For this article we looked into 10 of the most notorious, shocking or otherwise remarkable occurrences on the dark web. As such, after extensive research, we present to you the following list of the 10 most notorious dark web cases:
- No Love Deep Web: a former alternate reality game in the form of a deep net treasure hunt to promote a hip hop album by the same name.
- Evite Blackmailing: A huge data breach which compromised the personal information of 10 million Evite (a social planning website) users in 2019.
- The rise and fall of Silk Road: Silk Road, which was shutdown in 2013, was a sinister market place on the dark web where customers could purchase anything from weapons, to drugs to other illegal items and content.
- The popularity of Steakandcheese: a website which shows very graphically violent and gruesome videos.
- The Hidden Wiki and its charting of the dark web: The Hidden Wiki (founded in 2007) was the first site which successfully started organizing and collecting populair dark web links, a real milestone for the dark web.
- The egregious case of Peter Scully: Peter Scully is serving a life sentence because he was found guilty of acts of torture, murder and sexual assault against minors, which he recorded and shared on the dark web.
- Hieu Ming’s capture: Hieu Ming used the dark web to commit various instances of identity theft and different kinds of fraud, for which he was apprehended and convicted to 6 years in jail in 2013.
- The hitmen scams: There are a large number of hitman for hire services to be found on the dark web. Many of these have been proven to be fake, fortunately.
- Julian Assange and his ongoing incarceration: Julian Assange is the founder of whistle blower platform Wikileaks. He’s been finding himself in some form of legal quarries from 2010 onwards.
- Edward Snowden: Edward Snowden is without a doubt one of the, if not the most notorious whistleblower ever. The former CIA and NSA employee revealed a lot of classified information on population surveillance.
Read our full article down below for extensive information on all of these notorious dark web cases.
The dark web is a fascinating place. It can be dangerous at times, yes, but it is a fascinating place nonetheless. It’s got everything from black markets to shady chat rooms and even the odd chess platform.
In this article we’ll dive into the dark web and talk about the 10 most notorious cases and occurrences it has seen. While we promise some fun and interesting stories, keep in mind: this is the dark web, so we’ll inevitably touch on more sensitive subjects. Reader discretion is advised.
What is The Dark Web?
The dark web is an unregulated part of the internet. We’re talking about webpages and domains that cannot be accessed with a regular browser, and that are never indexed by Google. Most users use the special Tor browser to access the dark web. Basically, it’s a somewhat hidden part of the internet.
If you’re new to this term, we recommend reading our article on the dark web. It’ll tell you everything you need to know, like:
- The difference between the dark web and the deep web
- Why the dark web was created in the first place
- Whether the dark web is legal or not
- How to access the dark web
And a ton of other stuff. For this article, however, we’re assuming you know a thing or two about the dark web, so we’ll get right into the 10 most notorious cases on the dark web.
10 Notorious Cases on The Dark Web
The dark web is often seen as a…well, a dark place, with a lot of illegal and gruesome activities taking place. However, that’s not the only kind of stuff that takes place on the dark web. After all, Tor’s network of sites includes platforms for whistleblower support, open discussion forums and even some funny websites.
Nonetheless, the infamous red rooms and snuff films are very real, even if there are fake ones making the rounds. There are some truly dark activities taking place on the dark web. Consider this a trigger warning – this list includes some horrifying incidents, so we suggest you skip numbers 4, 6 and 7 if you’re faint of heart, or suffering from any type of anxiety or stress disorder.
1 No Love Deep Web
Back in August of 2012, visitors on the dark web could find clues scattered on the network that led them through a fascinating alternate reality game. Much like Cicada 3031’s 4chan game, the clues led regular users through an array of clever clues set-up like a treasure hunt.
The game employed a lot of encryption means to hide its hints, including the famous Caesar cipher, QR codes, morse code and a lot of other similar encryption methods. All of the clues were spread around dark web sites, and one participant recounts the experience as quite thrilling:
“I was a part of the No Love Deep Web Alternate Reality Game where we had to do a deepnet scavenger hunt which culminated in me driving to New York to answer a pay phone at 3:00AM. That was cool.”
So what was going on? Well, it wasn’t a secret government agency recruiting new members, and it wasn’t a feat of a group of cybercriminals. Rather, the game was created by experimental hip hop group Death Grips to promote their new album, No Love Deep Web.
Perhaps that’s not what Seth Godin meant when he said “This is Marketing”. But we view it as an ingenious idea nonetheless.
2 Evite blackmailing
We’re at the second entry on our list, and we’re already discussing illegal activities taking place on the dark web. In 2019, Evite, a successful social planning service, experienced a massive security breach that compromised the personal information (home addresses, passwords and users’ IP addresses) of more than 10 million Evite users.
Evite is a big platform, so the safety and privacy of its members is important to them. Endangering the privacy of said 10 million customers doesn’t sound like something anyone would want (apart from those who want to exploit the security breach).
As it turns out, the hacker that set the breach in motion, Gnosticplayers, didn’t release any information to the public. Rather, he contacted Evite and asked for a mere $1900 in Bitcoin. That’s an extremely small amount, as data breaches of this size can cost companies millions of dollars in settlements.
For some reason, Evite didn’t pay, and the hacker actually started selling people’s information on the dark web for a short period of time in the summer of 2019. The market he was selling it on then got shut down. We haven’t heard of any developments to this story ever since. Regardless of how this story ended, the stealing and selling of personal data on the dark web is always horrendous for all victims involved. However, this will be the only data theft-related entry on our list, since we’re getting into the more… “police show” stuff now.
3 The rise and fall of Silk Road
Silk Road reportedly facilitated the sale of narcotics amounting to 1.2 billion dollars throughout its existence. In its heyday, it grossed Ross Ulbricht, its creator, $3.6 million.
The platform was a literal dark market, with ”merchants” offering their products just like they would on eBay or Amazon. Users of this dark web market were always a few clicks and Bitcoins away from guns, drugs or other illegal products and illegal content.
But the Government wasn’t idle. In 2013 Ross was apprehended and sentenced to life in prison for the operation. However, similar platforms called Agora or Silk Road 2.0 are still around the dark web, going strong.
4 The popularity of Steakandcheese
And now we get to the more gruesome parts of the dark web. Steakandcheese or Rotten are websites where users can watch very graphic violent and gruesome videos. Just the fact that these platforms are still (reportedly) up and running, and growing in popularity shows a darker side of this part of the internet.
And it stands to show the kind of things you’re bound to encounter on the dark web if you don’t proceed with care. A good rule of thumb is to never click on a link unless you know where it leads.
However, the interesting thing about Steakandcheese is that this was actually a website indexed by Google for a long time. Back in the late 2000s, people could actually access websites that featured gorey videos on the surface web. Fortunately, Steakandcheese is no longer available through Google, but the fact that these websites found a place on the dark web shows that there are a lot of things normal people want to avoid when browsing the dark web.
5 The Hidden Wiki and its charting of the dark web
Navigating the dark web is not as easy as browsing the regular internet. There’s no search engine to index all the URLs out there, and if you’re looking for something less popular you’ll usually have to get a link from someone.
This was true for all navigation on the dark web, at least before The Hidden Wiki showed up.
The hidden wiki is a collection of popular sites on the dark web, and it significantly improved navigation of the dark web. Seeing as this part of the internet is also used to help whistleblowers seek help and provide free information to oppressed peoples, this event marked an important step forward for the dark web.
The site was first published back in 2007, but it only gained prominence in the early 2010s, when more people started accessing the dark web. If this sounds interesting, you can read our article on dark web websites worth visiting.
6 The egregious case of Peter Scully
Peter Scully is a terrifying character and his story is bound to send some chills down your spine. Peter is an Australian man currently serving a life sentence in the Philippines after being convicted of human trafficking and rape by sexual assault against minors. He is also on trial for dissemination of child pornography, torture and murder. He did all of the aforementioned things, recorded these acts, and uploaded these recordings on the dark web.
What Peter did is horrible, and we were hesitant about including him on this list. However, what he did is one of the most notorious cases on the dark web and as such we had to include it on our list. It also has a somewhat reassuring ending. While what he did remains an atrocity, Peter Scully was apprehended and he’s no longer a threat to anyone.
7 Hieu Ming’s capture
Hieu Ming is an international criminal who orchestrated massive identity thefts, wire frauds and device frauds over the dark web. He made almost $2 million from these endeavors back in 2012, but the US Secret Service caught onto him.
In 2013, he was tricked to come to the US for a business deal promising huge amounts of personal and financial data for him to sell on the dark web. Unfortunately for him, there was no lucrative business in the US, since the “partner” waiting in the US was actually an undercover agent who apprehended him.
He spent 6 years in prison and was released at the end of 2019. We hope he learned his lesson and won’t end up in the same dangerous and illegal business again.
8 The hitmen scams
The dark web is notorious for featuring tons of hitmen for hire sites. Considering the dark web’s image, a lot of people bought into the idea that they could actually have someone killed by paying large amounts of money in Bitcoin to someone on the dark web.
There are a lot of stories going around reddit about people “getting rid of their problems” with hitmen hired on the dark web, and if you access the dark web yourself you can find a hitman service with a little bit of research.
There’s even a reddit story about a person who presumably hired a hitman on himself, to have some fun. The story is captivating, we’ll give him that. Nevertheless, to many it won’t come as a surprise these hitmen services generally (and fortunately) aren’t very legitimate.
And if you needed confirmation that everything about this seems a bit sketchy, The New York Times researched this interesting niche of the dark web and found that it was all a scam. The “hitmen” services would take the money, and then they’d ghost the buyers. And we dare say that’s for the better.
9 Julian Assange and his ongoing incarceration
Wikileaks is a famous online platform where classified documents and state secrets get published on a regular basis. The platform itself isn’t on the dark web; it’s actually available for anyone to see here on the surface web. Throughout its 14 years of activity, Wikileaks published secret information pertaining to the Iraq War, the 2016 presidential election in the United States, and thousands of pages of confidential communication between US diplomats.
However, Wikileaks sends and receives this classified information over the dark web. Among the platforms they use to communicate securely is SecureDrop, a website managed by the Freedom of The Press Foundation. We actually discuss SecureDrop in one of our other deep web articles, Dark Web Websites Worth Visiting.
As you can guess, the US government didn’t take kindly to its secrets being revealed to the public. Back in 2010 Julian Assange, the owner and publisher of Wikileaks, had an international warrant put out on his name for allegations of sexual assault. He took refuge in Ecuador’s Embassy in London, where he lived until 2019.
But last year, he had a run-in with Ecuadorian authorities and he was evicted from the premises. The US and Swedish government dropped their charges against Assange the same year, but he was then arrested and jailed in the UK for breaching the Bail Act. He was only sentenced to 50 weeks in prison. However, the US is preparing a case to prosecute him under the Espionage Act of 1917. Right now he’s in prison, awaiting trial.
10 Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden is a former NSA and CIA employee who became a whistleblower in 2013. Snowden made a lot of classified information about population surveillance public. He swiftly fled the US and was en route to an unknown country in Latin America when his passport was revoked while in Transit in Moscow. He filed for political asylum with the Russian government and has been living there ever since.
What Edward Snowden did remains extremely controversial to this day, but his actions undoubtedly brought the topic of population surveillance to the forefront of civic dialogue. Snowden is living proof of what governments do behind closed doors, and the lengths they’ll go to when they want to prevent that information from leaking to the public. He’s also a catalyst to promote the importance of freedom and privacy of each individual. He was able to show that, at least in the US, people’s private lives are not always that private, and that the government could be scooping into what you’re doing at any time.
He did all of this, in part, using the dark web. Back in 2013, he shared documents and details outlining the PRISM surveillance programme over the dark web, with journalists from The Washington Post and The Guardian.
Staying Safe on The Dark Web
If these cases have made you curious enough to access the dark web, we won’t advise you against it. It’s an interesting experience, and there’s nothing illegal about it.
However, we will advise you to be cautious and take some safety measures before downloading the Tor Browser and diving into the unknown. Besides not sharing any personal information with anyone and not clicking on random links without knowing where they lead, there are other things you can do to stay safe out there.
Second, make sure you use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to hide your IP address. A VPN will encrypt your traffic and make it seem like you’re browsing out of a completely different location. We recommend you choose ExpressVPN, as it’s a reliable and very secure VPN.
- Very easy to use VPN
- Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
- 3000+ servers in 94 countries
The dark web can sometimes be brutal and terrifying. But it can also be funny, interesting and exciting for the right reasons. We hope these 10 notorious cases on the dark web shed some light on what’s going on there. Their diversity is representative of what the dark web has in store for any user.
Oh and if you choose to venture out there… take care!
We have a lot of articles about the dark web and its intricacies. Here are some of the most common questions we get asked about this topic:
Accessing the dark web is not illegal in and of itself, but it is true that there are a lot of illegal activities going on there. That’s why we recommend only browsing the dark net with the right safety precautions in place. Read more about this in our article on how to get on the dark web.
No, as far as research shows, hitmen cannot be hired over the dark web. While there are a lot of sites advertising such services, all of them have been proven to be scams. You can read more about this in our article on the 10 most notorious cases on the dark web.