A darknet market, shadow market, or cryptomarket is a commercial darknet site that operates through Tor or I2P. They function primarily as black markets that sell or broker deals in drugs, cyberweapons, weapons, counterfeit money, fake documents, illegal pharmaceuticals, steroids, and other illicit goods, as well as to sell legal products. Based on Silk Road's model, today's markets are characterized by the use of anonymous access (typically Tor), Bitcoin or Monero payments with escrow services, and eBay vendor feedback systems.
On March 21, 2018, Reddit administrators shut down the popular subreddit / r / DarkNetMarkets, citing new changes to their content policy that prohibit the sale of "drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, or any controlled substances." This has led to Dread, a dedicated discussion forum on the darknet.
Many marketplaces maintain their own special discussion forums and subreddits. Most marketplaces are in English but some open in Chinese, Russian and Ukrainian.
Types of Markets
- Items on a typical centralized darknet marketplace are listed in a number of vendors in a marketplace format similar to eBay. Virtually all such marketplaces have developed reputation, search and delivery features similar to Amazon.com.
- Some of the most popular vendors are now opening dedicated proprietary online stores separate from the major marketplaces. Individual sites have even returned to clearnet with mixed success.
Some online forums, such as the defunct Tor Carding Forum and the Russian Anonymous Marketplace, function as marketplaces with trusted participants providing escrow services and users participating in offline exchanges.
- To place on the market, a vendor could go through the application process through a referral, proof of reputation in another market, or a cash deposit to the market.
Many vendors place their products on multiple markets, ensuring that they retain their reputation even in the event of a Single Market close. Grams has launched InfoDesk to provide centralized content and identity management for vendors, as well as PGP key distribution.
Meanwhile, individual law enforcement agencies routinely investigate and arrest individual vendors and those who purchase significant quantities for personal use.