A Chat with a Deep Web Drug Dealer, Before It All Went South

Shortly before the darknet drug site Atlantis shut down, one user talked about his aspirations as a dealer.

Oct 8 2013, 1:00pm
Image via Raftwet Jewell/Flickr

In the days before the Atlantis marketplace took itself offline, I was neck-deep in the painstaking, arduous process of courting drug dealers on the site for interviews for a story about their motivations, principles and anything they were willing to let loose about their lifestyles.

Users of the now-defunct darknet site are a cagey bunch (no surprise there) with meticulous security protocols. Read: They're paranoid. Even after I'd hopped through several loops to prove my identity and ease their concerns, which could take weeks of encrypted back-and-forth dialogue and involved authentication from other members of the Motherboard team, some of these characters bailed on me without explanation. Others bailed sooner.

But one didn't. A member called SuperHands, whose profile claimed the user was the "first Irish vendor here in the lost city," was eager to answer my questions. I was referred to SuperHands by another dealer with who I had been conversing through the site. That user told me that SuperHands was principled and fiercely opinionated on the subjects of illegal online marketplaces, digital currencies, the banking system, and the pseudo-revolution simmering in the deep web.

A self-described psychonaut, SuperHands joined Atlantis in July and had received a warm reception from buyers. I spoke to SuperHands in September when he or she had logged upwards of 40 successful sales and was enjoying a high rating and comments from happy customers. SuperHands bragged about his or her method of secure shipping:

"Our stealth techniques are one of a kind and we pride yourself on the fact that, if customs does stop your package, 9 out of 10 times they will not find anything," SuperHands's profile said.

Atlantis shut down after SuperHands and I had completed only one round of an interview. But I thought publishing it would be an insightful kind of post-mortem on the promises of the deep web. The interview below has been lightly edited for clarity.

Motherboard: How did you first get involved with deep web vending and why did you join Atlantis?

SuperHands: I always knew that there was a deepnet but I had no reason to go there until I was sick of buying bad quality drugs off the street. I discovered Silk Road and was amazed by the variety and quality. At first I was extremely apprehensive of having drugs shipped via the mail. After the first few deals I was amazed by the technology and creativity people were using to smuggle their wares.

For some time I had only used one deepnet site—that being Silk Road. Then I did some exploring and found other marketplaces like Black Market Reloaded and Sheep Marketplace, all of which seemed rather inactive and paled in significance to Silk Road. Then Atlantis came along, with its aggressive marketing campaign and increasing denial-of-service attacks on its main competitor. It exploded and became the second biggest deepnet marketplace in a matter of weeks. 

I am not vending on Atlantis out of necessity or as my main source of income. I am simply doing it to give back to the community that I love so much. 

I decided to vend here because I have access to high quality products and felt the need to share them because of the decreasing quality of street drugs. Right now, as I just started vending on the deepnet, I plan to stay on Atlantis for the foreseeable future and then also vend on Silk Road. I have no time or interest in any other marketplaces.

Can you talk at all about your professional or educational background? Is selling on Atlantis a full-time job or just something you do on the side?

I don't wish to discuss my educational background due to obvious reasons. I recently quit my day job and I had been meaning to vend on the deepnet for some time. I am well known under different usernames in the Silk Road community and have been around for a long time. I am not vending on Atlantis out of necessity or as my main source of income. I am simply doing it to give back to the community that I love so much.

I do make money, but at the moment it's not a substantial amount. I am currently not striving for it to be my main source of income. However, if it comes to the point where it is, I would have no problem with that.

New York regulators recently subpoenaed a bunch of Bitcoin firms to learn more about how it works. Germany's finance ministry just said it would attempt to begin taxing Bitcoin purchases and investments. Do these moves concern you?

The recent events revolving around governments trying regulate Bitcoin hasn't concerned me in the slightest, however, it's not encouraging. Personally, I don't see how governments are going to be able to enforce these regulations. Also, there is no end of Bitcoin clones that can be used if one is over-regulated or outlawed completely. Simply, the government doesn't understand this technology and seems to be afraid of it because of its unique anonymizing features. I foresee them coming up with harsh new laws for crypto-currencies as a whole. That being said, this community is extremely resourceful and I have no doubt in my mind we will be able to circumvent the prevention.

What is something you think is misunderstood about marketplaces like Atlantis? What would you say to someone who is curious about darknet markets?

The deepnet is what you make it. You will find scammers, guns and hookers if you go looking for them. However, if you stick to trusted sites such as Silk Road and Atlantis you will find nothing but generous and friendly people. The deepnet has no end of possibilities. Until now, the deepnet was relatively unknown—a sort of mystical place only a handful of psychonauts used. Now, however, it has almost grown into popular culture.

This has good and bad ramifications. On the one hand, the more developers that know about the deepnet, the more it will grow and, with that, become more interesting. On the other hand, the more media attention it gets will force governments and law enforcement to do something about it. It's hard to know what the future will hold.

Marketplaces such as this give users access to chemically pure and well priced products completely anonymously.

What the deepnet has offered me thus far has been extraordinary. I can honestly say that I have made friends here. As a bit of a psychonaut myself, it gives me access to drugs I could only formally obtain by synthesizing myself (at great difficulty I might add) as well as offering great information regarding harm-reduction practices.

While the deepnet may appear difficult or cumbersome to use at first, it's extremely worthwhile to become a part of. You can anonymously purchase almost any drug on the planet without having to leave the comfort of your own home and not have to interact with potentially dangerous drug dealers.

For people who are perhaps apprehensive about using the deepnet, I would very much encourage it. Marketplaces such as this give users access to chemically pure and well priced products completely anonymously. The Irish black market, for instance, has become increasingly more dangerous with more and more people dying from adulterated drugs. But here on the deepnet all products are advertised correctly and the large majority are even lab-tested or reagent-tested. Also, most vendors practice harm-reduction techniques. It's less of a business and more of a community.

You've had some great success in your short time on Atlantis. What's the next step?

I have only been on Atlantis for one month now and have already become the 25th best selling vendor here. My plans for the future are simple: Increase stock and variety of my products and continue to offer fair prices and a high quality service.