Expert on the dark web, investigative journalist, and true crime author I’ve met dark web kingpins in remote prisons and dug deep into child predator forums. I’ve published six books and more than a dozen Casefile podcast episodes.

Hello, Reddit.

I’ve answered a few questions regarding the Dark Web on AskReddit threads that have gone viral, prompting folks to suggest that I perform an AMA. As a result, here I am.

(I’m not making this up; here’s an example.)
Here’s another one:

I’ve been an investigative journalist for a number of different newspapers and magazines, and I’m one of the major freelance authors of scripts for the incredibly wonderful [b]Casefile True Crime podcast[/b] for the better part of 8 years.

I’m the author of six True Crime books (seven if you count the short one, and eight if you count the Polish edition of The Darkest Web) – you can find them all here. Two of them were formally published, while the other four were self-published.

They are not required to be read in any specific order. ‘The Darkest Web’ is the most comprehensive and popular dark web one “”Stalkers” is the most recent one.

Previous jobs have included corporate lawyer in London and skydiving bum for a year in the United States.

AMA about the dark web, real crime writing, journalism, publishing, visiting Bangkok prisons, skydiving, or anything else that comes to mind.

My evidence is here: https://twitter.com/EileenOrmsby/status/1296282657106489351/photo/1

EDIT: Guys, I have 19 requests for direct conversations; please don’t do it; I won’t read or respond to any of them, sorry. I’m willing to answer any questions here for as long as you ask them.

EDIT: As the top commenter pointed out, I’ve failed to sell you anything, so please: BUY MY BOOKS HERE, I’D REALLY APPRECIATE IT.

ANOTHER EDIT I’ve been here for 9 hours and I’m pretty hungry; I’m also still in my pyjamas, so I’m going to get dressed and eat something, then I’ll come back later and attempt to catch up on any questions I’ve missed.

YET ANOTHER EDIT Okay, I’m fed and watered, out of my PJs (not sure why, I just have to get back into them in a few hours), and returning for another round. My little envelope tells me there are another 58 new questions, so please bear with me, and forgive me if I skip some that have been answered more than once in the thread. Here goes. *oooh, came back to someone gave me gold which means

Users, if you have anything to say to the OP that isn’t a question, please respond to this comment with your views, anecdotes, and praises! Respectful replies in this ‘guestbook’ thread will be permitted to remain without being a question.

If you have time after the AMA session, feel free to expand and peruse this thread to see feedback, comments, and praises.

The OP stated that Tor is all that is required to preserve a safe browsing experience, but this is untrue.

Other procedures that should be taken to maintain secure and private browsing include:

The utilisation of a Tor Bridge

Turned on the safest Tor settings

Using a virtual machine

There may be other protocols that are required for a truly private and safe browsing experience that I am unaware of. Additionally, you should be cautious not to copy or paste anything you discover because there are vulnerabilities in the copy/paste protocol, and it goes without saying that you should still be diligent about clearing cache, cookies, and history before using tor on top of keeping webcams covered etc.

To add to this, if you don’t know what you’re doing, installing Tails is your best choice.

You might want to double-check that. I mentioned Tor alone is good for surfing if you’re not doing anything illegal; in actuality, it’s also fine if all you’re doing is buying little amounts of narcotics for personal use.

Okay, fair enough.

I just wanted to add a warning and clarification for anyone who may have assumed that using a Tor browser alone rendered their actions completely untraceable.

But I disagree with your assessment that “Tor alone is fine for browsing if you’re not doing anything illegal.” Mass surveillance is aggressive and overreaching, and you certainly do not have to be doing anything illegal to be considered a “high risk target” or to be put on a “special list,” so to speak. If you are truly concerned about privacy, I would be more cautious than simply using a Tor browser.

Even if it was just for personal use, I would not under any circumstances attempt to purchase drugs through Tor using only the Tor browser and no other additional precautions (like a bridge, virtual machine, and highest security settings). I do not underestimate the racism involved and the willingness of law enforcement to expend mass resources on even the smallest of drug busts. It may be a slim possibility of risk, but it is a very non-zero probability.

Just because they haven’t previously cracked down on such an offence doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. I also believe there are issues of “Kompromat” in terms of higher profile individuals. If you’re a politician and you visit a gay porn website? That may be enough compromising information for a conceited attack to gain that information.

I’m only raising awareness of the dangers of surveillance technologies we don’t yet know about; there is certainly widespread malware being installed into computers to permit covert monitoring of persons.

My worry is with information freedom: if you visit Wikileaks or are skilled enough in computer science to analyse the filings in Vault7, I believe it is more than enough suspicious intent for corporations to waste money determining if you have ulterior goals.

I’ll say it doesn’t take much to be placed on “a list.”

That’s understandable, and I work in a world where many people share your opinions and attitudes (for good cause), but my AMA was geared more at the average Joe.

I enjoy the lively response:)

Thank you for performing this AMA; I’d love to see you collaborate with someone who has an advanced CS degree and research more of these “hacker communities” on the dark web.

I’m becoming increasingly concerned about the level of secrecy within these organisations. Cyber security is the most immediate threat to our national security, and it doesn’t take much to leapfrog over pre-existing technologies. Some of the most damaging vulnerabilities have been discovered by 16-year-olds in their bedrooms.

I am afraid that there are Russian state-sponsored projects aimed at uncovering cyber security holes in American infrastructure, such as hacking systems that still utilise Windows 95, Windows XP, and so on.

generating plants,

water treatment plants,

polling places,

government communication security,

All of these items rely on obsolete infrastructures, making it simple for a conceited effort to hack into a power plant, for example, and switch off the power, posing a serious national security concern.

As far back as 2012, there were concerns about assassination attempts made by hacking into the onboard systems of even non-electric vehicles; all that is required is a proximity of close to 25 feet (according to my understanding of the most recent white paper I read on the subject). Remote deactivation and control may be more possible now? I’m not sure.

The same can be said for pacemakers: they make for an extremely covert assassination method. It’s not like our government isn’t exploiting these vulnerabilities. Having read through Vault7 myself, and having a background in CS from Stanford, I can tell you that there’s a lot of scary shit in there. And those documents are a generation old by this point.

These very secret internet networks of hackers are something that worries me; there are white top hackers who sincerely want to do good and fight back…but there are also plenty of black top hackers.

I have no doubt that the Russian government is funding (either decentralised or centralised) groups of hackers. We already have overwhelming evidence from central intelligence indicating that they are attempting to interfere with public elections, but I believe that gets dismissed as “trolls” online. It’s much more than that: social engineering plays a huge role, but I am certain there are efforts being made to find vulnerabilities within the infected systems.

I’d love to hear more about your exploits into these very “secret” hacker communities, which are undoubtedly replete with fraud and credit card hacking, but if there is any connection between this behaviour and state-sanctioned funding—all bets are off as to what could be happening.

My understanding is that even the federal government’s public/private encryption keys have already had the prime number solutions solved (it was part of the report in Vault7), which essentially means that anything built using those suggested public keys for encryption is an open door. There’s a lot to unpack, but I’d love to hear more about this from an insider’s perspective.

Hello, Eileen! I’m too late for the discussion, but I hope you read my comment. (Forget the new account; I’ve been on reddit back and forth for 6 years, but lost passwords for my old account.)

I saw that you can’t access Russian communities because you don’t speak Russian and won’t employ a translator, so I figured you’d be interested in a free translator (myself, of course), as I am a native speaker (Russian, Ukrainian).

I apologise for not being able to read the entire post; perhaps someone has already supplied you their translation.

So, yeah, if you ever need a Russian speaker, I’m available.

I just wanted to let you know that I listen to a lot of true crime (and other) podcasts, and I think Casefile is the best made, best researched, and highest quality one out there; I look forwards to it every week, even if it’s always dark. Please pass that along to the host, and thank you for your hard work in making it so.

I wish I knew how to negative the dark web; I’ve tried several times but have only found a few link lists that are generally out of current.

On the clearnet, you may discover lists of sites, albeit some of them are links to false versions of the actual sites; I believe there’s a “search engine” of some sort, but its capabilities are limited due to the nature of tor.

Yeah, most of the lists I’ve discovered are out of current, and I’ve had little luck using search engines as well. I guess I don’t understand how the people who produce the lists get the sites in the first place.

I just wanted to say how much I appreciate the way Casefile is researched and reported; it’s one of the few true crime podcasts out there that doesn’t offer commentary, opinions, or make jokes about crimes and victims; it’s probably the most respectful one I’ve heard and it’s a breath of fresh air, thank you!

That CASEFILE episode on Silk Road was incredible; it was extremely well researched and written; I can’t wait to read any of your books!

Hey, a non-promotional AMA; just by doing that, you’ve become one of my favourites, in addition to the content and how you carry yourself. From one internet stranger to another: keep up the good work.

I saw a comment of yours on another post about the dark web a couple months ago and looked you up on Amazon so I could add you to my wishlist; I now get notifications about you all the time, and I’m really excited to read through this AMA and eventually buy some of your books. I’m a full-time student, work 50-60 hours per week, and have an infant and pre-teen… so I don’t have any time for myself, which is why I

I travelled similar places in conjunction with information sent to me by UIUC about bestiality for book 6 of my own series. I was doing it for a subplot in a fictional police procedural, not the main focus of a book, so I probably didn’t spend anywhere near the same amount of time on it. Hoo boy. There’s a lot of overlap between these two subjects. It’s like… once people decide to cross a certain line they cross all the lines.

I put off writing for two years.

I just wanted to express how much I enjoy it when someone does an AMA without attempting to sell something. I know the OP indicated they have some published books, but that didn’t seem to be the motivation for the AMA, which I appreciated.

Have you ever been into legal trouble because you were exploring the dark corners of the internet? For example, “sorry, officer, I was only surfing drug markets and child molester forums for my next journalism piece…”

Do you have concerns about this, and do you need to take further precautions to safeguard yourself?

You’ll hear stories about how easy it is to “stumble upon” child porn, but the truth is that those sites usually have names like “Preteen cuties” so you know exactly what they are, and in order to access them you have to register, so you have to make a very deliberate choice to log into them. I have no interest whatsoever in viewing any child abuse material, so I don’t go into those places.

Surfing and searching around for drugs, guns, and other contraband is not unlawful.

Every time I visit the United States, I am a little worried, especially after being asked to a “friendly” lunch with Homeland Security (it was reasonably friendly as it turns out, it was also terrifying)

Hello there! This has been a great read; thank you for sharing!

I’m curious: why do you think so many people who don’t want to engage in repulsive and illegal content like hurtcore find it so attractive to read about? Do you have any insight into your viewership and the ethics linked with reading about such topics?

I believe that morbid fascination with the dark is extremely common – just look at how many people can’t get enough of serial killers! In some ways, it’s probably a self-defense mechanism – the vast majority of true-crime readers are women. We like to be armed with knowledge, but we also like to be scared.

In terms of my books, I don’t delve too much gruesome detail, but the terror still comes through.

Have you been exposed to anything in your investigations that has made you question what you do, and if so, what has kept you coming back?

I’ve definitely had days where I question everything, but to be honest, I don’t spend much time in the dreadful, really dark places; I did go into the child predator forums while writing The Darkest Web, but I don’t go there on a regular basis; the psychonauts are much more welcoming.

What are some of the most common non-shady and nefarious uses of the dark web?

We may be getting into semantics here, but individuals use Tor, the most popular darknet used to access the dark web, for private surfing and to ensure that commercial interests aren’t following them around to bombard them with adverts for something they looked up.

Some news companies have a dark web presence so that whistleblowers can safely upload material, and even the CIA has a site on the dark web where people can anonymously tip off national security problems.

Aside from that, there are forums where you don’t have to worry about every foolish thing you post being preserved in perpetuity, to be brought out years later when you run for congress or something.

My university/hospital uses Tor and basic encryption technologies to communicate patient data between doctors, researchers, and others who aren’t on the hospital’s database network, and I know many other parts of my university do as well.

It’s simply safe.

How do you distance yourself from your work? I’m an investigator for a law firm, and I’ve recently had a lot of challenging work on wrongful death cases. Also, how did you originally wind up becoming published? Do you have any recommendations for others interested in that field?

I don’t dissociate. Researching hurtcore was horrible and severely affected me; writing that section of the book was a hard process since I couldn’t be in that headspace for very long at a time; once the book was finished, I didn’t go back there.

When I pitched my book on Silk Road, I already had a reputation as a blogger and a freelance journalist. I got an agent, and it was auctioned off, with Pan MacMillan getting the rights. At the time, Silk Road was still going strong, and the book I wrote was about this new frontier of drug dealing that was changing the world. I was writing it “from the inside” because I had been an active member of the community for two years.

Was there ever something on the dark web that startled you (in a good way) and made you smile?

I became intrigued with the forums, the people behind it, the educated talk about the War on Drugs and philosophy back in the day of the original Silk Road; I found it humorous that drug sellers staged sales and giveaways; there were book clubs and movie clubs.

Dr. Fernando Cauevilla, who became a member of Silk Road as “DoctorX,” was a real doctor who provided genuine, free, non-judgmental advise about drug usage to the site’s members at the time.

Did you ever write about Brian Farrell and his role in Silk Road 2.0? I was Brian’s cellmate at Sheridan Federal Prison for the entire year of 2017 and heard all of his insane stories; I was simply curious about the veracity of them all.

DoctorClu! I did write briefly about him in Silk Road, but it wasn’t all positive. I remember being frustrated by the shitshow that was Silk Road 2.0 in the beginning, right after SR1 shut down and when DPR2 took off and Defcon got all dramatic. It settled down after a bit and lasted a year, when it was revealed THEY HAD A FUCKING UNDERCOVER HOMELAND SECURITY OFFICER ON STAFF THE WHOLE TIME

Well, one thing I can say about Brian Farrell aka “DoctorClu” is that he definitely made my year in Federal Prison fly by. He, along with two other guys I met there, became my closest friends while I was there, and the four of us would spend every waking minute playing board games, watching movies, and playing softball or pickle ball. (I have a photo of the four of us that I’ll figure out how to attach shortly.)

This should get some attention because it’s quite interesting; can you share any experiences from when you were cellmates?

What are some of the best aspects of the dark web, and can anyone access it? What can you buy that you couldn’t ordinarily buy online?

I particularly appreciate the psychonaut forums, where folks who like to trip on psychedelics get together to chat drugs and philosophy, and there’s a real “be kind to one another” atmosphere.

Getting on the black web is simple, but not getting scammed while buying stuff requires extensive research. While you may buy almost anything, the most popular items are drugs and digital goods, which rely on repeat business and are easily transferrable from seller to buyer.

You don’t appear to be pushing your most recent project, and you’re really answering all of the questions people ask, so I have to ask…are you some type of government plant meant to destabilise reddit?

lol I’m a genuine redditor from way back, and I love talking about what I do. I did notice that after answering a question in an AskReddit post that blew up a while back, the sales followed, but that was organic, and I don’t think you can push it – Reddit can spot that a mile away.

What do you mean by “safe” in the context of the internet (both the www and the dark web), and are there any precautions I should take to keep myself safe?

Tor, the darknet that enables access to the dark web, will keep you safe from prying eyes and surveillance, but it actually depends on what YOU understand by safe.

If you mean keep your information safe, the old-fashioned advice is to never reuse your password and to enable 2-Factor authentication wherever possible. Your information is very likely on the dark web as a result of high-profile hacks of major organisations, but as long as you don’t re-use usernames and passwords, you shouldn’t have to worry too much.

The best way to protect yourself and/or any child safe from predators is to be educated about the techniques and methods they utilise.

I understand that law enforcement must go into the predator side of the dark web; do you believe it should be mandatory or an industry standard for law enforcement officers to get expert help? I couldn’t imagine examining it regularly and not thinking less of humanity at some point.

I’m very sure they do; I used to work for Legal Aid, and I remember there were some pretty tight guidelines for lawyers who had to represent child abusers.

When I was at the trial for Lux, the owner of Hurt2theCore, I met a cop whose job it was to watch all the videos and befriend the predators in an attempt to get them to slip up and reveal something about themselves. She said she had a little filing cabinet in her brain where she kept all that stuff, and that making an arrest made it all worthwhile. She had made several arrests personally.

I know that police officers in the UK can only do that type of job for a limited time before undergoing mental health exams and counselling before continuing in that capacity or moving on to another, but I’m not sure if it’s the same in other countries.

What do people discuss in child predator forums? Do they give each other tips on how to enhance their craft?

They literally give each other advice on how to avoid being caught, how to cut out incriminating facts in films, how to drug youngsters, tactics for convincing minors not to tell, and so on.

Richard Huckle was the creator of the Pedo Points scoring system.

In prison, he was recently stabbed to death.

Hello, Eileen:) My question is about how you build your Casefile episodes – I’m assuming there’s a lot of outlining, but do you write the final draught like a script, specifically thinking about his voice? And how long are they in terms of – for example – does one hour equal 50-60 pages?

I write them as if they were articles or books, but then I go back and edit them to be read aloud, and yes, I do have his voice in my head when I do that lol. One episode is usually around 12,000 words, and it then goes to another editor, who edits the episode to be even more concise “Casefileaa’ before it is finally delivered to Casey

Is there anything in particular that worries you about the dark web? Some of the things that have already been mentioned are beyond barbaric, and that is just what has been discovered and picked up by the media and your amazing job.

Do you believe the public should expect greater and more awful revelations from the dark web, or is it just “more of the same,” for lack of a better term, and do you believe authorities are getting better at closing down this inhumanity and apprehending those responsible?

honestly believe that purchasing drugs from darknet markets is a safer and more prudent alternative than purchasing them from the shady dealer down the street The dark web, on the other hand, has created a venue for child predators to find each other and form groups where they support and egg each other on. Consider how, a few years ago, someone who was into hurtcore could never tell anyone else and was unlikely to ever meet another person who shared their perversions. It is now as simple as finding the appropriate site on the dark web. When hundreds of people suddenly think and act in the same way, it normalises what they are doing.

Matthew Falder, one of those apprehended, was a sadist who used to crowdsource “ideas” for torturing the children and teens he blackmailed into performing awful things for him online. But he appeared to be a “regular” intelligent popular guy.

How many times have you approached law enforcement with information, and how many of those encounters resulted in action? and… Is there ever a time when you know something sinister is going on but history and evidence tell you it’s not worth the effort?

It’s pointless to approach law police and say, “I came upon this site.” You can bet that if I found it, police enforcement did as well.

I’ve only addressed law enforcement when I had information that they didn’t, which was when a buddy hacker gave me a back way into the Besa Mafia murder-for-hire site. I was able to see all of the communications, orders, and so on. Of course, LE was aware of the site, but they lacked information on the individuals who had been targeted. We desperately tried to inform police in numerous nations that real people had paid real money to have other real people killed, but they were simply uninterested. We sounded like lunatics babbling about dark web hitmen, who were all scams anyway, and nobody was dead, so why should they care? They got much more interested when one of the people we had previously told them about died.

Is it true that “red rooms” exist, or is it merely a popular myth or rumour? I ask because it’s incredibly easy to observe, for example, Mexican cartels dismembering people alive on the clearnet. I saw a video a few days ago of a cartel member cutting out a man’s heart while he was still alive, and the man ate it. He devoured it. So it appears feasible.

The most common myth of them is Red Rooms, in which prisoners are tortured to death live on camera as those who have paid to watch input torture commands in a chat window. Consider the film Hostel, but with webcams. These have never been shown to exist in this way. I get your point about the cartels, and the latest news story about the discovery of those shipping containers outfitted with torture chambers creeped me out and made me worry!

There is some truth to this rumour, although it is not carried out as depicted in the movies. Most importantly, it involves children, not adults, who are mistreated on command by paedophiles, but not to the point of death.

I imagine it would be difficult to prove. They are all behind a paywall, and you must acquire the trust of certain people in order to obtain the login information required to even access these sites, and there are a seemingly unlimited number of websites on the darknet. Then you’ll have a difficult time discovering a red room website that isn’t a phishing hoax. There is a distinction between murdering someone on camera and murdering/torturing someone on livestream in a bitcoin auction-like situation. One thing that irritates me is that on the darknet, you’re effectively on dial up, and it’d be difficult to watch a livestream without having the worst buffering you’ve ever experienced. Overall, I believe the existence of red chambers is quite likely. It’s only that it hasn’t been confirmed yet. But I’m not an expert.

Why this job, out of all the 9-5 jobs available? What is your motivation?

I became disillusioned with law and had aspired to be an author since childhood. The law put me in a good enough financial position that I could leave to pursue a university degree for a couple of years. My ambition was to become a best-selling novelist, but my first chick-lit novel was unremarkable. However, I discovered that I was quite good at journalism during the school and was quickly making a living as a freelance journalist before I graduated. My first major feature was on the Silk Road narcotics market, which I learned about from a buddy who used it. Once inside, I became interested by everything about it and began contacting the owner, users, sellers, and others for stories (I was upfront about who I was). Allthingsvice.com was the first serious dark web blog, and I also became the go-to freelancer for Australian dark web news. Then I pitched my first novel and received a sizable advance.

I enjoy working for myself, working from home, and digging into new projects. Right now, I have my dream job (though it wouldn’t hurt if it paid a little more; I’m not making anywhere near what I used to make as a lawyer, but I make enough to get by and live modestly).

I believe you were present at the trial of the individual responsible for the horrifying hurt core website that was discovered a few years ago. I was curious if there was anything specific that happened during the trial that startled or appalled you that isn’t well known or discussed? Reactions of the judge or the perpetrator during the trial, for example.

As I recall, the person was a young loner who lived with his parents but would never have been believed to be behind the horrible vile things that he was discovered to be.

How did you get started in investigative journalism/writing?

I mentioned the small silent kid who has stayed with me in one of the other comments above. In addition, at the request of the prosecution, the court was forced to watch “Daisy’s Destruction,” a film of a toddler being tortured. He put it off for two days, and when he returned, he was completely white. Even though he didn’t have the sound on, which is usually the worst part, he appeared shell-shocked. I’m not envious of him.

To answer your last question, I was in London working for one of the world’s most conservative legal companies when the Global Financial Crisis hit. I liked the job, but it became clear to me as people were losing their jobs that I was working for the evil guys. I’d always wanted to be a writer, so when I returned to Australia, I dropped out of law and went in a writing programme with the intention of becoming a novelist, but I discovered I was better at journalism. I began writing about Silk Road for local media, and it grew from there.

Is there anything that still surprises you after what you’ve seen, or are you just numb to everything at this point?

Do you believe there should be more education/exposure regarding the dark web than there is currently, or do you believe it would be counter-productive since people would simply find another area to hide?

I’d want to know about your favourite Psychonauts stories.

I’m not numb, and I don’t want to be. I rarely go to the dreadful dark places unless I’m researching something specific, and even then, I don’t look at photographs or videos. Most crime is rather innocuous; I’m not bothered by folks wanting a safer way to obtain narcotics.

I believe that continual talks about internet activity and its misuse in general are necessary, but most crime still occurs on the clearnet. The dark web is not nearly as huge or widespread as many people believe.

For a long period, a dealer gave away free LSD to anyone who wanted it for personal use (not for sale) and to any groups who practised psychedelic treatment.

One psychonaut was apprehended and imprisoned… Except he still had bitcoin in his wallet and was a millionaire by the time he was released. Otherwise, he would have spent it on drugs:)

I heard you foster dogs somewhere. Is it something you do to compensate for all the horrible humans you meet in your research – everyone knows how dogs are superior than humans. How many dogs have you fostered, and what was your favourite?

I knew I didn’t want another dog after my dog died since I wanted to travel more. So I reasoned that fostering dogs would be a good solution because you give them love for a few weeks and then they go to their forever home. Roy, my first foster, was a colossal flop, but now he lives here, sleeps in our bed, and is the most spoiled dog alive.

Do you worry that viewing all of this would make you emotionally numb?

I’m not watching any of this on purpose (including the clearnet stuff), since I’m afraid that the more you see of it, the more normal it seems, and the more it messes you up. To paraphrase the film 8mm… “Dancing with the devil does not alter the devil; the devil changes you.”

No, I can’t even watch “3 Guys 1 Hammer” in its entirety, let alone look at the truly sinister content on the black web. Going into predator forums while researching The Darkest Web had the opposite effect of making me blunt. It was the smallest piece in the novel, but it took the longest to write due to how emotionally draining it was.

This may have been addressed in a previous post about native language obstacles to specific sites on the dark web, but did you come across content/pages/forums from warzones during your investigations? Middle East, Burma, Afghanistan, and so on?

If so, what was your favourite part?

There are a lot of sites in different languages, but it’s too tough for me (a one-language numpty) to try to translate them with AI, and it’s not worth hiring a translation if they’re just Cat Facts.

Is there anything unusual or suspicious that you haven’t been able to access? Is there anything out of the ordinary?

There are many Russian communities that I am unable to access, primarily because I do not speak Russian. Some of the more technical hacking communities have entry obstacles that I am unable to overcome.

Given your knowledge of the dark web, what kind of horrifying nightmares have you had? This has the potential to be a really good one. Thank you very much.

The worst part was probably looking into the forums where child paedophiles congregated. I never watched any videos or images, but just hearing their arguments horrified me. The one thing that keeps coming back to me is the sentencing hearing of Lux, the proprietor of Hurt2theCore, which is arguably the most horrible website in history. In court, they read aloud a discussion he had with an abuser who recorded torture films of the mute crippled youngster in his care. “At least she won’t be able to tell anyone,” they joked. At that point, the abuser had not been apprehended.

Without search engines, how do you find items on the black web?

There are numerous entry sites set up with links to the most popular locations. You can usually get a connection to one of them by searching on sites like Reddit. From there, it’s just a matter of looking around; people will post links in forums, for example.

I also use a Pastebin site, where individuals may paste websites they’ve created/discovered, and a Fresh Onion site, which crawls all newly-populated.onion URLs.

What is one of your favourite investigations, and what makes it special to you?

By far the most notorious Besa Mafia murder-for-hire case. What made it special was that a buddy hacker gave me a back entrance into the Besa Mafia site, so I had knowledge that no one else had. But then I became “mates” with the site’s proprietor, Yura, for lack of a better description. Of fact, Besa Mafia was not killing anyone, but Yura gained a lot of money by duping would-be killers out of their money. Over the years, we developed an odd relationship in which I would report on his activities and he would attempt every trick in the book to prevent me from doing so so that he could continue defrauding people. Because he had become so busy, he even offered me a job assisting him. He also gave me the names and contact information for others who had hits placed on them so that I could pass them along to law enforcement.

It all became terrifyingly real when one of the persons who had a hit put on them died. Of fact, it wasn’t Yura, but the guy had paid him $13K before abandoning the site and completing it himself. The trouble was, WE HAD TOLD THE FBI ABOUT THE HIT AND THE $13K, and they went to see the victim, but she dismissed it as too difficult when she couldn’t think of someone who would pay that much to kill her.

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