Dark Web Inhabitants: Who Are They?

By Sydney Butler / December 23, 2018

The Dark Web is an interesting place. It's a network of hidden sites and services which won't show up in any normal search engine like Google or Bing. Instead, you need to use the Tor browser to access .onion sites, encrypted and anonymized. It's a weird and mysterious corner of the web with plenty of misconceptions about who you'll find there and what they do. So just what kind of person will you find inhabiting the Dark Web? Here are a few characters you might run into.

Privacy & Anonymity Advocates

How to Stay Anonymous Online

While the Dark Web is most famous for hosting some pretty illegal stuff, most of the people you'll find there are simply strong advocates of privacy and anonymity. One of the greatest things about the internet in the early days was that you could keep to yourself and keep your private life and online life separate.

The current surface web is a completely different beast from that early web. Now anonymity is the enemy. Major web services, social media, in particular, collect detailed personal information. Reselling it to advertisers and using it to track us across the web. For many of those on the Dark Web, the status quo is unacceptable. The Dark Web is the last place where they can enjoy the same freedoms that we all once had online. So one of the main types of people you'll encounter when visiting the Dark Web are those who fiercely defend the original values of the internet community.

Rebels and the Oppressed

The last thing you want if you are running one of the many oppressive and authoritarian regimes in the world today is an open internet. In some countries, the Dark Web is the only real option that people have to get information about government misdeeds to the rest of the world.

It's also a place where people who resist such governments can coordinate in secret. No matter how much they try, you can't stop people from connecting over the net. It's such a scary thought to dictators that they'll switch off all internet access during sensitive times, such as "elections".


How Dark Web Whistleblowers Work

If you know something about a powerful person or organization, how do you get the word out without painting a big fat target on your back? The Dark Web turns out to be a perfect place to dump information that's too hot to handle. From there journalists and other third-parties can share it with the world without putting their sources in any sort of danger. It's a whistleblower's paradise.

Hackers, Hackers, and More Hackers

Hacker Deep Web

Yes, you'll find plenty of hackers hanging out on the Dark Web. Why? Well, first of all, this is where the hacking community exchanges knowledge. They let each other know of their exploits and generally push the art of hacking forward.

The Dark Web is also where hackers, both white hat, and black hat, sell their services. If you are looking for people to do penetration testing or, well, less legal uses of their skills, here is where they dwell.

Harmless Weirdos

There are plenty of ultra-esoteric websites on the surface web. Filled with people who are more than a little eccentric, but generally harmless.

The Dark Web is no different, although the weirdos here might be a little different in attitude. Despite their secrecy, you'll find that it's mostly daft conspiracy theories or discussions of things that are gross and strange, but perfectly legal and harmless. For example, you can buy creepy silicone masks from one market. One wonders why they don't just sell it on the surface web, but weirdos will be weirdos.

Criminals and Outlaws

Credit Card

While most of the Dark Web isn't dedicated to the criminal activity, it certainly gets the most attention from the mainstream media. There are drug marketplaces. Sites that deal in extreme adult content. Places where you can hire people to do doxx a target or hack a company's computer system. There are people offering assassination services too, although to date these have all turned out to be hoaxes or scams. Which I guess counts as a good thing.

You can buy stolen credit card numbers in batches of 100, hacked Netflix accounts and even order 3D-printed firearms. In a way, criminals who ply their trade on the Dark Web have a strong free-market approach to commerce. That doesn't mean it an amoral environment. Recently Dark Web markets have voluntarily banned the deadly synthetic opioid Fentanyl. After all, deceased customers are bad for business.

It's not as if you can frame all people who work outside the law as a criminal. Some are really just outlaws. Not there just to make a buck, but to prove some sort of point or live up to a principle.


Because the nature of the Dark Web provides people with strong levels of anonymity, it's a natural home for scammers. You can never know if the person you're communicating with on the Dark Web is who they claim to be. Trust is a tricky subject on the Dark Web and you should always be at your most skeptical when visiting. Especially if there are real stakes, such as a loss of money.

Law Enforcement

Law Legal

The anonymity of the Dark Web is there for anyone to exploit, that includes people who would rather that it didn't exist. Anyone who you interact with on the hidden part of the net can be law enforcement and you would never know. For example, the French police "patrol" the Dark Web, looking to bust people who break the law. It can go much further than that. Dutch police took over a darknet market called "Hansa" and used it to crack down on users who wanted to buy or sell drugs. As I said above, trust has to be earned on the Dark Web and perhaps it's safer to assume someone is a narc or other LEO by default.

A Colorful Cast

The types of Dark Web inhabitants I mentioned above are really just broad strokes. Most people are going to fall into more than one of these categories. Moreover, there are plenty of other types of people on the Dark Web. This isn't meant as an exhaustive list of the Dark Web's population. In fact, by its very nature, we will never know exactly who composes the hidden web. Don't forget, there are plenty of lurkers as well, who visit but never leave any footprints of their own.

Have you visited the Dark Web? What sorts of people did you meet there? We'd be very interested to hear your stories. Let us know in the comments below. Follow TechNadu on Facebook and Twitter for more interesting finds.

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