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ToR and the Darknet: how to be anonymous

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Building upon this theme of anonymity it’s worth talking for a minute about the Darknet.  It sounds like something out of Star Wars, but is all about ToR and the ability to surf without leaving a digital footprint.  This is the world of Silk Road, as detailed in the recent case study from Wired, and gives an ability to avoid the authorities.  Or does it?

About a third of Darknet users are actually federal authorities, police and government officials.  They’re looking for the launderers, paedophiles and terrorists who are trying to surf under the radar.  Using their favourite currency of choice, bitcoin, traders in illegal goods and services are making around $1 million a day.This is substantiated by a recent report by Kyle Soska and Nicolas Christin from Carnegie Mellon University which finds that there is a whole new industry emerging in a Silk Road style.   The top six of these copycat Darknet sites are generating “up to $650,000 daily (averaged over 30-day windows) and are generally stable around $300,000–$500,000 a day, far exceeding what had been previously reported … 35 sellers were observed selling over $1,000,000 worth of product and the top 1% most successful vendors were responsible for 51.5% of all the volume transacted.”

The thing is that authorities are unable to find these guys because of the very technology they invented, ToR.  ToR, or The Onion Router as it is actually defined, The Onion Router (ToR) is a technology developed by the U.S. Navy Research Laboratory in the mid-1990’s to hide communication with the code for ToR released under a free license in 2004.  The technology anonymizes users and allows them to browse the Internet without revealing their identities.  As a result, when a user peruses the web with a ToR-based browser, his or her communications are automatically bounced off of several other ToR servers before they reach their destination. The process makes it almost impossible for anyone to trace the traffic.  This is why it is the domain of human sex traffickers, durg pushers, terrorists, assassins and more with over 200,000 sites to access providing such services and offers.  Anything goes on the Darknet, with the most popular sites including Agora, BlackBank, Alphabay, Cloud-Nine, Evolution, NiceGuy, Pandora, East India Company, and The Pirate Market.  These sites offer anything from sex slaves to child porn to cocaine and heroin to bombs and weapons.

If you want to know more I can highly recommend BatBlue’s report Darknet: The Underground for the Underground, which includes this Infographic that sums it all up.


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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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