The world can be a stressful place regardless of circumstance. Yet we do not normally associate mental health awareness with the cybercriminal underground, perhaps in an effort to distance our very own civilian life from those who commit crime. Well, one cybercriminal forum is taking on the mantle to address suicide awareness within the cybercriminal community and extend a helpful hand to those in the online world who often operate on the wrong side of the law.
A brief glimpse into the history of Envoy
Envoy is an English-language cybercriminal forum that was launched in August 2019 by two users known as “f0rtuna” and “Witchman05; the latter is an ex-moderator of the dark web Reddit-style community forum Dread. The forum was intended to act as a central hub for all subjects dark web-related and rival the popularity of the highly regarded Dread. Although relatively new, Envoy has grown in prominence in a short space of time and is seen as a reliable source of information for those interested in the dark web community. Recent research into the forum revealed that it operates a strict no trading data policy and wants to be regarded only as a platform for discussion about dark web marketplaces, forums, and cyber-related news stories.
Is Envoy seeking to become a one-stop shop for all?
Shortly after Envoy’s launch, the administration team announced that it recognized the need to update the software the forum was built on to a much more robust technology and also wanted to use this opportunity to introduce a host of new features. A recent update on the site revealed that the administration team was in the final stages of rolling out this new forum platform, which would include the following new services:
- Logic 2.0 – A dark web-based encyclopedia service
- DeepWeb Times – A dark web-based news platform
- Trawl – A dark web search engine
However, the most interesting new feature is the planned “Harm Reduction” service, which would be open to those suffering from suicidal thoughts or experiencing depression. The site’s description of the service stated that the new forum version would come with its own dedicated live chat function, so that any forum member at any given time could seek help if they were suffering from the aforementioned concerns. A subject often overlooked in a world where the need for infamy or wealth is the greatest concern.
Post by one of Envoy’s creators announcing harm reduction services
Although the live chat service doesn’t appear to have materialized to date, the ‘Harm Reduction’ sub-forum has been accessible to all members since the forum’s launch date. There are currently 33 threads active within this sub-forum discussing an array of concerns including but not limited to: retirement fears, suicidal thoughts, anxiety issues, and sexuality doubts all posted by forum members seeking support from the community. Of particular note, there is a thread dedicated to advertising a list of global suicide hotlines for those who may need it.
Examples of posts in the harm reduction section
Is this atypical of cybercriminal forums in general?
Digital Shadows (now ReliaQuest) has not seen this type of dedicated community assistance service offered across English-language cybercriminal forums in the past, and only in limited quantities on Russian-language platforms. This type of functionality is atypical of the dark web ecosystem more broadly: We are so used to seeing cybercriminals preoccupied with ripping each other off that the thought of them extending helping hands barely comes into our way of thinking.
Although likely completely innocent in its intent, the forum owners have either seen it as a way for Envoy to differentiate itself from the competition or are just showing a genuine desire to provide cybercriminals with a complete community where they can feel free to talk about all subjects (good or bad). Creating a sense of community is one of the most important factors for user retention, effectively determining the success(and failure) of cybercriminal forums.
Trust on the dark web is in very much limited supply due to the nature and character of those who abuse it, but it may be that a small proportion of this community can do their part to help those vulnerable and seeking solace.
List of suicide hotlines posted to Envoy
Although the live chat service appears to have not been activated at the time of writing, it will be intriguing to see if this service is a hit or a miss and maybe encourage a softer side to the dark web in what is often considered a cold, heartless world.
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