Darknet And Alphabay
Ever since the famous Silk Road takedown, it seems that the darknet has gained a lot of “unwanted” attention from the general public. The issue would not be as bad if a lot of people weren’t looking at darknet with an already created prejudiced view gained from listening to news about Silk Road. While there is a lot of criminal activity happening on the darknet it is not really a rumored “underworld” of the net where bad things can befall you the moment you “connect” to it.
Let us start from the very basics of what the “Darknet” really is. As some of you may know, there is a very big portion of the internet called the deep web consisting of unindexed data. This is essentially the data that Google, Yahoo and other browsers do not or cannot access generally due to it being intangible and not directly relevant to what users are searching for. One part of the deep web however is made up of websites such as the AlphaBay sitethat are intentionally “hidden” from browsers and that is what darknet is. These sites like AlphaBay have no regular URLs and therefore require special software to be accessed. And since you cannot search for those sites like AlphaBay you need to already know their address from an outside source. Essentially you need an invitation.
AlphaBay – Tor
The above mentioned “special software” needed for accessing sites like AlphaBay is Tor browser. When connecting to internet using Tor your signal will be rerouted several times through the nodes making your IP harder to track and appear the same as that of the last or “exit” node instead of the one assigned to your computer. While this offers some degree of anonymity, your ISP can still see that you are using Tor browser and a persistent investigator can track you even if you are using Tor.
This is where VPNs become useful. What VPNs do is they create an encrypted tunnel through which a user can connect to the internet, so your ISP only sees where you have “entered” the tunnel, but not where you are going or where you exited. The only one that knows this is the VPN service provider and you always want to choose the one that keeps no logs of its users’ activities. If that is the case there is 99% certainty that you are indeed anonymous on the web when using both Tor and said VPN.
Now that you have connected to your VPN of choice and fired up your Tor browser you will be welcomed by Tor’s starting page. After some inspection you will realize that Tor is pretty much the same as your everyday browser. You can even use it for your day-to-day browsing, albeit the speed will be much slower. With all this it is obvious that you are still connected to the “ordinary” internet or clearnet. So how do you connect on the darknet and accessed sites like AlphaBay?
Well, you cannot connect to it in the literal meaning of the word. You can only visit specific sites that are part of it since the whole point of darknet is that it is unconnected. If you search the clearnet for some links you will find a number of sites offering them to their visitors. There are also several subreddits of sites like AlphaBay that have all sorts of information on the topic. You do not have to visit any sites that have anything to do with illegal actions, but chances are you will run into some of them nonetheless. Aside from offering a relatively safe ground for illicit activity, the darknet is also used by activists and information traders from countries that are prosecuting and controlling the freedom of speech. This is the reason for a number of blogs on darknet that have information you will not see on clearnet. There are also sites which use darknet for secure information drop-off for any potential whistle-blowers (think E. Snowden controversy and you got the right idea). But like with anything, take it with a grain of salt since there is false information on darknet like on every other form of media.
For those who are looking for the notorious darknet markets like AlphaBay Marketplace (for research purposes obviously) there is a number of lists on clearnet where you can get the .onion links to them. AlphaBay has seen an especially good growth rate over the course of its lifetime, mainly due to the professionalism put into it. And that is another thing;darknet markets like the AlphaBay aren’t a rag-tag construction of throw-away code like you would imagine something that needs to be abandoned quickly would be. There are markets out there, like AlphaBay, that could stand toe-to-toe with clearnet markets design and feature-wise.
AlphaBay – Bitcoin
One thing you are sure to notice when visiting darknet markets such as the AlphaBay Marketplace is that all AlphaBay transactions done there are conducted using “Bitcoin.”By using bitcoin you can purchase goods or services from sites like AlphaBay without anybody knowing your identity. If handled properly,bitcoin can leave no trace of its user’s information at all and this is why it has become the currency of choice on darknet markets like AlphaBay.
Whether it is illegal or legal actions it seems that darknet is getting more and more attention from the general public. While the opinion on whether this is a good thing or a bad thing does exist, many visitors are just “passers-by” that heard about it and want to check it out. The problem is that many people have a bad impression of it, usually created by the notion that only offenders visit these pages and fail to realize that darknet offers the only possibility for somebody to freely express their views. But as long as mainstream media continues to report only on the bad aspects of darknet, this opinion is unlikely to change.