This is our first article in a guided series about how to navigate and operate in the dark web while being secure and anonymous. There are a lot of different aspects to this so we will be splitting up the content by different categories. In this first part we focus on basic structures of the dark web, how to find good markets and shops and some general guidelines for accessing dark web markets.
Before you get started
If you plan to regularly buy or sell on the dark web you should consider a dedicated system (like a notebook set aside for this purpose only), do not mix it with any activities that would expose your identity. Treat your dedicated system like a work-system: Only install the software necessary for your operations do not install anything for entertainment or other purposes. Subsequently, resist the urge to browse Twitter, Reddit or any other social media sites while you have downtime. For this always use your regular system.
For additional system security, we recommend you run a secure operating system like Tails or Whonix on your dedicated system for dark web activities. We also recommend using a VPN as an additional security measure since TOR will only anonymize your browsing sessions but not other traffic. Especially when using any public WiFi hotspots you should always use a VPN when accessing the Internet since you don’t know whether the access point is compromised. A VPN ensures that all of your traffic, no matter what application, will always be strongly encrypted when passing the access point, this protecting yourself not only from eavesdropping but also possible identity theft.
The Different Types of Dark Web Sites
Apart from some niche sites, most dark web sites for buying, selling and trading goods fall into three different categories: Marketplaces, Vendor Shops and Card Shops. Depending on the type of product you want to sell or buy, each of these types have different advantages and disadvantages. Let us break them down.
Dark web markets are the oldest and most known types of sites: Silk Road was the first dark web market and many successful ones came after it. Currently, the most popular Dark web markets are Vice City Market, DarkFox Market and Alphabay. These types of sites are generic platforms that offer anyone to sell their products on their site. A good dark web market provides additional services such as security guarantees for buyers and sellers like an escrow system which ensures that the seller is only paid after the buyer has confirmed the delivery of the product.
Dark web markets have the advantage that a lot of different sellers offer their products in a central place. This means that dark web marketplaces usually offer the widest variety of different products. On the other hand, some vendors avoid using market sites because they do not want to pay any commission and rather set up their own site for distribution – a vendor shop (see below).
As previously mentioned, some vendors prefer setting up their own site to exclusively sell their own products. This is very common for drug specific products. The most popular vendor shops are often Cannabis related, for instance WeAreAmsterdam or SmokersCo. But there are also other types of vendor shops that offer different types of products. Generally speaking, the advantage of vendor shops is that the products are generally cheaper than on marketplaces.
The obvious disadvantage of vendor shops is that the product portfolio is typically quite limited compared to a full blown market place. But on the flip side you can find offers in vendor shops that you won’t find anywhere else – and often for a much cheaper price because the vendor does not have to pay any commission to a market place.
For a full list of currently active Dark web vendor shops, check out or vendor shop index site.
The third category is somewhat unusual because it contains both marketplaces and vendor shops but they are all specialized on on product category only: Credit Cards. Buying and selling credit cards occupies a fair amount of marketplaces and vendor shops because it is a rather simple way of acquiring purchasing power for services and certain products bought from the internet.
Many of these card shops and marketplaces not only offer credit card dumps but also other types of cars like amazon or steam gift cards or even Paypal accounts. Since there are so many different shops and markets that specialize on credit cards, it makes sense to sort them into their own category. Currently the most popular card shops are Real and Rare Card Shop, EuroDollars and SwipeStore Card shop.
For a full list of currently active card shops visit our card shop index site.
This summarizes the quick overview of different dark web market sites and shops. In the next part we will focus on more detailed steps and tools on how to efficiently and securly operate in the dark web as a buyer, so stay tuned.