The Silk Road Marketplace was the most popular marketplace on the dark web for a rather long time until the Federal Bureau of Investigation busted the website in October 2013. On the current dark net scene, AlphaBay rules the market with providing products to the customers from credit card data to weapons, drugs and malicious software, latter promising its buyers a profitable business model. Most of the vendors and customers like the platform – they are supposed to handle sales in millions of dollars. For this reason, Cyberscoop calls the marketplace the “Amazon of the Darknet”.
According to chip.de, the success and popularity of AlphaBay can be explained by the professionalism and reliability of which the site is managed. For months, it has been steady and has been running at a high speed – for dark net trading venues it is anything but a matter of course – and nowhere else is the offer as comprehensive and complete as there.
Enterprises such as the Rainmaker Labs are represented on AlphaBay. They sell “prefabricated” malicious software that allows customers to adapt to their own needs and search for vulnerable victims. Security gaps, which are also traded on the black market, are being used.
In principle, the functionality of AlphaBay is old-fashioned. The operators, of course, strive for the highest level of anonymity, provide only the platform on which dealers can offer products. Those interested can browse through the offer and shop for products – evaluation system, of course, is included. A trustee system is designed to ensure that customers receive the ordered goods, and traders their money. AlphaBay handles the service and collects a commission for it.
The German news outlet said that anyone behind AlphaBay is unknown. Chip.de’s research claimed that there is a chance that the platform is run by a circle of at least twelve people, the servers are supposed to be in Russia. While stolen identities may be traded on the platform, the sale of personal data of Russian citizens is strictly prohibited. Even malicious software, which can be offered on the platform without problems, must be equipped with a mechanism that prevents the attack of Russian computers. Not having to deal with Russian authorities could be one of the reasons for the longevity of AlphaBay.
According to chip.de, police and other law enforcement agencies remain “outside” since the dark web’s infrastructure makes it virtually impossible to identify operators, dealers or customers as long as they do not make big mistakes. Instead, the authorities resort to classical police work: they supervise the scene, carry out “trial” purchases, and when goods actually arrive, there is at least a first track that can be examined. Security gaps in the platforms themselves are another possible starting point for information gathering. Law enforcement authorities in Germany are focusing on careless traders, who can be assigned real identities on the basis of e-mail addresses or user names, who could be easily arrested with the method of trial purchases. In such instances, investigators order products from the suspects, mostly narcotics, and when the payment is sent, the vendor sends the illicit goods to the undercover police agents. After the parcel or parcels arrive, a forensic examination is conducted on the package and its contents. If traces are found in the investigation, law enforcement authorities could easily identify the seller, and prosecute him or her. Additionally, undercover police officers also examine the online details of the sellers to see whether they made any mistakes on the online platform, which law enforcement authorities could use to arrest them and take down their businesses.
Accordingly, the police regularly succeed to arrest traders of illegal goods, chip.de says. Successes against platform operators are less frequent – often after a certain time, they simply submerge themselves, without neglecting the sums deposited (exit scams). Whether and when this destiny hits AlphaBay, nobody knows. If the platform is enduring through the end of the year, however, it has at least broken Silk Road’s longevity record.