AlphaBay Is Taking Over the Dark Web Again
After five years, the revived AlphaBay is clawing its way to the top of the illegal drug trade. While other dark web markets have fallen victim to law enforcement operations, AlphaBay has risen from the ashes to reclaim its position at the top.
AlphaBay was taken down in July of 2017, but came back in August of 2018. It is currently ranked 2 on the darknet market list.
AlphaBay is currently the largest dark web market. It has grown rapidly since its launch in 2013. At the beginning of 2017, there were only around 500 items listed on the site. By February 2018, the number of products listed had increased to almost 10,000. The site is still growing fast and now has more than 30,000 listings.
AlphaBay’s new incarnation isn’t even the biggest dark web marketplace. Its predecessor, Alphabay, had about 50,000 listings at its height in late 2017. But the new AlphaBay, launched last month, has only a few thousand listings. And all those listings are for cryptocurrencies, not drugs, guns or other illicit goods. So far, the new AlphaBay has sold only around $1 million worth of digital currency.
But even taking into account the differences in the two markets, AlphaBay still appears to be the leading market, or will be soon. AlphaBay’s quick growth has been fueled in part because of the “Great Cyber Resignation,” according to an expert. At least ten dark web markets have dropped off the map in recent years, including DarkMarket, which was the target in a Europol-led bust earlier this year. Others, like Hydra, the massive Russian language drug and money laundering market whose servers were seized last spring, have staged exit scams, disappearing abruptly with their users’ money and leaving behind nothing but a message saying “Goodbye.” Others, like Dark0De and World Market, have staged more considered exits, giving users time before pulling out any funds. But even those who left quietly have not always given their users enough notice. In one example, a vendor who had been selling drugs on the site for nearly three years told Motherboard he hadn’t received his final payment until after he’d moved away from the U.S., and when he tried to withdraw the cash, he found himself unable to access his own funds. The vendor said he’d been forced to sell his car to pay back the $3,000 owed him.
Dark web market product listing data show how the new AlphaBay marketplace has survived a mass exodus. (Data does not include ASAP Data for the last two days) until late May, that left Versus as the last leading marketplace standing. But then, in mid-May, DeSnake published a blog post on the dark web marketplace forum Dread with evidence that points to a security vulnerability in versus provided to him by a user named ‘threesixty’ that exposed versus’s IP address, potentially leaving it’s users vulnerable to hackers or police. ‘Both threesixty and I have the best intentions, We hope to have a fruitful discussion about security on markets.’ Versus responded by immediately announcing it’s retirement. ‘We will say that there were a clear agenda behind the ways this was originally handled, but we leave you to draw our own conclusions.’ DeSnake, meanwhile, maintains both on Dread and to Wired that he doesn’t have any personal or professional connections to threesixty, The Hacker whose vulnerability discovery took down alpha bay’s largest remaining competitor. ‘We handled it the best way possible, due to the severity,’ says DeSnake.
AlphaBay was once again back online after a lengthy period of downtime. The site had been taken down by its operators several times before, including in early 2018 after the arrest of two alleged Russian hackers working for the FSB, Russia’s successor to the KGB. Some observers suspected that the takedowns were orchestrated by law enforcement agencies, which could have been motivated by the fact that AlphaBay was the largest dark web marketplace at the time. In April 2019, however, AlphaBay returned online with a new operator claiming to be a different individual named DeSnake. He said he was not connected to the previous operator, Alexander Vinnik, and claimed that he had not been arrested by law enforcement. Instead, he said he had left the country because of fears for his safety. “I am a free man,” he wrote. “I will never go back to Russia.