Seasons Greetings from the Dark Web

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Writer Emily W.
November 29, 2016

Emily serves as the VP of Research at Terbium Labs. With a background in International Relations, Emily alternates between quiet rants about Russian politics and foreign policy, while crafting blog posts about the realities of the Dark Web (hint: red rooms aren't real).

One of the points we like to make most often here at Terbium Labs is that dark web mirrors the clear web far more than people tend to expect. Commerce is commerce: you need to display your items for sale, promote them, market them, back them up with reviews, differentiate them from competing products in the space, offer samples, and cut prices. This is as true on dark web markets as it is for your favorite retailers.

The holiday season provides an glimpse into the ways the dark web economy continues to mirror standard commerce. In particular, we’re taking a look here at Black Friday sales on the dark web, just as we did last year.

Festive Frauding

The holiday season is a busy time for fraud vendors in the dark web. The large volume of transactions makes it easier to capture cards from a single corrupted point of sale or from a vulnerable online merchant. At the same time, the unusual spending patterns make it difficult to track fraudulent activity as quickly as one might see during the “off season,” giving fraudsters a little more time to exploit the accounts to which they gain access.

Let’s take a look at some of the Black Friday specials that went on this year.

BF - Stolen Tech.png

While stolen technology doesn’t fall into the standard definition fraud, this vendor is reselling “carded” items, or items they purchased with stolen payment cards. For Black Friday, this vendor is offering a $150 gift card to Amazon or iTunes with every purchase.

BF - Carding Mafia.png

This vendor on a popular carding forum has a post announcing their newest “base” or collection of cards, just in time for Black Friday.

BF - Fullz.png Meanwhile, on the major market Alphabay, this vendor is offering a “Black Friday Deal” on their premium UK Fullz.

The Most Fraudulent Time Of The Year

BF - Carding Consulting.png

Also on Alphabay, there’s an interesting listing from a vendor who promises a “$15,000 Guaranteed Black Friday Carding Assault” through live training and ongoing support throughout the season.

BF - Carding Consulting 2.png

The detailed listing summary notes that the “time between Black Friday and Christmas is the greatest opportunity for carders” and that the vendor has “5 online retail sites right now making real sales, waiting for Black Friday to begin.” The vendor goes on to boast that this is “the once a year opportunity to make your years [sic] salary in one month.” The rest of the listing detail goes into the consultancy fees and the number of clients (six) the vendor can support at one time.

It’s Not Just Fraud

Of course, the fraud vendors aren’t the only one offering Black Friday specials. The drug vendors are quick to jump in as well, with plenty of listings like this one popping up across the markets:

BF - Drugs.png

This vendor’s Black Friday special lasts until the end of November, along with a very thoughtful offer for free shipping.

Deck The Dark Web Halls

Alongside the sales, markets are also quick to offer seasons greetings with a change in scenery: fraud markets, drug vendors, and exploit shops alike add seasonal adornments in the form of animated snowfall, an idle snowman, or an illustrated Santa to the top of their sites.

The dark web admins, just like the rest of us, love the chance to decorate.

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