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Diving into Russia's Deep Web


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The liberal Russian news website Meduza has an in-depth report by Daniil Turovsky on the Russian-speaking Deep Web, where users trade everything from drugs to libertarian ideas. The piece includes several fascinating and illuminating stories, including one about a mild-mannered gentlemen who makes extra cash by selling souped-up firearms on the Deep Web, and a hacker who creates identities from whole cloth. Here’s an excerpt:

Despite these cases, the people in the Russian-speaking Deep Web view attempts by the Russian security services to infiltrate their milieu with skepticism. “Everyone in the forum laughed,” says Nikkon, about the stated MVD proposal. “In the United States, they give their institutions ten times more money for the same tasks,” and it’s successful only sometimes. In February 2016, Motherboard reported that researchers at Carnegie Mellon University on a Department of Defense contract apparently managed to de-anonymize some Tor users. In particular, Brian Farrell, the creator of Silk Road’s successor, the website Silk Road 2. He was sentenced to eight years in prison in June 2016.

One of the project managers for Russian-speaking Tor told Meduza that “it’s likely someone from the security services is sitting in Tor, but we haven’t noticed any active operations.” “It looks suspicious if a person takes an unhealthy interest in the identities and affairs of others because it isn’t customary in Tor to ask for more than people are willing to say themselves,” says Nikkon. "The security services are far away from Tor. They still don’t consider it a threat,” Korabas adds. “They are, of course, interested in large stores like Ramp,” the hacker Sleepwalker explains. “But a conflict with them is inevitable as more and more people begin to spill onto Tor. Exciting times are upon us.”

Recently, a few active users suddenly went missing from the Russian-speaking Tor community. “Instances where very interesting guys disappear are sometimes an early sign that something bad has happened to them,” Nikkon says. “On the other hand, other factors explain these incidents and we don’t have reason to suspect the FSB is behind them. We believe we shouldn’t underestimate the enemy, but excessive paranoia makes us skittish.” He refused to specify what he meant by “early signs”: “What I said might affect their fate if by chance something bad really did happen.”

Image via Meduza.