Assassination NETWORK – Murder for hire
Hitman-for-hire operations are an integral part of the dark web. Assassination NETWORK is probably the most professional organisation out there. We've also noticed, not only on the dark web: Try and google 'Assassination NETWORK' and you see them highly ranked even on the clearnet.
We came across the Assassination NETWORK only about a week ago, when Catalin Cimpanu, the security news editor of Bleeping Computer tweeted about a hitman-for-hire portal on the dark web.
Since the dark web is our domain, we’ve thought to have a closer look.
The website looks very sleek, compared to previous providers like ‘Besa Mafia’ or ‘Crime Bay of the Chechen Mob’ whose websites were literally dripping with blood. Here we find a clean website, with an almost sterile environment and no bloody bodies at all, that is concentrating on the mission only.
The Homepage reveals some photos of the victims of the Assassination NETWORK, together with media links reporting about the cases.
The About page is giving us some background information on assassinations in general and the Assassination NETWORK:
“For six years, the qualified and experienced professionals at Assassination NETWORK have provided our customers with top quality service around the world.
Our independent contractors, who form part of the Assassination NETWORK, are more than just guns for hire. They are professional soldiers who kill for money, not for a nation or a cause. All our contractors are experienced ex-military or ex-law enforcement professionals. We don’t ask questions, we just perform our duty, and get paid.
We go wherever and whenever the mission calls to fulfill our customer wishes.”
Somehow scary, isn’t it? I mean if you are on somebodies ‘list’, it only takes money to sort you out…
Let’s move over to the ‘Portfolio’ of the Assassination NETWORK, what they call a selection of solved problems. I call it their graveyard.
Here we find information on some of their victims. Names, locations, dates of death and even the method of killing are revealed.
Among their victims are some quite prominent personalities, like Pavel G. Sheremet, a prominent journalist and Russian critic, Hisham Muhammad Zaki Barakat, prosecutor general of Egypt from 2013 to 2015 and Alberto Nisman, an Argentine special prosecutor, as well as some businessmen and a couple of high level underworld figures.
Since they claim that all their assassinations are unsolved until today, I’ve spend a few hours researching all of the publicly known cases and I can confirm, all those cases are currently indeed unsolved!
Their News page is just written in the same stoic austerity as the entire site. Just news, short and crisp.
Interesting however is their Hiring page:
The Assassination NETWORK is hiring ‘Ex-Special Forces’, ‘Law Enforcement (SWAT)’ etc. to join their organisation in the following regions: North / South America, European Union and Hong Kong / Mainland China. If you qualify, they pay you 75% of the ‘fee’ the customer paid.
Their FAQ page is just like the FAQ page of your favourite online shop. Questions are answered in detail, just if one is supposed to order a pair of shoes.
Noticeable is the channel of communication: Assassination NETWORK does not maintain a client area, which is security wise very good, since if there is no client area, it can’t get hacked. All communications with clients and prospective clients are handled via Bitmessage only – no Email. Bitmessage is a P2P communications protocol used to send encrypted messages to another person. It is decentralized and trustless, meaning that you need-not inherently trust any entities like root certificate authorities. It uses strong authentication which means that the sender of a message cannot be spoofed, and it aims to hide “non-content” data, like the sender and receiver of messages, from passive eavesdroppers like those running warrantless wiretapping programs. In other words Bitmessage is bulletproof.
Another noteworthy fact is that they do not kill minors under the age of 16.
It is also worth mentioning that the Assassination NETWORK is not interested at all who their clients are:
“We never ask our clients for any personal details. We simply don’t know who our clients are, where they reside etc.”
Payment, as usual with such sites is restricted to bitcoin only. Assassination NETWORK is offering multi-sig escrow.
The price for their services start at $30,000 for low profile cases. There are surcharges for hits staged as accidents, disappearances or multiple murders.
I remember on ‘Crime Bay of the Chechen Mafia’ you could order a low level hit for only $5,000 – maybe not conducted by operatives of this level of standard, but you get what you pay for.
There are of course voices on the internet calling the Assassination NETWORK a honeypot operation of law enforcement or even a scam. The usual trolls, who don’t think twice and on the other side law enforcement officers, seconded to the internet to propagate counter-reactions on everything illegal, who try to discriminate and take attention from the site.
We had this all before! Still people are getting killed by hitmen on a daily base.
Here is my opinion: A murder-for-hire site, any murder-for-hire site, can’t be a honeypot operation of law enforcement, if they insist that customers must not reveal any personal data. So if they don’t know who the client is, there is little for them to prove at a court of law.
Law enforcement simply don’t know who ordered the hit, because the target may have many enemies. So it is not very viable for law enforcement to set up hitman-for-hire honeypots, that don’t ask for any customer information, because they can’t arrest customers, if they are anonymous.
Secondly, a murder-for-hire site that is offering payment by multisig escrow can’t be a scam either, since if they don’t execute the job, they will not get paid at all.
We have contacted the administration of Assassination NETWORK to ask for an interview, but they’ve declined, telling us that they are currently in discussions with a mainstream media house for an exclusive interview.
I’d like to close this article with a quote from Nikky, one of the administrators of the now defunct ‘Crime Bay of the Chechen Mob’ hitman-for-hire market. He recently told me:
“The people killed by our service are not the nice people you’d expect living next to your door. The people killed by our service are people who have been bad to someone, or upset someone bad enough, to want them dead.
So this is a message for the average people: Be nice and help others, and no one will pay our operatives to kill you. That’s the best way to be safe.
If you cheat, rape, steal, beat, or make other people suffer big enouch to want you dead, then be on your guard: If someone pays our operatives to kill you, someone will do it.”
Assassination NETWORK’s .onion link