Arab Spring, when many activists couldn’t just say everything online.
Anyone who wants to order online fake identity documents and other illegal goods will need to be able to communicate anonymously. Sellers of illegal goods can usually be reached under a webmail address of a provider who guarantees his or her users anonymity. Buyers can also use this kind of webmail services to hide their identity.
Ciancaglini: “This is necessary for a variety of reasons: to gain the trust of the seller and, above all, not to be gullible. If a seller thinks you are rather naive, it is tempting to scam you.”
To save themselves from trouble, buyers and sellers will also need to make anonymous payment transactions. Bitcoins are usually used for this purpose. These can be purchased via online exchanges. Bitcoins can be purchased by transferring money, but also by sending cash by post or handing it over personally. In this way, the bitcoin purse can be weaned. This must also be anonymous, but there are plenty of possibilities, according to Ciancaglini.
More than just trade
Moreover, criminals use the Dark Web for more things than just trade. They also housed, for example, botnets command and control servers. This makes it impossible for forensic investigators to do research work in the traditional way, for example by tracing the IP address of command servers. In addition, a lot of malware is installed from the Dark Web. For its makers, this has the advantage that it is difficult to find out who is behind the malware. The Dark Web is also used by cyber criminals to collect ransom money: for example, the TorrentLocker malware leads extorted computer owners to a payment page in the Dark Web to transfer bitcoins without revealing the recipient.