Stranger things: What costs the most, and least, on the dark web
Paintings, passwords, passports; guides on how to text women, or get free pizza. See what’s making news and setting records on the virtual black market.
Passports are among the most expensive items on the dark web. Not the Indian passport, though. One can buy a counterfeit blue booklet for the equivalent of a few hundred rupees. Stolen payment card data is much in demand. Narcotics, malware, weapons and personal data are also fast-moving. So are guidebooks on how to text women. Take a look.
The most expensive
In 2017, two rare paintings by 19th-century New Zealand artist Gottfried Lindauer (famous for his portraits of the Maori people) were stolen from that country’s International Art Centre gallery. By November that year, an advertisement for one of the paintings showed up on the dark web for £500,000 (about ₹5 crore).
No transaction was conducted and it’s still unclear whether the advertiser was in possession of the art works. Meanwhile, last December, the New Zealand police recovered both canvases; no arrests have been made.
Further down on the scale of exorbitance and rarity is the fake passport. These cost an average of $600 ( ₹50,000) each, according to a 2022 report released by cybersecurity services company NordVPN. Czech, Slovakian and Lithuanian passports are the most expensive, costing as much as $3,800 ( ₹3.14 lakh) each, while Indian passports are among the cheapest, costing just $10 ( ₹820).
Prices are determined, the report said, by factors such as demand, challenges associated with faking the document, and the rules and laws relating to such fraud.
Bank account details are fairly expensive too, with prices ranging from $3,763 ( ₹3.11 lakh) for a single account in certain European banks to, at the lower end, about $10 for details of accounts at certain others in West Asia.
Most commonly listed
It takes hackers as little as six seconds to brute-force (guess the numbers on) a payment card, according to a previous study by NordVPN. This makes payment-card data widely available, but inexpensive, on the dark web. Account information for streaming services and e-commerce platforms is widely available too.
Piracy devices that allow users to access streaming platforms and real-time broadcasts free are widely available too, but these also put the user at risk of hacking, because the apps are often preloaded with malware.
Most of the paid content piracy occurs not on the dark net but the clear net. BitTorrent may sound like a Tor website, but it’s a .com url. It uses decentralised peer-to-peer sharing systems, with the caveat that users can face legal action in a crackdown by enforcement agencies.
Why is this here?
Many items on the dark net are not illegal but potentially embarrassing.
There are e-books with titles such as How to Get Free Pizza in the UK, and The Ultimate Guide to Texting Girls. There are tutorials on how to set up one’s computer.
One can buy social media followers on the dark web too, at $2 (about ₹165) for 100 fake friends. And, for the really lonely, looking for a deeper connection, listings such as by user HappyBirthday2U offers a listening ear at $40 ( ₹3,300) per session.
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- Ht Wknd