The Hitman Network represents an extreme end of what some have called the dark web, or the part of the Internet used by criminals to sell and purchase everything from stolen credit card numbers to black tar heroin. One thing these sites have in common is their use of the instant and often anonymous currency of bitcoins and other kinds of online money, according to a new study released Wednesday by the cyber-security firm McAfee.
Raj Samani, McAfee’s chief technology officer and vice president for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, discovered the murder-for-hire website during his research into virtual currencies and Internet crime. “When I saw the Hitman Network, I made six phone calls to law enforcement contacts,” he said in an interview Wednesday. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Samani’s latest paper, released Wednesday, traces the connection between electronic currencies and crime. It also documents how websites such as the Hitman Network are fueled by the perception that buying and selling services through virtual money is safe and anonymous. The paper, to be sure, says it could not confirm that the website follows through on its promise. “Verifying this would likely come at some personal risk,” the paper says.