Oh, Shadow Web – it’s been an interesting few years, hasn’t it? When I first started writing this blog, I wrote a post entitled Is the Shadow Web a Reality? (Updated); at present, it’s still one of my most popular posts!
I received a comment from a reader today asking how to “join” the Shadow Web, and she sounded very genuine about it. I’ll repeat what I said earlier – it’s a scam, definitely. I’m sure of it.
Let’s trace the history of this “shadow web” thing. To my knowledge, it all started with this creepypasta on Reddit: A warning to those thinking about accessing the shadow web.
That was published three years ago, and it spawned all kinds of rumors and urban legends!
Eventually, people also started narrating the story on YouTube, which probably added to its intrigue. While it was a very creepy story, and well written, it was not true. If you listen to the technical details, there’s no way something like that would work (on Tor, at least).
Afterward, someone else wrote a “sequel” to the original, entitled 1) The shadow web is real. 2) Stay the hell away from it. I think it was supposed to be from the point-of-view of a cop, which lent some “credence” to it.
Somewhere along the line, a person on Tor picked up on the popularity of the stories, and decided to create some scam sites that claimed to offer “access” to the Shadow Web, and this is where I first got the idea that it might be real – but boy, was I wrong. This was what the original site looked like, I believe:
I was a n00b to Tor back then, and couldn’t tell the difference between scams and non-scams. We’ve all been there.
So I contacted the “admin” of the Shadow Web, and we had a back-and-forth conversation about it – at the time, his email address was email@example.com. (SIGAINT no longer exists, unfortunately.) It later came to my attention that this had all the features of other scams: pay now, watch later; no information; the details are vague.
The person I talked to claimed that you had to download a “special browser” just for “Shadow Web sites.” I don’t think any such browser exists, to be honest. There are numerous forks of Firefox (the Tor Browser being one of them), and all of them can be used with the clearnet – but sometimes with a proxy of sorts (like Freenet’s FProxy), you can connect to other networks. It would be amusing if the Shadow Web used one called “SProxy.” Someone should make that as a joke.
Anyhow, the admin told me that I had to pay an extravagant amount of bitcoin to gain access to the so-called Shadow Web, which I didn’t have. Ironically, I probably have enough now, but I know better than to pay it. Since then, there have been numerous other “shadow web” sites popping up:
I think it’s the same guy creating all of them, and if I were you, I wouldn’t pay him a cent; it’s all bullshit. As a matter of fact, someone later commented on one of these posts and said that he knew the admin of these sites, and that he was “…a big troll.” Another commenter told me that he had been scammed out of a large amount of bitcoin on another one of the “red room” sites. For me, that confirmed what I had been thinking all along – that these sites were fake. I don’t know if they’ll give you malware or anything like that, but hopefully not.
Nonetheless, if you want to find sick things on the dark web, I don’t think you have to look very far. It’s just a matter of opinion what you consider “sick.”
Well, that’s the last I’d heard about the Shadow Web, but I’m willing to bet that any new sites going by that name are scams too. If you want my advice, don’t pay them any money – you’ll be out several bitcoins, at the very least.