Emily Wilson is VP of Research at Terbium Labs, a Baltimore-based dark web data intelligence company. There, she counsels clients on the app Emily Wilson is VP of Research at Terbium Labs, a Baltimore-based dark web data intelligence company. There, she counsels clients on the appearance of their information online and provides ongoing analysis on fraud, drugs, weapons, extremism, and other information appearing on the dark web. She can be reached @ThirdEmily.
The last thing you might expect to come across on the shady digital underground is a book on origami. But there it was, on the virtual shelves of the dark web, wedged between the edibles, the LSD, the stolen credit cards, and the counterfeit passports: Mind Blowing Modular Origami, just $2.Not familiar with the dark web? Never fear, I’m here to help. The dark web is a mix of eBay for criminals, the weirdest flea market you’ve ever been to, and a bad guy meet-up. It’s a strange place, and it’s never quite clear what you’re getting yourself into when you show up.
In practice, the dark web allows you to browse the internet privately and anonymously, which is great if you need to circumvent censorship laws (or if you need to sell some stolen credit cards). The dark web has a reputation for its criminal activity, but there’s a lot more to it than that.
As someone who spends a lot of time on the illicit side of the dark web, I have to tell you: it can take a lot to make you look twice. When you spend years scrolling through listings for stolen tax documents, porn accounts, fake bank statements, and hacking guides, “unusual” takes on a new meaning. Over the years, I’ve begun building a collection of the weirdest things I come across. These are a few of my favorites — five of the strangest, silliest things you’ll find on the dark web.
Getting carded (on purpose)
Fake IDs for sale doesn’t normally raise any eyebrows. The dark web trades in all kinds of identity documentation, and drivers’ licenses are pretty standard offerings. One vendor decided to do things a little differently and started selling underage fake IDs.
According to the vendor, the listing started off as a joke and grew into a legitimate offering. Perfect for cheap hockey tickets, discounted gym memberships, and confusing your local bouncer.
We’re going to need a bigger boat
People in the dark web criminal communities like to help each other out. They write guides – instructions, really – on how to hack certain sites, how to use stolen credit cards, how to use malware, etc.
One big pack of fraud guides (yes, they come in packs) had a guide on deep sea fishing. No, not phishing like sending sketchy emails. Deep sea fishing, for kingfish no less.
Polly wanna… what?
Right before the holiday season a few years ago, one vendor decided to up the gift-giving ante with a pair of parrots. Yes, parrots. A listing went up in early December for a pair of African grey parrots. The dark web does facilitate the illicit animal trade, but these guys seemed like pets in need of a new home.
The ad even said as much, promising the parrots will make “the best pets and companion for you and your kids.” The vendor offered free Skype calls for proof of life, and was happy to include “all accessories and cage if necessary with all toys for the well beign [sic] of these babies.” The listing disappeared right before Valentine’s Day. Coincidence? I think not.
Needs more jazz flute
As a friendly reminder, not everything on the dark web is illegal: more than one million people use Tor to access Facebook each month. The dark web allows for private, secure browsing — and apparently, some pretty sweet beats.
Deep Web Radio was home to the smoothest jazz this side of the internet (they had baroque and heavy metal channels too, if that’s more your speed). I am sorry to report the site operator did not go by Duke Silver.
I can haz dark webz?
I promised you there would be cats, and here we are. No, not cryptokittes — no blockchain scritchy-scratches here. Tor Kittenz was a pure joy, exactly what any of us need after a long day: a never-ending slideshow of cat pictures.
Just cats being cats, looking cute and finding weird places to sit. I still check the site from time to time, hoping it will come back up.
The dark web is more than you think it is
The dark web is not all scary. It’s easy to get caught up in the fear and uncertainty of something unfamiliar. Imagine the dark web is a faraway city that you keep hearing about — and the more you hear, the less you want to visit.
Sure, there are sections of the dark web that are dangerous, and sometimes criminal, just like there are parts of a city that you wouldn’t want to go at night. We should talk about those parts, especially when sensitive information — information we entrust to other people — is being bought and sold in huge volumes.
But that’s not the entire city (if you’ll stick with me on the analogy) and that shouldn’t be all we talk about when we talk about the dark web. There’s plenty of space to sit back and marvel at the strange things people put online.
The dark web is just another part of the internet: there’s music, and cats, and weird people doing weird things, off whispering in their own little corners. It’s all much more familiar than you might expect.
Bonus pic: A person selling a grilled cheese sandwich on the dark web.
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