Explicit photos of American female military servicemembers and civilians shared without consent in the Marines United scandal are now reportedly for sale on the dark web.
Three splinter groups of the Marines United group have since branched out, engaging in the controversial activities of nude photo-sharing, as well as selling Marines United-themed merchandise such as challenge coins and t-shirts.
While the scandal, originating from Marines United, has rocked the Department of Defense (and led to a few punitive actions), the former members of the group show no sign of stopping. They are heading to the “dark web” in order to peddle their questionable wares.
“The dark web is kind of like a street,” said Stephen Pearson, educator of digital crime and terrorism at Utica College. “You’ve got houses with addresses and houses without addresses. The ones without addresses, nobody knows anything about those places. But it’s still on the same street, still on the same internet and connection and hardware, but the places are difficult to find. And without the networking encryption you can’t get there.”
Dark web-based marketplace Alpha Bay is not accessible through normal search methods, and requires both a URL and encrypted web browsers for trace-free browsing.
“AlphaBay is nothing more than… a mall on the internet that allows people to transfer their wares,” Pearson said. “But the reason you have these types of sites is that most of what’s sold is illegal. It’s child pornography, kill-my-husband, drugs, guns, you want to buy a child—you name the type of global crime, this is a marketplace where you can buy these things.”
According to The Daily Beast, the a member of Marines United 214 -who wished to only go by “Andre”- said that members are attempting to profit from the controversy.
“The Marines United controversy is not only spawning copycat pages, but also a subset of pages built to exploit service members trying to view the photos,” the source said. “Marines United 214 seems to specialize in trying to monetize the scandal, requesting money from any commenter who asks for access to ‘the drive’ or collections of photos. There’s evidence that this page existed before the controversy, and changed its name afterwards to attract those interested.”
Allegedly, over 31.8 GB of material from the scandal still exists and is very much for sale.
Alpha Bay is a descendant of Silk Road, which was shut down after investigators received help from both foreign governments and the NSA.
According to Pearson, the encrypted nature of the dark web makes it very “difficult for an investigator.”
“That’s why it took almost three years for the task force working on Silk Road,” he said. “It wasn’t that they solved it by technology. The guy who was running Silk Road… the reason they caught him was he posted a message in a forum a year or so prior, where he used an alias that he also used later, as his alias on Silk Road. They were able to identify him by the mistake he made in the open web.”
Meanwhile, many Marines United members continue their antics on the open web.
In Marines Unchained social network circles, Marine Cpl. Justin Brewer posted a picture of himself wearing a Marines United T-shirt under his duty uniform, saying, “Driving onto base yesterday via Fallbrook gate [Camp Pendleton, California] and see a big electronic sign, said, ‘Exploited Online? Call NCIS 760 blah, blah, blah.’ Me and my work partner started cracking the fuck up. Lol, and I’m currently wearing my MU shirt at work on base. Wooks [female Marines] love it.”
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