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Click here for a summary of the most important dark web terms.
The Dark Web Dictionary: A Quick Overview

The dark web has its own jargon. While some terms thrown around are common enough, others are exclusively tied to the dark web. The most common dark web terms include:

  • Blockchain: A system for recording information
  • Bitcoin: The most popular cryptocurrency
  • Carding: The theft and distribution of credit card information
  • Cryptocurrency: A digital currency that can be used anonymously
  • PGP: Short for “Pretty Good Privacy,” an encryption method
  • Silk Road: A former marketplace on the dark web
  • VPN: Short for “Virtual Private Network,” a tool that can hide your IP and protect your privacy and is highly recommended for any type of dark web browsing

For more detailed definitions of these and other related terms to the dark web, read our article below.

The black web, often known as the dark web, is rife with technical terminology and specialist jargon. Many people on the dark web use terms and abbreviations that are foreign to users who are visiting this part of the internet for the first time. As such, a short summary of regularly-used terms can come in handy. That’s why we created this dark web dictionary.

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Two-factor authentication (2FA)This is a safer way to secure an account. Rather than relying solely on your password, with 2FA, you have to identify yourself a second time to gain access to your account. Often this works with a code that is sent to your smartphone. This method makes it harder for criminals to hack your account.
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Account Takeover (ATO)This term refers to a cybercriminal obtaining login credentials to an online account that’s not theirs. After they get everything they can from the account, they often sell it on the dark web. In fact, many times, these accounts are sold straight away. That’s because cybercriminals often acquire large sets of login credentials during a data breach or server attack. Hence, they sell these in bulk on the dark web.
AliasAn alias is a pseudonym: an assumed identity for users of the dark web. Since anonymity is important for dark web users, many opt to use an alias.
AlphabayAlphabay was the biggest dark web market after the shutdown of the original Silk Road. When Silk Road was shut down, most buyers flocked to Alphabay. However, after a few years, Alphabay was also taken down by law enforcement. In 2021, Alphabay was relaunched, and it is now up and running again.
AMLAML stands for anti-money laundering. This term is often used to refer to practices aimed at preventing illegal funds from entering normal circulation. For example, most crypto exchanges require users to verify their identity using their passports, for instance. This makes it much harder for criminals to convert their illegal assets into legal cryptocurrency.
AnonThis is a slang term for any dark web user whose identity is unknown or “anonymous.”
AnonymousAnonymous is a decentralized international collective of hackers, activists, and hacktivists.” Since there is no central leadership, its members often aren’t very uniform in their views, aspirations, and strategies. Nevertheless, the collective as a whole does raise a few central themes, such as free speech and (government) transparency.
AnonFilesAn anonymous file-sharing service that doesn’t track users’ IP addresses or other identifiers.
APTAPT stands for Advanced Persistent Threat. These threats generally involve a state actor gaining unauthorized access to a computer network for an extended time. The computer network often belongs to another government or a (large) organization. Usually, the objective of these attacks is gathering and/or stealing data to advance political or economic goals.

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BackdoorThe term backdoor refers to unauthorized (and often illegal) access to a device, system, or network. Alternatively, sometimes governments or law enforcement agencies want (secret) access to large systems or networks with the system’s or network’s permission. These access points are also referred to as backdoors. Many (dark web) users worry that Tor might have a backdoor for US government agencies in the future. As of now, however, it seems this has not happened.
Bitcoin (BTC)Bitcoin is the oldest and most popular cryptocurrency. It’s often used to pay for things on the dark web because Bitcoin payments are more anonymous than conventional payment methods, such as credit cards.
Bitcoin exchangeBitcoin exchanges are platforms where you can buy and sell Bitcoin for fiat currency, such as dollars. For many dark web users, it’s essential to know a reliable Bitcoin exchange. After all, Bitcoin is an important payment method on the dark web.
Black marketA black market is an illegal dark web trade platform. Products on the black market are usually illegal or controlled substances. The dark web features various black markets of all kinds.
Black market goodsAs the term reveals, black market goods are products that are sold on illegal dark web trading platforms.
BlockchainBlockchain is the underlying technology that makes Bitcoin and most cryptocurrencies possible. It functions as a public ledger to store transactions and has a consensus mechanism to approve new transactions. Both systems are decentralized, meaning they don’t require a central authority, such as a bank.
BotnetA botnet is a network of devices that have been infected with a virus. Because of this, the hacker can operate all these infected devices at the same time. These networks can be used in DDoS attacks and are sometimes sold on the dark web.
BridgesBridges are nodes you can use to access the Tor network (which gives you access to the dark web) even if this is blocked in your country. A bridge will make it seem as though you are entering the network from a different location. Because of this, local restrictions no longer apply. Some people also use it as a way to prevent their ISP from knowing they accessed the Tor network.

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CardingCarding refers to the theft and sale of credit card information. It’s a common practice on the dark web and closely related to phishing, which is how cybercriminals usually gain access to personal information.
ClearnetThe “clearnet” is the part of the internet that is publicly accessible and indexed by search engines, such as Google. The clearnet excludes the dark web since dark web pages are not indexed. It also excludes other parts of the internet that aren’t indexed, such as company spreadsheets that only employees with the right link and login details can access.
Click fraudClick fraud refers to deceiving advertisers by using tools that click on or interact with their ads. This way, even though there is no genuine interaction with their ads, they are led to believe lots of real people are viewing their ads. On the dark web, some people sell tools that can facilitate click fraud.
Cold storage walletCold storage refers to a way of storing your crypto. “Cold wallets,” unlike hot wallets,” are not connected to the internet. Rather, they are physical devices used for storing your private key. Hackers can’t access your private key when using a cold wallet. This is very important, as the person with the private key is, in effect, the person who owns the corresponding crypto.
CPCP is short for child pornography. Unfortunately, the dark web contains a number of pedophile networks through which their members are able to exchange illicit materials.
CPNCPN stands for Credit Privacy Number or Credit Protection Number. Scammers that sell these present them as a legitimate way to hide your credit history. However, they are stolen SSN numbers sold illegally, often on the dark web. Don’t get tricked into buying and using one. If discovered, you’ll get in trouble, as “SSN misuse” is a felony.
CryptocurrencyCryptocurrencies are decentralized digital currencies. The most popular cryptocurrency (which is the default currency on the dark web) is Bitcoin, although there are various Bitcoin alternatives as well.
Crypto addressThe term “crypto address” refers to the long line of characters identifying a specific cryptocurrency wallet. If you want to transfer Bitcoin or crypto to a crypto wallet, you need to use the corresponding crypto address.

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DarknetThe darknet is a synonym for the dark web. Although some opinions about the definition vary, the two terms are mostly used interchangeably.
DAODAO stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization. It refers to organizations, projects, or initiatives that don’t have a central leadership. Moreover, these organizations govern themselves, usually through a publicly available code base and smart contracts that determine what will happen in different situations. Most cryptocurrencies are DAOs.
DBANDBAN stands for Darik’s Boot and Nuke. It’s an open-source program that permanently deletes information on a hard drive. This is very useful for users with sensitive data on their drives that they want to delete without any possibility of recovery.
DD (Delivery Days)DD is a common term used on the darknet to refer to the number of delivery days you can expect for a product shipment. In context, it can look something like “10DD Europe,” which means that a product delivery to Europe will take about 10 days.
Deep webThe deep web is every page on the internet that’s not indexed by a search engine. This includes things like the dark web (which is intentionally hidden), as well as member platforms, repositories, company databases, or de-indexed sites.
DoxingDoxing (which is short for “dropping dox”) is an online attack in which previously private information about an individual or organization is made public. This is usually accomplished through hacking, social engineering, or regular research.

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EncryptionEncryption is a way to codify data to make it illegible to anyone but the party with the encryption key. Encryption relies on an algorithm that only the encryption key can “crack.” The Tor browser, which is used by most dark web users, relies on encryption to keep its users’ data private, for instance.
EscrowAn escrow is a third party that facilitates a transaction by holding onto funds until a condition has been met (like the fulfillment of a purchase agreement). Online marketplaces can act as escrows to facilitate transactions.
Exit scamAn exit scam happens when the owner of a business just takes off with the money of its buyers or investors without or while no longer fulfilling their end of the transaction. Common exit scams involve cryptocurrency promoters who vanish with investors’ money during or after an ICO (Initial Coin Offering).

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Finalize Early (FE)Finalizing early means paying for a product you buy on the dark web before you receive it. This could mean you’re transacting with someone directly without using an escrow system, and you pay them in advance. It could also mean you do use an escrow, but you release your funds to the seller before your product has arrived. Partaking in FE transactions (as a buyer) is not recommended.
FreenetFreenet is an anonymous peer-to-peer service to host and publish sites or pages. The website aims to provide an anonymous way to communicate with others free of censorship. In this sense, it’s not too dissimilar to the Tor browser.

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GramsGrams is a former dark web meta-search engine that allowed users to find products from various darknet markets, such as drugs (this is presumably where the name comes from) and guns. The platform was active from 2014 to 2017.

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Hidden WikiThe Hidden Wiki is a well-known dark web page. It’s essentially a dark web index where you can find links to dark web websites that have been grouped into different categories. This helps people to navigate the dark web.
HoneypotA honeypot is the digital equivalent of a police sting. It involves luring hackers into a trap with a seemingly valuable data set. What hackers don’t know is that this data set is actually not valuable at all, isolated from the main site, and (heavily) monitored. Honeypots are used to either catch hackers or to study their hacking methods to improve security practices.
Hidden services (HS)The term “hidden services” (HS) simply refers to the web domains the dark web comprises. These are called hidden services because they can’t be accessed by regular search engines and aren’t indexed. They only allow people with the actual link to communicate with these pages.

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LEA/LELEA and LE are short for “Law Enforcement Agencies/Law Enforcement.” These acronyms are used in chatrooms by those who wish to stay out of law enforcement’s hands. Law enforcement agencies are present and active on dark markets and try to catch criminals red-handed. If you find yourself in these chatrooms, make sure to know your rights (the dark web in and of itself isn’t illegal) and don’t do anything illegal.

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MalwareMalware refers to “malicious software.” Cybercriminals use this type of software to blackmail victims into paying them to get their files back, to spy on people, to obtain payment information, to take over a victim’s device, and for many other malicious activities. Examples include ransomware, spyware, keyloggers, Remote Access Trojans (RATs), and computer viruses. The dark web contains a lot of malware, so plenty of caution and using solid antivirus software, are certainly warranted.
Mystery boxesThe dark web mystery boxes were a craze on YouTube. Popular YouTubers acted like they ordered mystery boxes on the dark web and opened these on camera. While these videos can seem very creepy and thrilling, they are most likely completely fake.
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.Onion.Onion is the dark web version of .com. It is the domain suffix most commonly used on the dark web. It got its name from The Onion Router (Tor). The Tor browser is used to access the dark web.
Onion routingOnion routing refers to protecting the contents of data packets through various layers of encryption. It’s called onion routing because of the resemblance to an onion’s layers. Onion routing is the system that Tor, the most common dark web browser, uses to anonymize its users and keep their traffic private.
OS (Live or Host)OS is short for “operating system.” A live OS might be an OS that is temporarily loaded from software such as VirtualBox. A Host OS is the operating system from which you are running your computer, i.e., Windows or macOS.

PGPPGP is short for “Pretty Good Privacy.” This is a cryptographic method that is used by millions of people on a daily basis to communicate anonymously and safely. It relies on a public key that encrypts messages and data and a private key that only you can access that decrypts the data.
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Red RoomRed Rooms are a common dark web myth. Many people claim that certain types of websites exist where a number of people pay a fee to gain access to a live stream where they can see someone being tortured and murdered. Thankfully, there have never been any reports of Red Rooms that were actually legitimate. In fact, Tor’s low internet speeds make a live stream, in general, quite difficult and unlikely.

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SandboxSandboxing is a very common security practice. The idea of sandboxing is to isolate different programs or connections so malicious software in one application can’t infect others. On the dark web, sandboxing is especially helpful. Sandboxie is an example of good sandbox software.
Satoshi NakamotoSatoshi Nakamoto is the pseudonym for the creator and architect of Bitcoin. However, it is possible and more plausible that multiple people collaborated to create Bitcoin, even if they only use one name to refer to them as a collective.
Silk RoadSilk Road was one of the biggest and most popular dark web markets ever created. It gained notoriety because of its reputation for featuring illegal products, such as drugs and weapons. It was shut down in 2013 because of this. In October of the same year, the supposed “mastermind” behind the platform, Ross Ulbricht, was arrested by the FBI.
SpoofingSpoofing refers to hiding the true origin of a message or piece of data and replacing it with false information. Examples include IP spoofing and GPS spoofing, for instance. Note that spoofing is done for many different reasons and that only certain types of spoofing are illegal (and morally reprehensible).
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TailsThe term “tails” stands for The Amnesiac Incognito Live System and is an OS that you can load from a USB drive in order to anonymously browse the dark web. No information about your activities will be stored on the computer once you exit the system.
TorTor is short for The Onion Router. This is the network that allows you to visit the dark web, circumvent censorship, and protect your privacy. The Tor browser is the most-used browser to visit the dark web. It encrypts your data and sends it through different “nodes” so you become more anonymous on the internet.
TumbleAlso called crypto mixing or blending, tumbling means performing a transaction in which your crypto is mixed with other users’ crypto before it reaches its final destination. This way, it’s much harder, if not impossible, to trace your Bitcoin or crypto back to you. Tumbling is used frequently for dark web transactions. That’s because dark web users tend to focus a lot on privacy.

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VendorA vendor is a person that aims to sell goods or services on the dark web.
VPNVPN is short for a Virtual Private Network. A VPN is used to encrypt your data and protect your online privacy. To do this, VPN software routes your internet traffic through servers in different countries, changing your IP address in the process. If you’re not sure which VPN to pick, check our roundup of the best VPNs.

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WhistleblowerA whistleblower exposes the wrongdoings of a company, organization, or even a government to the world. They often get this inside information because they work for the organization in question. Whistleblowers usually want to remain anonymous to avoid being fired, sued, or worse. Therefore, many whistleblowers use the dark web to get into contact with journalists anonymously.

Are you interested in learning more about the dark web after checking out our dark web dictionary? Make sure to also read some of our other articles on the dark net:

The Dark Web Dictionary: Frequently Asked Questions

If you want more details on a particular darknet term that gets thrown around a lot, check our FAQ section below!

What does DD stand for on the dark web?

On the darknet, DD stands for “Delivery Days.”  If you want to find the definition of more terms related to the dark web, don’t forget to check out our dark web dictionary.

What is the dark web?

The dark web is a collection of internet pages that aren’t indexed by search engines, and are only accessible through special browsers and networks, most commonly the Tor browser. Dark web links are composed of random characters, rather than actual words and phrases. You have to know these links to actually navigate to dark web pages.

What is the Silk Road?

Silk Road was one of the most infamous marketplaces on the dark web, earning it the nickname “The eBay of Vice.” It was shut down in 2013 when its presumed owner (Ross Ulbricht) was arrested. While numerous darknet marketplaces appeared after this original one was shut down, none of them rose to the same level of prominence.

What is the deep web?

The deep web refers to pages that are not publicly accessible. Most of these pages require having the actual link and some form of authentication to access them.  This includes things like member platforms, repositories, company databases, or de-indexed sites. The dark web is technically part of the deep web, but it’s often (rightfully) differentiated from it.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is the underlying technology that Bitcoin and most other cryptocurrencies are based on. It contains a public ledger to store transactions and a consensus mechanism to approve new ones. Blockchains are decentralized. This means they can operate completely autonomously without any form of central leadership. It also makes most blockchains very transparent and difficult to manipulate.

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