[Debbie the editor: Sarah has been working on this for a long time- it’s my fault you haven’t seen this great story yet.]
As I mentioned in my CALI conference wrap-up, my favorite presentation was Deborah Ginsberg’s Blocked! What is Blockchain and What Will It Mean for the Future of Law? While explaining blockchains and cryptocurrencies, Ms. Ginsberg mentioned using the Coinbase app to buy some Bitcoin. Long vague on bitcoin, my interest was sparked, and I immediately installed the app and soon became the proud owner of $10.00 of Bitcoin! Instantly my new crypto funds were burning a hole in my pocket, so when she mentioned the dark web, I was struck by a desire to purchase something goofy on the dark web, and to document the goofiness for a blog post. Following some how-to-access-the dark-web-on-Android-phone directions, I installed Orbot and Orfox, the Tor network connection software and the Tor browser for Android phones.
According to Wikipedia, the dark web is a collection of websites only accessible through anonymizing network connection software such as Tor. The most popular content on the dark web is… very dark … followed by black marketplaces. Sooo…black marketplaces it was!
After clicking around the Orfox browser, I arrived at duckduckgo.com, “The search engine that doesn’t track you.” After searching for some items I thought I’d find on in a black marketplace the TRUE dark side of the dark web was revealed…it is extremely slow!! The effort was abandoned for the day… I tried again later and didn’t retrieve much.
My next idea was to find an Amazon-for-contraband site so I consulted a dark web market comparison site. Alphabay was listed first, but the feds soon torpedoed the site. So I moved down the list to another site (I’m not linking to it and it wouldn’t work without a Tor connection and browser).
I was ready to spend some bitcoin on the dark web! Naturally, I wanted something cheap (since it would likely never arrive) and not notably illegal (in case it actually did). Also, I didn’t want to buy something that might add to global misery so I chose something that wasn’t too bad. I poked around for something under $10 that ships to the US and decided upon a non-controlled substance drug… let’s call it Cialis!
With shipping (which I miscalculated – see below), the bitcoin total was 0.00471 (0.00471 = $11.88 on 6/30/2017). I had to re-up my Coinbase coffers since I only had $10.00. I was a bit conflicted about spending my bitcoin, because, what if the value skyrocketed and I had spent it on blueberry erectile dysfunction medicine!? (Postscript – it did!). I transferred my 0.00471 into the ether and was slightly surprised when it actually showed up in my account. When I was checking out, the form had a field for an address but not name so I just entered my address. That made sense because who wants to use their name on the dark web?
Apparently leaving no name is not a thing because when I logged in a few days later to check the status of my order, I got a message from the seller, let’s call her/him Snourette, asking for a name (a bit scary). After responding with something, a few days later I logged in again to discover that my order was canceled because I included the wrong postage amount, somehow selecting EU rather a US as the shipping destination. Sigh… On the bright side, Ms. or Mr. Snourette had refunded my bitcoin!
I placed my order again and several weeks later became the proud owner of a sketchy looking package from one purported European named, well, let’s call her/ him Snarpy Merton. I found that my good friend Snarpy sent me a Hungarian SD card! And, in fact, the Mylar package (this ain’t Snarpy’s first rodeo) did kind of look like it contained an SD card.
Inside was a slightly smushed blister pack of what appeared to be the promised goods (picture slightly obscured using my Snagit skills). It looked legitimate and purported to be from a distributor in South Asia. It wasn’t even expired! I wouldn’t trust it to the level of actually consuming it but the fact that it showed up and appears legitimate counts for something, amirite?
So there it is, a successful dark web transaction!