Identity Theft on the Dark Web


In today’s digital age, the Internet has become an integral part of our lives. It has brought convenience and connectivity, but it has also opened up new avenues for criminals. One of the most prevalent and alarming crimes on the Internet is identity theft. With the rise of the dark web, criminals now have a platform where they can buy and sell stolen personal information with ease and anonymity. In this article, we will explore the dark web and how it facilitates identity theft, shedding light on the methods used by criminals to steal and profit from your personal data.

The Ocean of the Internet

Think of the Internet as an ocean, with different layers representing different levels of accessibility and visibility. At the surface, we have the “surface web,” which consists of familiar websites like Google, CNN, Amazon, and Yahoo. These websites are public, searchable, and mostly friendly. They make up the majority of our Internet experience.

As we go deeper, we enter the realm of the “deep web,” a vast space that can only be accessed by individuals with authorised logins for specific databases and websites. The deep web includes legal and legitimate platforms such as NASA, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Patent Office. These websites are not indexed by traditional search engines and require specific access credentials.

The Dark Web: A Hidden Underworld

Beyond the deep web lies the dark web, also known as the “darknet.” This part of the Internet can only be accessed through special software called TOR (The Onion Router). TOR was originally developed by the U.S. Navy to provide anonymous communication for intelligence agents overseas. It was later released to the public as open-source software.

The dark web is a haven for criminals due to its anonymity and untraceable transactions. TOR hides users’ IP addresses, and transactions are often conducted using cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. The true size of the dark web remains unknown, but its allure is unmistakable. One prominent example is AlphaBay, a dark web marketplace that was shut down by the FBI in 2017. At its peak, AlphaBay had over 200,000 users and generated hundreds of thousands of dollars daily.

The Dark Web Marketplace

The dark web hosts a thriving marketplace where criminals can buy and sell stolen digital goods. These include high-end credit card numbers, login credentials, individual credit reports, and “fullz” packages that contain all the necessary information for identity theft. The dark web is teeming with vendors eager to fill the void left by the takedown of marketplaces like AlphaBay.

The Tutorial: How Criminals Steal Identities

To gain insight into the world of identity theft on the dark web, we turn to two individuals with firsthand knowledge and experience. Brett Johnson, once dubbed the “Original Internet Godfather” by the U.S. Secret Service, and Blue London, a hacker for illegal sites, offer a tutorial on how criminals steal identities and turn stolen data into money.

Brett Johnson: From Criminal to Consultant

Brett Johnson, an imposing and charismatic ex-con, founded “Shadowcrew,” one of the first online forums where criminals could safely buy guns, stolen credit cards, Social Security numbers, and drugs. However, Shadowcrew was shut down by federal agents in 2004, leading to Brett’s imprisonment over the next decade.

Today, Brett has turned over a new leaf and works as a consultant aiding law enforcement in catching cybercriminals. His firsthand knowledge of criminal tactics makes him an invaluable asset in the fight against identity theft.

Blue London: A Hacker’s Perspective

Blue London, a wiry individual in his early 20s, recently pleaded guilty to crimes related to his role as a hacker for major illegal sites on the Internet. As his first job and facing a looming prison sentence, Blue has decided to share his knowledge to reduce his time behind bars. To protect his identity, we will refer to him as “Blue London.”

Both Brett and Blue have witnessed the ease with which criminals exploit the Internet to steal money and identities. They provide valuable insights into the methods used and contribute to our understanding of the growing problem of identity theft.

The Mechanics of Identity Theft on the Dark Web

In their tutorial, Brett and Blue shed light on the step-by-step process of how criminals steal identities and monetise stolen data. Let’s delve into the details.

  1. The Dark Web Infrastructure: The dark web’s anonymity and untraceable transactions make it an ideal platform for criminals. TOR software, with its layers of encryption and server routing, ensures that users remain anonymous and their activities untraceable.
  2. The Dark Web Marketplace: Criminals on the dark web sell stolen personal information, including credit card numbers, login credentials, and complete identity packages known as “fullz.” These items are purchased using cryptocurrencies like bitcoin to maintain anonymity.
  3. Data Breaches: Massive data breaches occur frequently, exposing billions of personal records. In 2017 alone, there were 829 data breaches in the United States, compromising over 2 billion individual records. These breaches provide a steady supply of stolen data for criminals to exploit.
  4. Identity Theft Techniques: Once criminals acquire stolen data, they employ various techniques to monetise it. These include using stolen credit card numbers for fraudulent purchases, selling personal information on the dark web, and even assuming someone’s identity to open new accounts or apply for loans.
  5. Monetising Stolen Data: Criminals find multiple avenues to profit from stolen data. They may sell the information directly on the dark web, where it can be purchased by other criminals. Alternatively, they can use the stolen data to commit fraudulent transactions or engage in identity theft, extracting money from victims’ accounts or applying for loans in their names.
  6. Anonymity and Untraceability: The dark web’s infrastructure ensures that transactions remain anonymous and difficult to trace. TOR software conceals users’ IP addresses, making it challenging for law enforcement agencies to identify and apprehend criminals.
  7. The Rising Tide of Identity Theft: Identity theft is on the rise, with 16.7 million Americans losing nearly $17 billion in 2017 alone. The ease of access to stolen personal information on the dark web contributes to these alarming statistics.


The dark web has become a thriving marketplace for criminals seeking to buy and sell stolen personal information. Identity theft, one of the most prevalent cybercrimes, is facilitated by the anonymity and untraceable transactions offered by the dark web. Criminals like Brett Johnson and Blue London have firsthand knowledge of these criminal activities and provide valuable insights into the mechanisms of identity theft.

As the number of data breaches continues to rise, it is crucial to understand the methods used by criminals to steal and exploit personal information. By raising awareness and implementing robust cybersecurity measures, individuals and organisations can better protect themselves against the growing threat of identity theft on the dark web.

Remember, your personal information is valuable and needs to be safeguarded. Stay vigilant, exercise caution while sharing sensitive information online, and be aware of the risks lurking on the dark web.

Note: The individuals mentioned in this article, Brett Johnson and Blue London, have since reformed and now work with law enforcement agencies to combat cybercrime. Their insights are invaluable in understanding the tactics employed by criminals on the dark web.

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