With so much controversy over gun control and tighter regulations, I wondered how difficult it would be to find a source online where someone could buy a weapon easily and anonymously. Obviously you aren’t going to be able to get them on eBay or Amazon, so I decided to delve into the deep web. If you aren’t familiar, the deep web is the part of the internet that isn’t indexed by Google or any other search engine. You can’t even access the deep web with a standard browser like Chrome or Safari. You have to download a browser called Tor to even be able to browse the sites.
If you’re wondering how deep the deep web goes, according to one study it could be up to 500 times larger than the public internet. With that kind of mass and no indexing it would seem almost impossible to monitor or govern any activity. And that would be the point.
I knew nothing about the deep web going into this other than an occasional mention on a TV show or movie. I’m not a hacker and the most controversial thing I’ve done online is download a Garth Brooks torrent after I scratched my CD and found out it wasn’t on iTunes. (I’ll apologize for a lot of things, but my love of Garth Brooks isn’t one of them.) I downloaded the browser and figured if I could find illegal items and services online, then anyone could. I’m not going to walk you through how to find them because I’d rather not encourage it, but trust me when I say that it so easy, it’s terrifying.
Within minutes of searching I found a site that was more than willing to sell me a handgun with no questions asked. If you think payment is traceable, think again. Everything on the deep web works with bitcoin, which means there’s no paper trail. If you don’t know how to get bitcoin, don’t worry. There are plenty of easy to find sites that will let you buy bitcoin through PayPal, cash, or card. Once it’s purchased there’s no way to tell what it’s used for or where it went, which means completely anonymous transactions whenever you want.
But how far down the rabbit hole can you go if you really spend some time exploring? If a weapon of all things is that easy to get, then what else is at my disposal? Over the next few hours here’s some of what I found.
Counterfeit cash is everywhere and very cheap. You can get over $1,200 in $50 bills for half that cost.
Need a Passport? They’ll even let you pick your name and be entered into the passport database. You can get one for the UK or the US along with a social security number.
If you need a fake identity in the US, this site can print and ship you one for almost any state within 48 hours.
Illegally obtained high-end electronics sell for a fraction of the retail price. If there was anything on the deep web that tempted me, it was a heavily discounted MacBook. But since I’d rather not go to jail for buying stolen goods, I think I’ll pass.
Here’s a site that sells gift cards for up to $2,000 for less than half the price. The sellers explains below how the illegal procedure works:
There’s even a site where you can hire a professional hitman to kill someone for you. Of course there are rules; no one under 16 and no major politicians.
This guy claims to be a jack of all trades and lists off the illegal activities he can do for you if the price is right.
What about drugs? If you’re not looking to murder anyone or change your identity, there’s plenty for you as well. Everything from cannabis, oils, even suppositories are available.
If you’re looking for something a little harder than marijuana, you can order bulk amounts of Quaaludes, Methylphenidate, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, and pretty much any other drug you can think of.
Beyond e-commerce, the deep web is home to forums where hackers and criminals discuss everything you could imagine. One thread I found had a guy inquiring how to cash someone else’s checks because he was in the process of destroying his life:
Beyond financial crimes there were posts like this that were absolutely terrifying.
In one of the posts, one guy let others know that they don’t have to do the work themselves; he’ll do it for them—no matter what the job entails:
While it was horrifying to read, I could handle most of the posts above. It was the next part that will haunt me forever. I wanted to know if these people are for real. Maybe all of this is just talk and no one actually does or sells these things. If there wasn’t rampant child pornography then maybe we could have a glimmer of hope that all of these was just an elaborate rouse. Unfortunately that was not the case. After clicking on a single thread in the forum my questions were answered and clicked away as fast as I possibly could. The requests and the categories were so vile and disgusting that I could hardly bring myself to screenshot even the text.
Within each thread was a plethora of activity and comments that I was too horrified to explore after the first click. I can promise you that it’s real and that it’s full of monsters.
We all talk about privacy and not being monitored online by any sort of governing body, but at what cost does that isolation come? We want privacy when it comes to certain matters, but when things like this come along the first thing we ask is, “Why isn’t the government doing anything about this?” It’s a tricky path that must be navigated carefully, but I think we can agree that something has to change.
Rob is a writer and comedian based in Louisville, KY. Follow @robfee on Twitter.