There are a lot of things I regret in my life, things that were beyond my control that I am sure I brought on to myself.
Unfortunately, I can’t change the past. If I could, I would be relaxing on my secondhand couch, a bag of chips half-eaten beside me, with crumbs on my shirt, aimlessly watching whatever was on late night TV.
Instead, I am now so deeply involved in something I brought onto myself, I might as well be standing knee-deep in shit.
For those of you who have successfully dipped a toe in the murky, black waters of The Darknet, you know that it is some serious shit. And for those of you who didn’t? Let my experience be a forewarning to you.
Just like any other millennial, using the Internet is the equivalent of breathing for me. I have become so dependent on technology for my everyday needs that my sense of autonomy, self-reliance, and freedom has been stripped as a result – as I’m sure it has for you too.
Whether it’s for research or personal use– the Internet provides us with the familiar world of Google, YouTube, eBay, Amazon, and so forth. Beyond those websites, there is another side to the Internet, a much more dangerous side that is a breeding ground for shocking, disturbing, and controversial corners of the net.
I had first heard of The Darknet from my roommate’s friend in College. From what I gathered, The Darknet refers to the encrypted world of Tor Hidden Services. Users cannot be traced, and more importantly, if done correctly – cannot be identified. These sites are password protected, unlinked websites, and often times contain hidden content accessible only to those who know what they are doing.
My encounter with The Darknet resulted in a realm of imagined criminals and lurking predators.
As a young naïve College student, I was bait. Top it off with the fact that I am a woman, and you’ve got a Dateline story waiting to happen.
I was working as a barista at the campus’ coffee shop, making minimum wage at 20 hours a week. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to support whatever social life I still had after closing shifts.
One of my regulars, Damien, had come in minutes before closing. I was used to this by now – he did this on purpose so that he could ‘help me out’ with closing duties while getting to know me. I would be lying if I didn’t say it was annoying at times, but after a while, I grew used to it.
“What are your plans after tonight?” He asked, flipping a chair and stacking it onto the table.
“Probably just going to study,” I fibbed.
“Do you want to go to this party with me instead?”
I raised my eyebrows. With his demeanor, Damien gave off the impression that he avoided parties, rather than go to them.
I shook my head, “I’m sorry – I’ve got a test on Monday, and I’m so not prepared.”
He shrugged his shoulders and said goodnight.
For a couple weeks, Damien would continue to invite me to parties, and I would politely decline. Eventually, I blew up on him, and he got the message.
This was the first closing shift where Damien didn’t pay me a visit. It had almost been routine I was a bit concerned.
When I had gone home that night, I noticed that my laptop was sitting on my desk, turned on. I frowned. Earlier, before I left for work, I was one hundred percent sure that I had turned it off and left it on my bed.
I heard a ‘PING’ sound from my laptop as I approached closer.
I typed in my password, and on my screen was a black page with a bunch of opened tabs. I had never been on this page, nor had seen any of the other websites in the tabs, and when I tried to close them, it wouldn’t let me.
A small countdown on the bottom right showed that I had thirty-two more minutes before my “session expired”. Another ‘PING’ sound.
It was a message from ‘ZODX123’: YOU’VE BEEN DOXED.
I grabbed my phone and Googled what ‘doxed’ meant, and my heart dropped. Doxing was a growing way people abused, intimidated, angered, provoked, and trolled others online. It could be done throughout a period of time, or all at once – it all depends on the person.
I laughed out loud, figuring it was a prank by my roommate’s friend. I typed back: “lol Frankie, good job. Now can you please exit all this so I can use my laptop?”
My webcam light turned on, the green light focusing on me. Another pop-up – I was now staring at myself.
I grabbed a post-it note from the side of my desk and stuck it on. The minute I did that, another pop-up on my screen. This one had every single photo stored on my laptop.
A chat showed up.
I began to see comments, approvals from those watching. I watched as the numbers grew, the comments getting more vulgar by the minute.
“STOP!” I screamed, which only egged them on further.
Another pop-up. This had all my personal information – my e-mails, my address, my banking information – everything.
“Please, please – just stop,” I pleaded.
Within 15 minutes, everything of mine was on the Internet. My credit cards maxed out, my debit accounts in the minus – I could only stare in horror as my finances depleted.
I began to cry, feeling defeated.
Another ‘ping’ – “SESSION TERMINATED”. I let out a sigh – was that it? It hadn’t even been thirty-two minutes.
My phone vibrated, an unknown number popped up with a text: “SWEET DREAMS.”
Another text – this time from my mom, with a picture attached of me during my first year of College. It was a picture that was for my boyfriend’s eyes at the time. She was outraged.
After hours of crying, I had finally crawled into bed.
I had woken up the next morning feeling groggy, and in a daze – wishing that what had happened last night was a nightmare.
The chime from my laptop indicted that it was not.
I walked over my heart racing.
The bright green light on my laptop was on – a video loaded up on my screen. It was a video of me sleeping.
In the video, I could see my roommate stumbling in from a night out, passing out on her bed.
The video sped up, and stopped at 4:07AM. Two dark figures were at the foot of my bed, watching me sleep.
My stomach wretched, and I ran to the bathroom, throwing up last nights dinner.
It’s been three days now. I am running on little sleep, and I fear for my life.
I have been receiving anonymous packages, all full of disgusting things – raw meat doused in blood with maggots thrown on it, and feces seemed to be the popular choice.
The messages keep pouring in, my parent’s information has now been released – I have ruined their life.
I am completely broke, and I have given up on everything.
Please, whatever you do, stay away from the Darknet. Treat it as if it were the plague. There is nothing enticing about it; it will do more harm than good.
If anyone knows what to do – please, help me. I don’t know what I did to deserve this, and I don’t think I can take it any longer.