Legitimate Uses for the Dark Web

Legitimate Uses for the Dark Web

deep web
deep web

While the mainstream media has pretty much killed the reputation of the dark web, it’s actually not just a place to buy drugs, sex, and hitmen. There are a number of legitimate uses for the dark web, and although the majority of users do indeed use it for illegitimate/criminal purposes, as governments erode our privacy and it becomes harder and harder to protect your personal information online, my gut feeling is that more and more people will turn to using the dark web as a means of improving security/privacy.

The dark web basically consists of websites that purposely don’t want to be seen by popular search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and so on. In fact, they so don’t want to be seen that they limit accessibility, and generally speaking, only people who use TOR (or similar) to browse anonymously are able to access it. TOR is basically software that (from an observers point of view) bounces your location around the globe, across the networks of a huge number of volunteers – this way, governments and authorities can’t properly track who is browsing what sites.

But it’s not only people who want to break laws who might want to use TOR to protect their privacy whilst browsing the dark web. Here’s a quick list of legitimate uses for the Dark Web that you may not have considered.

Dissidents in Authoritarian Regimes

While this kind of activity is technically illegal in many countries, those of us living in the free world can surely get on board with this kind of usage of the Dark Web. By making their websites difficult to find and making its users anonymous, the Dark Web and TOR can help dissidents communicate and organize and decrease the chances that they get shut down and thrown in jail or executed. Surely that’s a good thing.

Weird but not Immoral Books/Writing

There a huge number of book clubs on the Dark Web, where people get together to read controversial works. For example, someone might want to read Lolita – just out of interest – but having a record online of reading Lolita could be troublesome for a lot of people. The Dark Web gives people a opportunity to read controversial works without fearing that others will find out, which could lead to misunderstandings. The same applies to writing – there are plenty of people who like writing erotic fan fiction, for whom anonymity is extremely important. The Dark Web gives these people the privacy they need to pursue their creative ventures without having to worry about being exposed.

Plain Old Message Boards

Don’t forget that anything like the Dark Web starts off as a bunch of tech proficient nerds trying something new. Similar to IRC, and even social media sites like reddit or digg (when they first started), the first people to use any particular technology are typically tech savvy nerds. As such, you can still find a whole bunch of legit message boards, where nothing of particular interest happens, where nerds just talk about nerd stuff. Tech news, cryptocurrencies – everything like that, but nothing particularly objectionable or illegal. Also, one of the advantages of the Dark Web is that the style of web design is typically very basic (Because TOR can be quite slow). As such, message boards on the Dark Web are typically very straightforward, easy to use, and hassle free.

 

 

The Most Popular Cryptocurrencies

The Most Popular Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin

The cryptcurrency world has experienced a lot of upheaval in the last couple of years. We went from obscurity, to being in the limelight, to being the subject of interest (and worry) for governments and financial institutions, to being the subject of a bunch of scandals and bad press, and now we’re pretty much just chugging along. While the press at this point pretty much just shrug off cryptocurrencies as the domain of criminals and tech nerds, we’re now part of the zeitgeist, and it seems likely to me that at some point in the next decade, cryptocurrencies will once again become the center of attention (and perhaps the use of cryptocurrencies will finally be propelled into the sphere of legitimacy).

While the public at large still mostly associates the term cryptocurrency with bitcoin, or BTC, there are actually a number of cryptocurrencies that are rapidly gaining popularity. Each cryptocurrency has its own distinct characteristics. In this post, I’m going to outline a few of the most popular/most widely used cryptocurrencies, and point out some of their strengths and weaknesses.

Bitcoin

Not much to say about this one – it’s by far the most popular and most widely used (and speculated on) cryptocoin out there.

One BTC is currently worth about $250, and the market cap (the total value of all the BTCs in existence) is $3.45 billion USD. It’s the most widely traded, most widely used in transactions, and by far the most famous cryptocurrency option out there. If you’re looking to accept cryptocurrencies in your online store, or you want to get started as a cryptocurrency trader of some sort, it’s probably advisable that you start here.

Ripple

Ripple is not really a cryptocurrency – it’s more of a payment system/payment protocol. Unlike with BTC, every single transaction includes a transaction fee (to both sides), and the transaction fee is not paid to anyone – instead, that amount of Ripple is destroyed in the transaction process. Ripple transactions are also verified/confirmed faster than with Bitcoin. As of right now, the majority of the servers that validate Ripple transactions are owned by Ripple labs, as are most of the units of currency used in the payment protocol (XRP). While it’s a bit difficult to explain, Ripple is basically a cross between something like Paypal and BTC – the technology behind the verification/validation of transactions is similar to BTC, but the way that they use that technology makes Ripple closer to being a payment gateway/portal rather than a true cryptocurrency in its own right.

Ripple has a marketcap of ~275 million USD.

Litecoin

Litecoin is the cryptocurrency with the third highest marketcap. The implementation is extremely similar to BTC, with two exceptions – the ‘blocks’ that are mined by crypto miners get completed much quicker than BTC blocks, and the total maximum number of coins possible is much higher than the equivalent figure for Bitcoin. Litecoin proponents state that the faster block-times of Litecoin make it less likely that people can double-spend their Litecoin, in essence making it more secure.

Litecoin currently has a marketcap of ~ 63 million USD.

Dogecoin

While Dogecoin isn’t the cryptocoin with the 4th highest marketcap, it’s undoubtedly the cryptocurrency who’s users have the most fun. Dogecoin is part genuine cryptocoin, part satire, part enthusiastic circlejerk. It’s often used on nerdier social media sites like reddit to ‘tip’ other users tiny amounts of money, and there are a number of memes that go hand in hand with dogecoin that have perpetuated the internet. It’s interesting to note that, probably because its users don’t take dogecoin super seriously, it actually gets used/transacted rather than just being stored as a form of speculation or investment. It’s certainly a breath of fresh air when compared to some the communities that revolve around other cryptocurrencies.

Dogecoin currently has a marketcap of ~13.5 million USD.

Sheep Market Scam – Welcome

Sheep Market Scam – Welcome

Welcome to sheepmarketscam.com – this site used to exist for one purpose only – to expose the fraud that the now defunct Sheep Marketplace perpetrated on its users. However, that long and bitter saga is now more or less over, and it’s definitely old news, so we decided to try and repurpose this site into a more general news site about cryptocurrencies and tech in general (with a focus on stuff that doesn’t get covered as much – privacy, anonymity, the dark web, etc. )

As a nod to what this site used to be, for our first post, we’ll talk about what happened with the (aptly named) Sheep Marketplace, why we were outraged, and what happened since the marketplace and its owners disappeared into the ether.

The Sheep Marketplace was an online marketplace in the dark web, kind of similar to the now-infamous Silk Road. I don’t need to go over what stuff was bought and sold on this marketplace – if you’re reading this blog post and you haven’t been in a coma for the past 3 years, you’ll have heard of the Silk Road, and Sheep Marketplace was basically pretty similar to it.

Basically, after Silk Road got shut down for the first time, Sheep Marketplace popped up, and a lot of users migrated over. All was well for a while – the number of users grew, transactions took place, and generally people were happy with the new marketplace. Then, near the end of 2013, the marketplace started acting up. The owners/administrators of the site blocked Vendors (sellers) from withdrawing their bitcoins. Now, with the amount of business that goes on in a large marketplace like this, the amount of bitcoins that were blocked built up pretty quickly. People started getting worried and asking questions.

Then, all of a sudden, the forums (where a lot of the question asking and discussion was taking place) was shut down. A few days later, the entire marketplace was closed. There was a note left on the site, explaining that the missing BTC was stolen by a Vendor who found an exploit in the site. Both buyers and Vendors who use the marketplace didn’t believe this explanation.

When the marketplace shut down, vendors and buyers lost about 96k btc in aggregate (at the time, this added up to more than 100million USD) – probably one of the largest web related heists/scams ever. A number of reddit users then attempted to track down exactly where the money went – and this went on for a while, like a high speed car chase through the tubes of the internet. We’re unsure what eventually happened, or whether or not the scammer was caught or not. What we will say is that a lot of people who participated in the marketplace dealt in illegal and illicit goods – and our guess is that it’s not entirely wise to go and piss of an entire marketplace full of people who are, by the very definition of the word, criminals.

So, that’s the history of the site. From now on, we’re going to move forward. Stay tuned for all the latest news on the dark web, crypto currencies, and tech in general.

If you want to read a play-by-play of what happened with Sheep market, go read this article