It is mostly from Hollywood movies but I have read true story books and have seen news reports on people (not always spies) selling things from weapons, secrets, hacking products, to infiltration services and alike.

In real life how would someone go about meeting somebody to exchange what they have for payment?

For the ordinary Joe in the street that happens to get their hands on something, how would they sell it to a rogue state? How do people meet these high up characters to begin with to engage in these deals? Walk into an embassy and say they want to talk business?

All answers would be good if they have a source, but I am only looking for current things, so no cold war stuff unless it is somehow relevant to today.

Hopefully, this question remains a question and does not set off any alarms given the current state of the world.

Edit: I am not interested in the Dark Net. I already spent some time on there during my research. Some deals have to happen in person, and other times by publicly posting what you have you can destroy the information's value (for example saying "selling a top secret xyz product").

  • Isn't the premise that an average Joe can get hold of weapons/secrets etc. false? Wouldn't the average Joe need to be in the military/police/civil service etc. for it to be an 'inside job'?
    – user7809
    Mar 23 '18 at 16:29
  • @Bad_Bishop When it comes to hacking for example no, there are many exceptions.
    – questioner
    Mar 23 '18 at 16:43
  • 1
    Pretty much like in the movies and on TV, but with less beautiful people, without background music, with less kinetic action, and with more agonizing periods of boredom waiting to make progress on a deal.
    – ohwilleke
    Apr 24 '18 at 1:47
  • One option would be to send a sample of the material to the embassy by post, with an invitation to a meeting somewhere innocuous. Apr 24 '18 at 9:04

Based on all the security briefings that I have been through working in the defence industry:

Foreign agents will target people working in sensitive industries. They will be looking for people who have weaknesses that can be exploited through blackmail, such as gambling problems or some personal secret you don't want getting out. This is what will be checked when you apply for security clearance.

They will also look for people who might be sympathetic to their cause, the USSR got a lot of secrets from people in the UK who were in communist parties at university level and then went on to do research on the nuclear program.

If you had secrets you wanted to leak, you could go push them on the internet on sites like wiki-leaks

If you were trying to get paid for it then you would probably start by trying to make contact with the embassies, although good luck with that as you are much more likely to get caught in a sting operation by your own intelligence agencies as they actively look for people doing just that


Find a blackmarket.

In the old days this meant contacting your local crime lord in person, which carried a significant risk of being in the same place as criminals who know you have something of value.

Nowadays there's an app for that.

Anonymity on the internet is a developing field, but it seems that currently it is possible to make contacts and do business at moderate scales for reasonable time frames fairly publicly without government interference. The most noted example was silkroad, but a number of similar organizations continue to exist online despite official efforts.

  • 3
    Can this answer be backed up? Separating fact from speculation regarding intelligence can be difficult, so it's important to reference the facts as well as can be done. Mar 23 '18 at 18:15
  • 1
    How do you find a black market? Are there any real life examples? Unfortunately the Dark Net is crappy and you are not in direct contact with a rogue state but instead criminal and 13 year old children (script kiddy hackers).
    – questioner
    Mar 24 '18 at 21:36
  • @questioner Real life examples of physical black markets abound, just think of drug dealing networks, or people attempting to sell you counterfeit DVDs. However most of these are small scale and based on webs of trust (you know someone who knows someone who knows someone) On the other hand there are obvious risks with that kind of relationship, both of criminal action and being sold out to law enforcement abcnews.go.com/US/…
    – origimbo
    Mar 24 '18 at 21:58

There is actually a real example. In the 1980s some members of Chaos Computer Club hacked into US computers and sold the information they found to the KGB. Clifford Stoll wrote the book The Cuckoo's Egg about it. As they had no connections they simply walked into the embassy and asked to talk with someone from KGB. At first they were thrown out, but after a few tries someone took notice and figures they may have something interesting.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .