Merchants, buyers on Dark Web get their own search engine

A search engine for the Dark Web has been launched in beta to provide easier access to marketplaces selling illegal drugs and hacking tools and services.

The Grams search engine, launched last week, has a no-frills interface that's similar to Google's and copies the latter's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button. The site requires the user to be on the Tor anonymity network.

"I am officially announcing the launch of the beta version of Grams Darknet Market Search Engine," the creator, who goes by the name Gramsadmin, said on the social networking site Reddit.

If the creator is successful in building a fully functional, Google-like search engine, it would be "the single greatest tool to facilitate illegal activities," Robert Siciliano, an online security and safety evangelist for McAfee, said.

"What's surprising actually is that there really isn't a good search engine to this point," Siciliano said. "It is a void that has been needing filling for quite some time now."

[Dark Web: An ever-more comfortable haven for cyber criminals]

For several years, security researchers have described a growing maturity of business operations on the Dark Web, which is defined as that part of the Internet that uses Tor to hide the identity of people visiting and operating marketplaces and forums engaged in criminal activity.

In its latest quarterly online Threats Report, McAfee commented on how well the malware industry was serving its customers with products and services that take away the need for technical expertise to launch attacks.

Grams is a good example of this trend because it makes the Dark Web "much more appealing to the uninitiated and those who aren't familiar with Tor," Siciliano said.

"It will essentially make it (the Dark Web) mainstream," he said.

The Grams creator claims that in two weeks the site will have a Google Adwords-like system for vendors who want to buy keywords. If someone searchers for the words, the buyer's listings will be marked as paid and placed at the top of search results.

Before officially launching the search engine, the creator claimed to have patched security holes, including the Heartbleed bug.

Search features include updated bitcoin prices every five minutes and the ability to sort results by relevance, price and newest items.

New marketplaces also have been added to search results, such as The Pirate Market, Mr. Nice Guy and Blank Bank.

To make the operation more automated, the creator claims to have created an application programming interface (API) that markets could use to get on the Grams network faster and provide information on products, such as reviews.

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