Referral links just got a whole lot edgier.
The dark web review site Deep Dot Web was taken down by law enforcement Tuesday, knocking offline a centralized repository of knowledge detailing how and where to score illegal drugs and goods online. It turns out, the Department of Justice revealed, that the operators of the site allegedly employed referral links to earn commissions on all future sales made on linked sites.
For example, if you went to Deep Dot Web and found a link to the now-shuttered dark web market Wallstreet Market, created an account, and then made purchases with that account, Deep Dot Web would reportedly earn a commission on that sale. All future purchases were tied back to that original referral link.
“I advise you to reconsider the anonymity of the Tor network.”
“The significance of this takedown and this prosecution cannot be overstated,” U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady told reporters. He added that Deep Dot Web “truly facilitated the operations” of the dark web economy.
This was not a small scheme. Brady noted that 23 percent of all transactions on AlphaBay (RIP) were referred by Deep Dot Web. According to DOJ officials, the site’s two operators netted $15 million — split evenly between the two — before their respective arrests.
Again, that’s $15 million made by referral links — the exact same mechanism helping to fund many of your favorite digital media publications and online content producers — for things like cocaine and heroin.
“This case represents the single most significant law enforcement disruption of the dark web to date,” Brady added.
Image: screenshot / deep dot web
Notably, officials gathered at Wednesday’s press conference issued a stern warning for anyone trying to operate anonymously online.
“To the users of these anonymous marketplaces,” FBI special agent Robert Allan Jones said, “I advise you to reconsider the anonymity of the Tor network.”
Jones added that the FBI “will continue to seize these marketplaces and your transaction data.”
Importantly, following a clarifying question from a reporter in attendance at the press conference, DOJ officials noted that, at present, they don’t target dark web customers. Rather, just sellers and site operators — the latter of which apparently includes those involved in dark web market affiliate marketing schemes.
This content was originally published here.