Following on our first post regarding darknet marketplaces, A Guide to Darknet Markets, Part I, this post will take a more in-depth look at both current and up-and-coming darknet markets, how to access them and the future of the markets.
As mentioned in the first part of this guide, the darknet contains a vibrant and thriving e-commerce sector, in which participants trade in illegal goods and services. These darknet markets offer goods like drugs, counterfeit money and IDs, stolen credit cards, weapons and credentials for accessing sites including everything from lifetime Netflix subscriptions to adult websites.
UP-AND-COMING DARKNET MARKETS
Since the confiscation of the original Silk Road in 2013, hundreds of marketplaces have come and gone with varying levels of success. Currently, roughly 1,000 vendors trade across over 50 active darknet markets. While there are many rumors on the future of the Tor Hidden Service relay system, those who frequent darknet markets will continue to seek out anonymous marketplaces per the laws of supply and demand.
Based on our research, we forecast that The Open Road Market and Trade Route are two up-and-coming marketplaces to watch over the next year.
The Open Road Market is one of the newest markets on the darknet, having opened less than a month ago. The new market features two-factor authentication (2FA) for enhanced buyer and vendor security and a “Finalizing Early Option” for exit scam prevention. This market also offers a low-cost entry for vendors who have an established (positive) reputation on other markets.
THE TRIED-AND-TRUE DARKNET MARKETS
While The Open Road Market and Trade Route are up-and-coming players in the space, the below chart shows additional information on three of the largest darknet markets currently in existence. As mentioned in our last post, AlphaBay holds the top spot for sales and total number of listings (last recorded at 294,739 distinct listings and growing), with The Dream Market, Valhalla (Silkkitie) and Hansa falling close behind.
Disclaimer: Darknet sites are by their nature quite transient, going up and coming down at unexpected times. The below charts include a variety of .onion links which are subject to change. Please use your best judgement if you choose to visit Tor yourself, and see the "Further Exploration" section of this post below.
|Select "Register" and put DNMs in the "Invited User" field if it isn't already there.|
|Alternative sites in case of DDoS on main market link.|
|Invite Link||lchudifyeqm4ldjj.onion/?ai=218297||Follow the “Register” link at the upper right corner|
|Market||lchudifyeqm4ldjj.onion||Must be registered to use this link|
|Alternative sites in case of DDoS on main market link|
|Forum||tmskhzavkycdupbr.onion||Discussion space for reviews a vendor feedback|
|Note: Confirmations by the Bitcoin network are slow at the moment due to the large amount of transactions in the blockchain.|
|Market||hansamkt3iph6sbb.onion||Site uses multi-sig transactions exclusively – more secure but also for more advanced users.|
|Backup Sites||hansamkt2rr6nfg3.onion||Most markets include mirror .onions which point to the original market|
Beware the Scammers
For users interacting with potential vendors on the darknet, it is nearly impossible to distinguish between a legitimate vendor and a potential scammer. As mentioned in the first part of this guide, many seemingly legitimate markets turn out to be complete scams from which scam administrators walk away with large sums of bitcoin. Ways in which a market and a vendor can potentially be validated include:
- Help + Support: Does the market have a supportive and responsive customer support team? Is the team willing to help with disputes between vendors and buyers?
- Market Reviews: Does the surface net contain forums and/or reviews regarding the market and its vendors?
- Uptime: How often does the site go down? Uptime is an objective measure of a market’s performance and stability.
- Anonymity + Security: How secure is a given market's account? Does the site contain security measures such as Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption and two-factor or multi-factor authentication?
- Escrow, Finalize Early + Multisig: Does the market leverage any of a variety of transaction methods in order to protect users?
If you're interested in diving further into darknet markets by visiting one, we encourage you to first do your research on browsing the darknet. This includes learning about Tor and ensuring you know how to safely access it. We recommend installing TOR-Pi-do on a Raspberry Pi.
- Beginners: An excellent overview and step-by-step guide to using Tor to access the darknet.
- How to access the darknet using a Mac.
- A more in-depth guide to using Tor safely.
- A thorough guide to accessing Tor and using it to complete a transaction on a darknet marketplace. We recommend this as an accompaniment to our blog, especially if you're new to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.