Analysis: The Use of Anonymous Messaging Apps on the Dark Web

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Hacker sitting behind his computer.
Anonymous messaging apps are being used to facilitate offline trade among darknet users, potentially exposing themselves to the possibility of fraud.

The use of messaging applications to send instant messages has made communication not only convenient but also effective.

And as such, more industries—depending on the nature of activities conducted—will adopt a communication app that best suits them.

Currently, there are countless communication apps in existence and their use is dependent on the nature of activity conducted by the user.

The case is no different for darknet users who use certain types of apps to communicate with each other.

To determine which messaging platform is best, features such as security, cost and availability are put into consideration by an individual, organization and other large entities.

For darknet markets, different types of anonymous applications having unique features have been created over the years to offer maximum encryption and absolute anonymity for those who are using it.

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However, for people to communicate they all need to use a tool from the same developer because different apps are not compatible with one another.

The Use of Anonymous Messaging Apps on the Dark Web

There are slightly less than a dozen well-known applications used by dark web users in their daily activities.

The case is evident because some of the darknet markets and forums have the option of users inserting their username or contact information depending on the messaging platform they use. In most cases, it is optional, but in others, one must provide their alias.

The fact that some communication apps are not very well known does not mean they do not provide excellent services.

But contrary, they may offer one of the best services, but what makes them not a preference for the majority of dark web users is the high cost. Often, a high percentage of users cannot all afford them all.

In a majority of cases, those who engage in selling are fond of leaving their alias on the vendor profiles for their customers to reach out to them in the event of any query on purchases.

Also, some of the markets and forums have a support section where their details on specific messaging platforms can be found so that in case of anything, the clients can get assistance in the shortest time possible.

How the Apps Are Shaping the Way Business Is Conducted

Since the early days of darknet markets, people would log in to a specific marketplace and buy goods with Bitcoin.

However, the integration of other digital tokens in marketplaces in the recent months has enabled individuals to have a wide variety of option when making payments.

Man typing on a laptop .
After the first purchase, the buyer may proceed and acquire more goods and services from the same vendor, and in the process, an element of trust is established between the two parties.

So what happens is that a person who is interested in acquiring a particular good or service from a hidden site will log in to the website, select a product, choose a payment option and facilitate the payments.

A point to note is that there are many ways of getting scammed, and thus is the need to use the site’s escrow system where the buyer should place a No-Finalize Early (FE) as a precautionary measure of preventing fraud.

After the first purchase, the buyer may proceed and acquire more goods and services from the same vendor, and in the process, an element of trust is established between the two parties.

Since in most cases the vendor tends to leave their contact details on their profile, the buyer can proceed and contact them directly.

In the event the vendor has not left their communication details on their profile, it is common for the buyer to ask them for it and if they indeed use communication apps, then they provide them.

The end effect is that with time, buyers will start making offline communication with the sellers and in the process making offline payments.

When this transpires, the market loses to some extent because it generates commission after every purchase. From this, it is clear why many darknet markets discourage buyers from making offline payments.

Then we have the use of bots to respond to messages and dispatch orders depending on the type of good/service. Since the number of buyers continues to experience an upward trajectory with time, sellers are using bots to simplify things for themselves.

For those who have some skills in programming, they tend to create their own, but for those who do not, they can use the ones already created by others by purchasing depending on how they want it to function.

Of course, a bot with more features tends to go at a higher cost as compared to those with limited functionalities.

Risks Associated with Using Anonymous Messaging Applications

Despite the ease brought about by the apps, there are more risks associated with offline payments, and they are to the disadvantage of the buyer.

The primary risk is the possibility of fraud, which is a common occurrence on the dark web. This happens through the use of applications such as Jabber, Wickr, ICQ and others where vendors request for offline payments.

To make matters worse, they request for payments even before goods are sent or services delivered.

In the end, the sellers end up not delivering what they ordered.

So there is no way the person who made the payments is protected because first, they are dealing with illegal goods; second, there is no escrow; and finally, the buyer knows nothing else about the seller except for their username.

The sad part is that there are always those who will fall victim to scams no matter what transpires. It is like a norm in the business. Without cases of people scammed, then something is definitely wrong since the nature of activities conducted calls for the occurrence of such events.

Then we have companies such as Phantom Secure has been accused of manufacturing devices meant for criminals. In the end, the CEO ended up behind bars and facing legal suits alongside his associates for deliberately designing devices intended for the outlawed community.

What Phantom would do is take Blackberry devices and other smartphones, modify the hardware and software, and further encrypt it by adding excessive security features. By doing so, the messages sent would be beyond the interception of third parties, and in particular, law enforcement personnel.

In the process of manufacturing the devices and selling their services to the organized crime units, users were able to facilitate illegal deals and murders without any hindrance.

In the end, the arrest of the company executives and further operations by authorities to bring down the network led to the raid of other people in different part of Australia, the country with the highest number of Phantom users.

Group of friends having fun with their smart phones.
The use of messaging applications to send instant messages has made communication not only convenient but also effective.

Apart from the above-mentioned apps (Wickr, ICQ, and Jabber), there are also other messengers such as Signal, Silent Phone, Telegram, and Silence.

All these apps have unique features which make them a preference to some darknet users.

Among them is security, which includes self-destructing messages, passwords when signing in and end-to-end encryption.

But out of all of these, there are some that stand out as compared to the rest.

Two good examples are Jabber and Telegram, which have gained popularity over the years because of their prime anonymity-centric characteristics.

For example, to have a Jabber account, one does not need to provide their actual details during the registration process and thus making it a perfect choice for users who want to remain anonymous.

Also, Jabber users can enable Off-the-Record messaging by installing and enabling additional plugins.

In addition, Telegram has gained popularity because of its anonymity and lack of executive control.

Even though one is required to verify their phone number in order to use it, the use of apps that provide fake phone numbers has enabled users to use Telegram without giving any real information.

The other thing that has made Telegram a choice for most is the use of bots which can be created by anyone, depending on their programming skills.

Apart from that, there numerous bots up for sale, and the price differs depending on the functionality.

With all these points in mind, it is evident that as long as the apps have their advantages, they also have disadvantages and hence precaution is always the best when dealing with vendors who happen to request for offline payments.



With the urge to know more about everything around us, I am an enthusiast researcher and writer with keen interest in expanding my knowledge in a bid to be well versed. Through writing, I express and share my feelings, ideas, and thoughts for like minded individuals.
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