Darknet markets are websites focused on the illegal commerce of goods and services, including drugs, weapons, porn, hacking for hire, and more. The best marketplaces are also the worst, and those are currently AlphaBay, RAMP, and TheRealDeal.
There are tens, if not hundreds, of online black markets up and running in the most obscure corners of the internet. Users typically need to use Tor as a browser to reach the sites, and Bitcoin is the preferred currency.
Darknet markets surged to popularity a long time ago in different ways, but it was not until the Silk Road came online back in 2011 that users saw their real potential. That first platform and others that followed were so popular that new sites use their structure as a template.
AlphaBay: The king of darknet markets
Ever since the disappearance of the Silk Road, myriad alternatives have arisen including Agora, Evolution, and most recently, AlphaBay. Unlike its rivals, AlphaBay has stayed up long enough to claim the throne as the top-rated darknet market out there.
What has made AlphaBay so successful among dark web users is the fact that it is simple to use, and it offers a wide catalog of goods and services. It even features a vendor ranking system based on reviews.
Among the product categories for sale on AlphaBay, you will find drugs and chemicals, counterfeit items, jewels and gold, and weapons on the lighter side of things.
Delve a little bit deeper, and you will find software and malware, guides and tutorials, services, and other listings. The nature of these categories is inherently illegal, although you can also find simple things like video games.
RAMP: A haven for Russians
The Russian Anonymous Marketplace (RAMP) is the oldest platform of this list and all online darknet bazaars.
RAMP’s administrator, who goes by the handle Darkside, claims that their good behavior has kept them out of trouble since its launch in 2012. The market is exclusively used by Russian sellers and buyers, who are between 14,000 and 20,000.
Darkside has imposed a strict regime of no weapons, no child nor regular pornography, no stolen credit cards, no hacking services, and no forged documents on RAMP. Instead, the darknet market’s primary focus is drugs, with a booming business in Moscow.
Some suggest that the site has managed to stay up for these very reasons, as some cyber activism organizations like Anonymous have spared the site from taking it down in the past. Cyber intelligence agents might also be using the market to collect information as they pretend to make business undercover.
TheRealDeal: Digital weapon dealers
TheRealDeal launched a little over two years ago, but it quickly made a name of itself in the darknet market scene for specializing in one thing above all else: zero-day exploits and other kinds of cyber weapons.
The controversial platform was brought up by four partners with long-winded experience in the information security industry. Knowing all the twists and turns of the business, they noticed that other markets like AlphaBay and even the Silk Road during its prime didn’t have much of a market for these products.
The reason behind this is that almost all of them turned out to be scams, and administrators had no way of knowing or controlling these transactions as they occurred. TheRealDeal admins do, and they ran a profitable yet scandalous operation that caught so much mainstream attention that it had to go offline for a few months.
It came back up shortly after, but not without users doubting who’s running the site now. Some say that the whole thing is a sting operation, which has hurt TheRealDeal’s reputation badly. Still, it offers zero-day exploits, code, tutorials, services, information, drugs, and other hacking tools to this day.