The darknet plays host to several well-known hidden marketplaces whose existence is based on the tactics employed by site admins.
Ever since the early days of Silk Road, up until now, a lot has happened in the darknet markets world and among them is the rise and fall of the marketplaces through hacks, exit scams and seizure by law enforcement authorities.
One thing to note is that the exit of markets from the scene happen at the least expected time, leaving users stranded and scrambling to switch to the next best option.
However, there are few instances where a market may notify its users of an impending exit, and this only happens if a big market has a subsidiary and for one reason or the other, they intend to close it—as was the case when Silk Road 3 wanted to discontinue Lunacy.
The new market went live in January, but the official launch via Reddit happened in February. During this time, the admins of the marketplace had time to test the features and fix bugs among other issues.
Accessing the Darknet
It is necessary to follow specific steps before you can access the market. These steps ensure that you are not only safe but also secure as you browse through the dark web ecosystem.
In summary, you will first have to obtain a Virtual Private Network (VPN), install the Tor Browser, set up a PGP key and, last but not least, have funds on your wallet depending on the virtual currency you intend to use.
Getting a Virtual Private Network
VPNs are among the most-used anonymity tools, and it is essential to know how they operate. For a full guide on how to find the right VPN and use it to access the dark web safely, click here.
Now that you are familiar with VPNs and you are ready to acquire one, then you can get one here.
After checking out the list and selecting a VPN to use, then you may proceed to download and installing the software. Once the setup process is complete, then it is ready to use, all that is required is logging in.
Fire up your VPN, connect to a server, and go ahead to the next step below.
With Tor, you can access the layers of the encrypted internet that are not accessible via regular browsers. For more information on how you can get and use Tor, navigate to this guide.
Download Tor here: https://www.torproject.org/download/download
Once you have downloaded Tor, then you may proceed.
NOTE: Make sure you turn on the VPN first before downloading the browser. Keep the default settings as they are, as trying a new setup may compromise some safety features.
Setting Up a PGP
Pretty Good Privacy encryption, or rather known as PGP, employs the use of a public and private key to decrypt and encrypt content respectively. It is highly recommended, especially when setting up two-factor authentication in darknet markets.
To learn how to use PGP effectively, this guide will help you out.
How to Access Empire Market
To access Empire Market, use the official Empire Market .onion URL: http://empiremktxgjovhm.onion/ref/32822.
Alternatively, one can use the version 3 (V3) link: http://hsqluhqe6dlfl7jaxulf7cfun6xt274btvnqvaorliem5j6sqjiwhdyd.onion in the event the main one is not working. It is possible for the primary link to be down or somewhat broken—this is the reason why darknet market sites have several mirror links.
To check out the forum, use this link: http://empforumgfttfqnq.onion/.
Get the market PGP key here: http://empiremktxgjovhm.onion/pgp.txt.
Now, upon accessing the marketplace URL, a page similar to the one below appears:
Login and Registration
If you already have an account, simply log in to the site. If not, then you can proceed and create one by clicking on the register icon shown above.
Once you select the option of registering an account, the page below is what is displayed on the screen.
Creating an account requires the user to enter some information. While most of the details are a must, others are optional.
Among the first things to be entered is the username. It is always recommended that the person creating the account does not use their real name because this may compromise their safety since their identity may end up getting exposed.
Other details to be entered are a password, six-digit PIN to be used for withdrawals and processing orders, a login phrase, the cryptocurrency that the user prefers, a referral link (if referred) and a Captcha, which is meant to confirm that it is a human signing up.
Of the details in the first step of registration, the login phrase is optional but should be used as an added security feature because it ensures that a person is on the actual site and not a phishing link, which is a common problem for darknet users.
After all the above steps have been completed and the Captcha is entered, you may proceed and click “Join Empire Market” and the page below consisting of the mnemonic appears.
The mnemonic is a phrase that consists of nine letters. You MUST store it somewhere because it will be displayed only once and can be used to recover the account in you lose your PIN or password.
When the mnemonic is displayed and you have written it somewhere safe, you may then proceed and click continue.
After all the processes are complete, the account has now been created and the page below appears. From this point, you may now proceed to sign in using your credentials.
Using Empire Market
Depending on your motive for opening an account with Empire, you may choose to use the market as you wish. Some users are in for the acquisition of goods and services, whereas others are comparing the prices of products with other markets.
Categories and Subcategories
There are several categories of products on Empire Market, and they range from tangible to intangible. The mode of acquisition of either of these will differ. Also, the market has simplified the search process by narrowing down the categories into subcategories.
By looking at the screenshot below, you will see that some bullets points that resemble small arrows on the far left. Clicking it will bring about the subcategories that fall under the main category.
In the screenshot below, you will see the subcategories of “Fraud.” The options are: accounts & bank drops, CVV & cards, dumps, personal information, scans and others.
The same applies to the other main categories. The user can choose what they want specifically.
One can conduct a quick search by using keywords, such as the product name or vendor name. Alternatively, that can be narrowed down by doing an advanced search.
Advanced searches are based on the country of the individual, the vendor level, the price range and, last but not least, the destination (which is also known as a drop address).
The online safety and security of a person who uses the dark web can be viewed from different perspectives.
In Empire, the security level upon registration is 40 percent without adding other features. However, this increases after the addition of a PGP key, 2FA (two-factor authentication) and a PIN.
One thing to note is that to enable 2FA, one must add a PGP key.
To add a PGP key, while you are on the page above, click the “Add” icon and you will be directed to a page that looks like the one below. Here, you will have the option of inserting your MultiSig and PGP public key.
Also on this page, there are some other options such as disabling/enabling two-factor authentication and the PIN when making purchases.
For those who wish to update their details by changing their password and PIN, all these can be done on this page.
Additional Details and Editing Your Profile
This part is on the same page as the one above and can be used to add more information to the profile of the market user. Now, based on the preference, they can add their ICQ, Jabber, website, AOL and profile text.
ICQ and Jabber are among the most popular messaging platforms used by darknet users. In most cases, vendors who wish to be contacted offline tend to leave this information public so that the market user can quickly get in touch with them whenever an issue with an order arises.
To edit your profile, you can also click on the top right corner where the username is displayed, and you will be directed to the page below.
What Next After Identifying a Product?
Now, this comes after you have decided what type of good and service you want after searching through the categories and subcategories. Upon selecting the desired product, a page like the one below appears.
Here, you will know the name of the seller, and you can contact them directly by sending a message as shown on the right side of the screenshot below.
Vendor Check and Making Purchases
After this, you can check the vendor profile by clicking on their name. A page like the one below will appear.
It is always best to check the rating of the seller, which is shown using the vendor level and trust level. The lowest is 1 and the highest is 10.
After all this is done, you may go back to the product listing then proceed and make the payment using your preferred cryptocurrency.
Empire Market has so far adopted three cryptocurrencies—Bitcoin, Litecoin and Monero. During the official launch of the market, only two were available. The third one, which happens to be Monero, was recently added after the admins realized they needed it.
Based on the cryptocurrency that was selected as default, the balance can be viewed on the top right of the page just below the username. In our case, the default crypto was BTC.
Since the price of virtual currencies is not stable due to the high fluctuation levels, Empire has a section which is located at the bottom of the homepage where live stats of the prices can be found. The list is updated every 15 minutes and is based on the weighted average from major crypto platforms.
To deposit funds, you must first select the digital token as shown in the icon “Payment Options.” Then, a page similar to the one below appears.
- For Bitcoin Deposits:
In this case, you click on the “Generate Bitcoin Deposit Address” option and you will get a BTC address which you will use to send funds from your private address. The balance should reflect in the account after two confirmations, which take less than 30 minutes.
One thing to note is that the address changes after each deposit, so you should not send BTC to same address without confirming.
- For Litecoin Deposits:
Litecoin is much faster than BTC, and in this case, the user will wait for two confirmations which should take less than 10 minutes.
For generating an address, the same procedure as Bitcoin is followed.
- For Monero Deposits:
To generate a Monero address, the same procedure used to get BTC and LTC is followed. After getting the address, you may proceed and send funds to the account.
In this case, 10 confirmations (the default number) are required for the funds to reflect in the account. The whole process takes about 20 minutes.
When making deposits to buy something off the dark web, buyers often avoid depositing excess funds because anything can happen to the market unexpectedly.
So, in the event the balance is in excess or an order was cancelled resulting in a refund, then it is necessary to withdraw the funds.
To initiate a withdrawal, one needs to enter the six-digit PIN they provided during the registration process.
- For Bitcoin Withdrawals:
If you do not have a PIN, then you can reset it by clicking “PIN reset here” and the page like the one below appears. You will be requested to enter the username and mnemonic, which was provided by the site during the registration process.
- For Litecoin Withdrawals:
- For Monero Withdrawals:
Since there is a possibility of transactions getting delayed due to technical reasons, then the market advises users to open a support ticket.
Given the fact that it is possible for law enforcement agencies and other third parties to track transactions back to their owner, Empire has inserted the links to the tumbling services for Bitcoin and Litecoin.
For Bitcoin, the market recommends its users to use BitBlender.
Sign up for an account here http://bitblendervrfkzr.onion/
Clear Web Link: http://bitblender.io/
For Litecoin, the market recommends the use of PrivCoin.
Sign up for an account here: http://tr5ods7ncr6eznny.onion/ (Must be using Tor)
Clear Web Link: https://www.privcoin.io/
However, they have not suggested a link to a Monero tumbler because Monero happens to be a more secure virtual currency than others. It uses ring signatures and stealth addresses for increased anonymity. More information on Monero can be found here.
Getting in Touch with Support
Support is vital in darknet markets because the level of fraud activities, among other issues, happens on a frequent basis. As such, the admins need to respond to customers if a problem arises.
The support option can be found on the homepage after signing in to the account. By clicking on it, you then proceed to create a ticket.
Based on the urgency, the ticket can be prioritized as low, medium or high. Of course, the tickets that have been marked to have a high priority will be looked at first and then the rest.
However, the site says that all support tickets will be responded to within 24 hours. They further advise members of the marketplace to maintain patience if they happen to be in a hurry.
Having a Vendor Account
Technically, anyone can be a vendor on Empire Market. However, the mode of application will differ if the person was operating on another marketplace.
For people who have another vendor account, and then they can join for free provided they can prove they worked on another hidden site that is well known. In most cases, the method used to verify this is to give the PGP.
For those who want to become vendors, then it is essential to read the rules set aside by the market. Failure to do so will result in termination of the account.
But among the most important things that vendors must have is a PGP key and ensure they use two-factor authentication.
Also, requesting for FE (Finalize Early) without the permission of the admin, threatening to dox, excessive scam reports and selling explicit content leads to a ban of the account.
Empire Market has an affiliate program that enables users to make money by referring others to the marketplace. The move is to encourage more people to refer each other and make money out of it.
The person who has referred others gets to earn 20 percent of the profits every time the person who is referred makes a purchase.
If one wishes to check how many persons have joined using their referral link and how much they have earned from the program, then the details may be found at the bottom of the homepage.
Forums give market users an avenue to exchange ideas. Empire has its own panel, which requires registration in order to become a member.
The URL to the Empire Market forum is: http://empforumgfttfqnq.onion/index.php.
Alternatively, one can click the forum icon on the homepage.
Upon entering the URL to the forum or clicking the forum icon, you will be taken to a page similar to the one below.
Once on the page above, there is a place on the top right that says login or signup. After clicking on it, a page like the one below appears.
If you have an account, you may proceed to log in. If not, you can create a new account easily. The details are as shown below.
After filling all the above requirements, then you’re set to browse through the forums for the latest news on the darknet market.
Darknet markets including Empire are playing their role by ensuring that the security of their systems is up-to-date. However, it remains an individual’s responsibility to ensure that they do not fall victim to scammers who are willing to seize every available opportunity to defraud a person.
We hope that this guide will offer you an easy introduction to Empire Market.
Stay safe, and don’t give out your personal information. Also, ensure that you have a VPN running as you are going about the dark web.