Popular dark web site, AlphaBay Market, has been down for almost a week now, leaving users speculating what happened to cause the outage.
The fear is that AlphaBay may be executing an exit plan with the cryptocurrency funds the site’s users have earned.
Dark web marketplaces like AlphaBay Market allow anonymous trading and communication through the Tor encrypted software, through which IP addresses are anonymized from both ends.
AlphaBay Market is one of the largest marketplaces on the dark web. And since it went offline last Tuesday, July 4, administrators haven’t left any official statement to announce what happened.
This has created a lot of speculation, including fears that the anonymous marketplace may be executing an exit scam. Users have become jittery that the free anonymous market may have kept the Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies in individual accounts with their sudden disappearance.
AlphaBay Market partnered with Oasis in 2016, resulting in the surge of Monero value when it began accepting the cryptocurrency. The site’s sudden disappearance has made users suspicious, especially with a large withdrawal of Bitcoin suspected to be sourced from one of the AlphaBay accounts.
Bitcoins totaling 1,479.03904709 (worth about $3.8 million) were withdrawn to various addresses, causing users to become alarmed. Many believe this is indicative of an exit scam and that AlphaBay admins plan to keep all the money for themselves.
Even though the market has only been down for a week, users’ patience seems to be running out—especially when it comes to their funds. The site may be down for maintenance, but what worries people is the silence, coupled with the large withdrawal that is yet to be confirmed was done by AlphaBay admins.
It has only been one month since the anonymous marketplace announced plans to integrate Zcash payments. The main reasons for this planned change are the high fees and uncertainty around the upcoming Bitcoin hard fork.
It could be true that this outage resulted from unexpected security issues when integrating Zcash, hence AlphaBay’s unwillingness to talk about the blackout for reasons of security.
On Reddit, one user assumed to be an AlphaBay staff member posted that the downtime may bring about an increase in phishing sites but gave no reason for the outage. This is the closest we are to an official statement from AlphaBay Market.
This has affected frequent users the most. No one can be at peace if the most popular marketplace goes dark for days without any explanation. Some are still hopeful that the site is getting a facelift and will relaunch soon with better features and usability.
AlphaBay Market has seen tremendous growth over the years, rising to become the most popular darknet marketplace to trade. It has more than 200,000 users drawn from around the world and has defied the odds despite competition from the likes of Abraxas, Dream and Hansa.
Even those who’ve never heard of darknet markets have come to know what AlphaBay is.
Today, it is unclear why the outage is occurring. In the past, AlphaBay Market has warned users when it schedules maintenance.
It will be a sad day for users who have ongoing sales waiting clearance of payment from the escrow held by AlphaBay on behalf of the two parties. Once the buyer confirms the receipt of goods or services in the right conditions, the seller then receives the payment from AlphaBay Market.
It’s possible AlphaBay Market may have attracted too much attention from law enforcement to make them vanish before it’s too late. Government agents may have infiltrated the system and then attempted to bring it down, triggering the exit. If it doesn’t resume activity soon, buyers will be forced to shift to Dream or Hansa.
Exit scams among such darknet marketplaces are not uncommon. Evolution succeeded in taking $12 million worth of users’ Bitcoins in 2015. In May, Outlaw pulled an exit scam leaving its users stranded after first publishing a message that it had been hacked, followed by a total shutdown.
Darknet marketplaces are known for allowing users to buy and sell illicit goods and services including guns, stole goods, counterfeit goods and drugs.
So amidst the panic, chaos and confusion, some are threatening reprisals if AlphaBay makes a run with their cryptocurrency funds. Some are even willing to donate money to help find and punish the owners who may have run away with Bitcoins, even if they haven’t lost any money themselves.
In spite of all the speculations and fears, we won’t know for sure what is going on until AlphaBay Market comes back online or goes away for good.