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Ruger LC9 (courtesy The Truth About Guns)

Internet experts will be surprised to learn that so-called dark web is not without police surveillance. The NSA is there. Interpol is there. As are the British authorities. To wit this story via “A “Walter Mitty” IT manager from Milton Keynes who bought a gun on the dark web has pleaded guilty to firearms offences. Darren Hillyer, 38, posed as a woman supposedly wanting revenge on a paedophile ex-lover. He bought a Ruger LC9 9mm pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition from a dark web “gun trader”. In reality . . .

the seller account was under the control of officers from the National Crime Agency who forwarded a plastic replica gun hidden inside a DAB radio.

Hillyer had arranged to receive the “gun” through a middleman, a 47 year old he had come to know through an online chat forum but had never met in person. Ian MacPhee, from Newton Abbot, Devon, was arrested when he picked up the parcel from a local post office in late July. MacPhee had agreed to forward the package to Hillyer.

After tracing the forwarding address, police arrested Hillyer later that afternoon at an insolvency company in Euston, London, where he worked as an IT manager.

Hillyer, who “purchased” a Ruger LC9, is going away now. Just like gun rights have in The Land of Hope and Glory. Meanwhile,”real”  UK gun crime continues.

[h/t DT]

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  1. First question: If the police had not sold him a fake gun, would anyone on the “dark web” have sold him a real one? And is it really a crime in England to intend to buy an illegal gun, even if an illegal gun transaction never takes place?
    Second question: Why aren’t the police trying to track down the sellers instead of the buyers? Isn’t–or shouldn’t– the purpose of monitoring the dark web to cut off the supply? I can’t see that prosecuting the buyers will ever reduce the demand, as demonstrated by the remarkable lack of success of prosecuting the johns for buying sexual favors in reducing the demand for sex workers.

    • “And is it really a crime in England to intend to buy an illegal gun, even if an illegal gun transaction never takes place?”

      This is a good example of an inchoate crime..”Attempt”. The man took substantial steps towards committing the crime, and in for a penny in for a pound as they say.

    • Mark N.,

      As long as it is apparent that the accused was trying to buy a real firearm, couldn’t they at least convict him of conspiracy to purchase contraband?

    • The same way that prosecuting drug addicts does not seem to cut off the supply of illegal drugs. And trying to stop legal gun buyers from having guns does not stop the supply of illegal guns. All different sides of the same failed policies. But some politicians still keep pushing these laws because is seems to gain them political favors and votes. Votes, I would add, from those that don’t really understand these issues and buy into the propaganda of the Leftist Gun Grabbers. England has fallen to this crowd already. Australia seems to be in the same boat. Hard to understand how people can be so dense that they keep voting in the politicians that support these failed policies.

    • To answer your second question: I would say 2 reasons, 1) its much easier to go after the buyers than the sellers since sellers are good at what they do, because if they aren’t they don’t last long, or no one will engage with them; and 2) most of the sellers of arms on the dark web ARE the police or similar authorities.

      The Walter Mitty guy, clearly made a lot of mistakes to get caught – he missed a few red flags.

      • If I had a choice among hearing one of the following:

        “We’re from the government and we’re here to help.”

        “We’re from the Internet, and we’re here to help.:


        “We’re from the deep web, and we’re here to help.”

        I’d pick the last one.

        I would trust a total stranger on the dark net before I trusted any government official, or most any other human being for that matter.

    • Search TOR network on Google… should be able to figure things out from there. Word of advice…..PROXY, PROXY, PROXY.

      • Being several rungs below even a novice techno-geek, (and I use that term with respect), I’d have to have someone show me how to do that stuff.
        That torr or torrent stuff confuses the sh!t out of me. Same with proxy.

        • You want privacy use the Internet on linux at a McDonald’s parking lot with a network card with a modifiable MAC address.

          Don’t trust TOR. Half the nodes are hosted by the CIA. TOR will protect you from everyone but the US government.

        • OK, besides the illegal pornography and black market, there are conspiracy websites. The only legitimate, moral, sane use for the deep/dark web I’m aware of is to communicate if you’re an individual under surveillance: government whistleblowers who need to anonymously contact the press, foreign embassies and diplomatic agents, human rights groups, foreign intelligence, spooks/clandestine agents. There are definitely legitimate uses for these tools. Some people also want to browse the normal web anonymously when doing completely legal things. It probably a good idea to anonymously buy bitcoin if possible, since obfuscation is often part of the point of using it. However, I’ve decided not to bother accessing the deep web since there’s not much particularly interesting for a law-abiding citizen not under surveillance, and I’m liable to be inadvertently exposed to some illegal or sick shit. I could gawk at the black market vendors and that would be an hour of fun, and there’s very low risk I’d get in trouble, but why bother if it’s just for fun. I’d rather read an article about what’s for sale and the prices on the normal web by a guy who went “into the field” himself and assumed the risk. Actually, if any deep web guys are reading this, that would make a fun TTAG post and I’m sure Farago would be interested in publishing it. What weapons are for sale, what the prices are, where they ship, and if knowable how large the market is, the frequency of sales, the risks, and the rate of transactions that are successful.

          Here’s a normal, safe-to-browse website with a lot of Deep Web links, looks like no child stuff and they ostensibly do not include illegal sites: I see nothing I’m interested in visiting myself. But I note several arms websites that in their title profess to ship to anti-gun areas. Some explicitly say they ship worldwide, one is specifically for buyers in the United Kingdom.

  2. You slip up once with an open port or accidentally modify Tor in a tiny-yet-anonymity-destroying way and you roll the dice. Usually a darknet market shopper has other contingencies in place to allow a bit of leeway in once way or another and have as little a pattern as possible. In the end, though, the technology doesn’t matter, if they see you and want you badly enough they will make it happen legally somehow even if its illegal.

  3. “Internet experts will be surprised to learn that so-called dark web is not without police surveillance.”

    No, we sure won’t be. The onion routing protocol, TOR, was created by the Naval Research Lab. From day one, literally, it has been used by various government and official agencies.

    • I should add, it was created specifically for intelligence communications that wouldn’t be able to be traced as easily, and while it was initially made by the NRL, it was fleshed out mostly by DARPA.

      • Exactly. Darknet works precisely because the operating assumption behind it’s design is that people are listening/looking for you, in contrast to the clearnet, where people assume they are anonymous and absolutely aren’t.

  4. I browsed a weapons market about a year ago looking at the the prices and stuff, I saw a lot of cheaper AK variants, and a surprising number of Skorpion SMGs and homemade Zipguns and Sawed-offs. They were pretty expensive but I suspect that was the total price to get to you, not just the weapon. This was all in BTC using escrow 3rd parties….was wild.

  5. “Internet experts will be surprised to learn that so-called dark web is not without police surveillance.”

    You sound mad bro… That’s a condescending and oxymoronic intro. It demonstrates, both, that you don’t know what you’re talking about, and also wish to mock experts since you clearly aren’t one.

    Methinks someone is upset that he can’t dark net and/or doesn’t understand it. There are plenty of actual experts who do understand it quite well, and are perfectly able to understand what threats do and do not exist there.

    • Wrong, Ralph. In the U.S., criminals buy assault weapons loaded with cop-killer bullets online using the gun show loophole. I know it’s true, because an action-demanding mom said so.

  6. Wait a minute…. He bought a FAKE gun? Even in the UK, that isn’t illegal. Looks like they coerced him into pleading guilty. Where was his lawyer? “I knew it was a fake gun all along. That’s why I bought it.” No jury would convict him.

    • If you really think about this, if you were nabbed in a police sting soliciting an undercover officer to murder your spouse, is it a really a defense that the ‘hit man’ was a fake?

      I think this whole thing is ridiculous too, but the only reason he didn’t end up with a real gun is because he happened to be dealing with the police, not a real seller. I can’t see any practical difference there from a legal standpoint. Who thinks the police should have to use real prostitutes or hit men in stings, or drugs and weapons in stings? What if something goes wrong and gets away from them?

  7. I’m not unsympathetic to his desire to be armed, but if he had gotten a shotgun certificate (which isn’t hard for the average UK citizen to acquire- easier than the application process in NJ, for example) he could have joined the ranks of law-abiding gun owners, and been better positioned to promote positive changes in the laws.

  8. The “Internet experts” have known that Tor and other such things don’t give you absolute anonymity. If you are playing these kinds of games, you really have to know what you’re doing, and that means having a lot of technical expertise about how all these things really work.

  9. It seems The Register couldn’t even be bothered to find a picture of an LC9, the one they have is an LC380.

    What can you really expect though…

  10. Wait, wait. A “Walter Mitty” IT manager . . . ? Does that mean, when he fired the gun, he expected it to go “tapoka, tapoka, tapoka”?

  11. If you want to be truly anonymous take a clean laptop (DBAN and load fresh OS Linux preferred) with nothing but the OS. Ride your bicycle with your laptop to a small public library (some of them don’t shut the wireless after hours). Go online with OS that came with browser and get TOR browser, use that to access and set up a VPN client and account using a Walmart gift card that you bought for cash. Obviously use nothing as far as identification that will tie back to you. That gets you anonymous communication and browsing.

    Now you could buy stuff anonymously with bitcoin, but how are you gonna get it shipped to you? I guess you could have something shipped to an address where someone has moved out and watch for the delivery, if it happens. But since you have no way to complain if your money was stolen it may never arrive and also as in the case of “Walter” above you could be dealing with undercover cops just waiting to swoop down on you as you pick up your dodgy package.

    All in all the “Dark Web” is fine for Whistle Blowers, Reporters, Revolutionaries, Cheese Pizza types (jail they belong in) and Cops. If you need anonymous communication, it works fine, but buying stuff, I don’t think so. The only category I could ever even remotely imagine myself in is Revolutionary and well, I don’t see the need for that to be remotely possible in my lifetime.

    • “…use that to access and set up a VPN client and account using a Walmart gift card that you bought for cash.”

      WalMart cash registers have video cams on them.

      That’s how they managed to bust someone who bought an ‘anonymous’ Trac Fone ‘burner’ cell phone.

      int19h offered wise advice.

      You had better know what you are doing with that stuff, TOR didn’t save the ‘Silk Road’ guy from life with no parole.

  12. Didn’t we kick their asses twice (Revolutionary War, War of 1812), and save their asses three times (WWI, WWII, Cold War)?

    Meh. England. If it wasn’t for the castles, they’d have nothing.

  13. Yeah, they got that guy, and they’ll put him in jail for many years. And they likely did NOTHING to make their nation one bit safer, and in fact, wasted resources that could be better spent going after actual violent criminals. However, due to their ideological opposition to private firearms ownership, they’d rather get a guy for buying one pistol than to take down murderers, rapists, and other felonious scum.

  14. I cannot bring myself to care about the plight of UK citizens. They brought it upon themselves and meekly complied with the law. They can change themselves. We have enough problems with Fedeal courts defining the PRIVILEGE to keep and bear arms (PKBA) despite the Constitution. What are WE doing about laws WE can influence? NOTHING.

  15. TTAG needs to be a bit more educated. The UK has NEVER had gun rights, or any sort of right to bear arms. The UK does not have a written constitution, the people who live there are SUBJECTS of the Crown (Government). They are not and have never been CITIZENS. Citizens have rights and responsibilities. Subjects have no rights other than which the Government gives them- which are subject to being taken away at the drop of a hat.

    My issue with TTAG putting these stories up is that they are irrelevant to the US except as a point of saying: Gee, look at them….But there is NO factual juxtaposition. 2 different forms of government. Different categories of population (Citizens vs Subjects). Our country was founded as a deliberate rejection of how the UK was structured and how it was run. Same folly with putting up the Australian shotgun stories. Nice to know but not directly relevant to us.

    How about writing about Grenade attacks in Sweden? Personally I find it more interesting.

    • The comparison is relevant and prophetic. If we U.S. citizens do not fulfill our DUTY to preserve our RIGHTS we will become subjects of tyranny. That is why we can afford to give no quarter to the enemy. Accept no compromise. Put the chains back on our elected servants, and imprison those who’ve worked to subvert the Constitution.

      Vote #noincumbents

      • I agree about our need to police OUR rights. But the way these vignettes are positioned it makes it look like someone innocent is being oppressed and denied rights…But the reality is they never had those rights.


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