Here is what we know about the “Recon” search engine on the Dark Web
While traditional search engines, by definition, don’t work for the Dark Web, several sites allow you to find information on this hidden section of the Internet with relative ease. Engines that allow you to research Dark Web markets in particular abound.
Recon is one of the more recent examples of a search engine in the darknet market. So what do we know?
What is recognition?
Recon is a tool that users can access to simultaneously explore multiple Darknet markets. It is therefore in direct competition with other sites, such as Kilos. Instead of having to visit or even learn about all of these different markets, you can use one place to compare and contrast the items on offer. It also makes it easier to research those markets in the first place!
Who created Recon?
While we don’t know the true identity of the person (or people) behind Recon, it seems pretty clear that only one “HugBunter” is administering the site. It’s supposedly the same HugBunter behind “Fear”- a Reddit style forum for Dark Web users to come together.
Dread made the news in September 2019 when HugBunter’s dead man switch was activated, but someone using that name has returned in the meantime, and Dread is still online. As far as we know, Recon comes from the same family of sites.
How does One Access Recon?
Recon exists on the Tor network, so you will need to visit the “reconponydonugup.onion” site using your Tor browser.
However, if you’re curious to see it for yourself, don’t just use a copy of Tor browser. Make sure you protect yourself by using at least one VPN to hide your Tor access from the ISP.
Recommended: 7 best log-free VPN services in 2020
How does recognition work?
Recon uses several different methods to allow users to search listings and information across multiple markets. It uses historical market data as part of the research resource, but the most powerful aspect of Recon is its API or application programmer.
Darknet marketplace owners who want users to find products on their sites through Recon can choose to integrate the API into their site. Recon then receives regular updates from these sites to ensure that the listings that users find through Recon are up to date.
This is different from how a surface web search engine works, which crawls the public web for information and then allows you to search for it. Since dark websites cannot be crawled this way, search engines like Recon are the only real way to quickly find or search various websites.
What can you buy on Recon?
Recon does not appear to be fundamentally different from other search tools on the Dark Web market. In other words, you can’t buy anything directly from Recon. It only shows you the way to another market that has the products you are looking for.
This means that there are a lot of illegal items of all kinds on offer. The most important of these Dark Web Marketplace items are drugs, but guns and forged documents are also popular. If you want to learn more about the kinds of things that are sold on the Dark Web, check out our article on the subject.
Of course, there are also a lot of intangible products. Information is always a hot commodity, and the Dark Web is a great place to buy and sell it. This can include stolen user information, the fruits of corporate espionage, or malware. If it’s digital, only the imagination limits what is possible.
Not everything that is sold in these hidden markets is illegal. Some of them aren’t even very interesting, actually.
Information on the offer
Recon displays a wealth of information for each market it lists. Specific information includes:
- The number of registrations
- Market availability
- Mirror addresses of the market
- Reviews and ratings
- PGP keys for private communications with suppliers and markets
Recon lists unrelated marketplaces, but any marketplace owner can apparently claim their profile page through their PGP keys. So when a profile is claimed, everyone can be pretty sure the real owner did it, despite known issues with PGP.
Speaking of PGP keys, this seems to be the fastest way to find vendors in Recon. Since they publish all of their public PGP keys to allow people to securely contact them, Recon uses these keys as a quick find.
So if you already have the PGP key of a provider you want, it’s as easy as pasting it into the “Find a Provider” bar.
Must read: How to use PGP encryption for secure communication
Is Recon here to stay?
While the Dark Web markets are regularly dismantled, these search engines seem to be a bit more robust as they take a small cut after acting strictly as middlemen. Of course, when it comes to illegal goods, the middleman always shares the guilt.
However, neither buyers nor sellers know the true identity of the people behind Recon. As long as the technical protection remains in place and none of the humans in the loop fall back, there is little the authorities can actually do.
On the other hand, it also means that it is more risky to actually use these facilities given that when they are supported by law, they rather turn into traps.
Either way, we can never recommend using the dark web to commit crimes of any kind, but it never hurts to know what’s in the dark belly of the internet.