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Dark Web Market AlphaBay Goes Down

AlphaBay, a Dark Web markerplace for illegal products, went down last week after authorities seized equipment following raids in three different countries.

AlphaBay, a Dark Web markerplace for illegal products, went down last week after authorities seized equipment following raids in three different countries.

Following the incident, vendors selling their products on AlphaBay began to flock to other Dark Web marketplaces, a transition that apparently started to cause technical issues on some of these portals. AlphaBay supposedly had over 400,000 users last week.

AlphaBay was the most popular marketplace on the Dark Web, followed by RAMP (Russian), Dream Market, Hansa Market, and Silk road 3.1. Launched in December 2014 and already having over 200,000 users by October 2015, AlphaBay saw an influx of users after a similar portal called TheRealDeal disappeared last summer.

The exact reason for AlphaBay’s demise remains unclear at the moment, but there is some speculation that its admins might have pulled off an exit scam, shutting down the portal and stealing crypto-currency from escrow wallets, BleepingComputer’s Catalin Cimpanu notes.

Others, however, suggest the marketplace was taken down after authorities raided various locations in the United States, Canada and Thailand on July 5. AlphaBay went down the same day the raids happened, and the Wall Street Journal reports the law enforcement operation resulted in the portal’s shutdown.

Authorities apparently confirmed three raids in Canada and another in Thailand, but didn’t confirm that they were related to the Dark Web marketplace. While only equipment was reportedly seized in Canada, Alexander Cazes, 26, was arrested in Thailand, where authorities seized assets valued at over $11 million.

Cazes, supposedly the individual running AlphaBay, allegedly gave his consent to be extradited to the United States after a request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On Wednesday morning, he was found dead in his cell at the Narcotics Suppression Bureau in Bangkok’s Laksi district.

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Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of web security company High-Tech Bridge, pointed out in an emailed comment to SecurityWeek that, although there’s no safe harbor for cybercriminals operating illegal marketplaces such as AlphaBay, the portal’s demise is likely to result in miscreants taking measures to better secure their operations.

“Dark Web gives an illusion of safety and anonymity to many unexperienced users. This case is a good example that there is no safe harbor for cybercrime marketplaces operating on the global scale. Users erroneously believe that bitcoin or tor can assure their undetectability, but this assumption is wrong. There are many other ways to trace and unmask them via weaknesses in tangential technologies, or just by using social engineering or even their own garrulity against them,” Kolochenko said.

Last year, 35-year-old Aaron James Glende from Winona, Minnesota, was sentenced to four years and two months in prison for selling stolen information on AlphaBay. In January this year, a Reddit user demonstrated he could read any private message the dark web marketplace.

“However, this news is rather a bad one in the long run. I think, other illegal market places will quickly learn the lesson and take all measures to secure their platforms and operators. We will probably see many new smaller places restricted only to ‘trusted’ sellers and verified buyers. This will seriously impede any further investigation and police raids,” Kolochenko concluded.

Earlier this year, darknet marketplace Hansa announced the launch of a bug bounty program with rewards of up to 10 bitcoins, in an effort to minimize chances of the website being hacked.

Related: Flaw Exposed Private Messages of AlphaBay Users

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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