The dark web’s most popular black market spontaneously went offline a couple of weeks ago.
Since then, public opinion on online communication platforms and forums has contained speculation and outrage about AlphaBay administrators’ intentions for the outage.
The site went offline without notice on July 4, which sparked AlphaBay’s collective of vendors and users to demand justice for those whose funds had been stored in escrow accounts pending sales.
But recently-surfaced breaking news satisfies many unanswered questions left by users closely following the story.
The Wall Street Journal received information from a confirmed source that the market’s disappearance happened after law enforcement conducted raids in three countries a day after AlphaBay went offline.
In the raids, officials seized equipment owned by alleged AlphaBay administrators in the United States, Canada and Thailand.
Background on AlphaBay
The AlphaBay market was first launched in 2014, subsequently skyrocketing in popularity for being reliable and reputable, adhering to high standards of operation.
Respect for AlphaBay rose after other darknet markets were subject to elaborate exit scams in which administrators stole vendors’ Bitcoin funds. Many thefts rounded out to millions of dollars in take away money.
For example, the darknet market called “Evolution” was subject to an exit scam in 2015. Administrators ended up taking $12 million in Bitcoins from vendors.
In May, administrators of the popular market “Outlaw” claimed the site had been hacked while making off with massive amounts of Bitcoin stolen from users.
These exit scams led many darknet market users to AlphaBay, a site that upheld a positive reputation for being safe and trusted.
It was also a thriving market, reporting an average of $600,000-$800,000 a day in sales with about 400,000 users and vendors.
Speculation After AlphaBay Went Down
After AlphaBay was reported offline on July 4, users and onlookers were collectively outraged—a reaction that was near-immediate.
A blockchain-recorded Bitcoin transaction indicated someone had transferred millions of dollars within the system. Reddit users considered this as evidence that AlphaBay administrators had in fact stolen vendors’ funds, stored in escrow accounts.
Complaints were quickly posted on the AlphaBay subreddit. An exit scam was alleged within just a few hours after the site went offline.
Some commenters claimed to work on AlphaBay’s staff. A supposed staff member posted a notice that the site’s developers and administrators were trying to get AlphaBay up soon and in the mean time, users should be advised to avoid clicking on links posted by users claiming the site is back online.
This statement was in response to the growing amount of phishing attacks targeting the AlphaBay community when the site first went offline.
Law Enforcement Raids
A few days ago, Canadian media publications reported that law enforcement was responsible for AlphaBay’s disappearance. Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided two resident addresses and one business in the country.
No arrests were made, but equipment owned by the suspects was indeed taken by the authorities.
Meanwhile in Thailand, 26-year-old Canadian national Alexander Cazes was taken into custody at his residence in Bangkok. This was after the U.S. issued a warrant for his arrest pending drug trafficking charges.
It is certain that Cazes is in fact the founder of AlphaBay, publically known as DeSnake. Soon after his arrest, officials found Cazes dead in his jail cell after hanging himself with a towel.
Several websites run by Cazes appear to be associated with AlphaBay, and they seem to have gone offline at the same time AlphaBay was seized.
After AlphaBay disappeared, other emerging darknet markets have responded to the situation in some way or another.
For instance, Hansa stopped all new registrations from occurring because of technical problems.