Drug dealers might think they are being smart by hiding their identities on the dark web but recently they have been found to be rather sloppy when placing their adverts. The dark web, put simply is the part of the internet which is hidden from view of the major search engines such as Google and Bing. Its often used for sinister things such as drug deals, political whistleblowing and the sale of weird items. When you go on the dark web, your identity is anonymous and your IP address effectively becomes untraceable. However, some drug dealers have been uploading photos of their goods containing the location at which the photos were taken, rendering their anonymity useless.
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A lot of people may not know this but every time you take a photo with a digital camera or smartphone, JPEG or TIFF formats write information such as when and where the photograph was taken and also the device information such as make and model. This data is called EXIF data (Exhangeable Image File Format) and two students from Harvard University have recently discovered that many dark web users are not deleting this piece of data that is part of their photographs.
The two students, Paul Lisker and Michael Rose discovered the blunders whilst creating an archive of the pictures from the dark web as part of a study. The pair examined 44 million files in total, using bash scripts to search for EXIF data that contained latitude and longitude information. Although it was found that most of the photos had their EXIF data removed, 229 had unique geo-location information embedded within them and unless this data is spoofed, it can potentially pinpoint the location at which the photos were taken to within a few kilometers.
Most drug dealers protect their identity by removing the EXIF data from their photographs but it now seems that the largest dark market, Agora has taken things into its own hands by stripping metadata from images on its site.
So if you want to protect your anonymity online and perhaps choose not to reveal to the world wide web exactly where you live, then cover your tracks and delete your EXIF metadata. There are plenty of tools and guides on the (visible) web which enable you to remove EXIF data from your photographs such as this by how-to geek. Having said that, its not 100 percent guaranteed that you will be completely anonymous even on the dark web. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.