Online Knife Trade On Dark Web Marketplaces

In September 2015, London’s Metropolitan Police made claims that the dark web sites such as AlphaBay Market, Abraxas, and Outlaw, may have contributed to an increase in knife crimes in the UK by up to a staggering 18%. Considering the already astronomical knife crime rates in England, the Met Police found this worrying.

According to the Homicide and Major Crimes Division of the Scotland Yard, this dramatic increase may have come about because of the police’s new approach to reduce stop and search operations. Cultural shift among the country’s youth is also to blame. The police think that this shift fosters the use of knives. Despite this, the Yard speculates that the other contributor is the use of dark web bazaars like AlphaBay, to procure weapons.

==> Click here for the AlphaBay Guide and AlphaBay URL <==

These claims instigated an online survey to help determine the exact proportions of the online trade in knives. Motherboard, a tech blogging website conducted the survey that sampled Abraxas, Dream Market, Outlaw, Middle Earth Market, and AlphaBay. This study unearthed 27 listings that explicitly displayed knives or other manner of weaponry that come close in categorization especially the knuckle-dusters that have extra blades attached.

Stealth Knife Card

The prices of the said merchandise widely vary. A concealed knife fronted as a credit card goes for US$15 while “Pantera Claws,” a weapon similar to the large blades seen on Wolverine, the comic book character, costs almost US$120. Judging by the photos accompanying the listings, most of the knives offered for sale are however small.

The UK has grappled with knife crime for a long time now and with very little success. This is especially worse among young gang members who use sites like AlphaBay a lot more frequently. According to the Gang and organized Crime Division of the Metropolitan Police, ready availability of knives and especially on the internet needs to be dealt with because young people can now get these much easily and without the necessary checks that may help ascertain the buyers’ ages. Though this gives reference to the entire internet, the Metropolitan Police says it is right to mention the contributions of dark web sites like AlphaBay, in the whole knives trade.

While the Met Police admit to seeing “Rambo” as well as zombie knives in circulation and attribute this phenomenon to online sales, Motherboard did not see any of these among the listings sampled. While the said knives are large, hunting style weapons with a design for maximum damage, the closest listing on the survey identified and that comes any close to these, are the TV-motivated endorsements of jungle survival knives.

Regarding overall knife sales, only some dark web marketplaces offer useful data. AlphaBay for instance, lists the number of purchases concluded on a particular item. According to this list, AlphaBay sold five “credit card” knives between April and September 2015. During the said period, none of the three other knife items listed on the market attracted any sales.

AlphaBay-Market

Such surveys are however not very representative. Getting a good idea of sales made over a specific time frame on a particular market like AlphaBay may necessitate the use of collated feedback collected over several years. The listings available in darknet markets such as AlphaBay, only present displays from a few sellers. The listings the survey refers to on AlphaBay Market and other dark web sites for instance, are from a single vendor.

It also is important to note that despite covering AlphaBay, this survey left out Agora and Evolution: Two leading dark web sites to date. While this skews the study results and real picture. Unfortunately, Motherboard could not do anything about the management crisis in the two said sites. Agora temporarily closed in August 2015 in what its management calls a hiatus necessitated by security concerns it experienced with the dark web browser, Tor. Evolution on the other hand, went down some times in March 2015 when its administrators disappeared and costing customers several millions of dollars. These occurrences thus reduced the scope of the said survey to only the five earlier mentioned sites.

According to the Metropolitan Police, their conclusion that knives from the dark web sites such as AlphaBay Market contribute to the crime instances in London is based on intelligence, weapons seized from gang members, results from criminal investigation activities conducted by Trident teams in conjunction with gang members as well as from work carried out by the Home Office. This information notwithstanding, all accounts show that AlphaBay sales as well as other dark web trade in knives is still minimal and that further research conducted by law enforcement divisions may be necessary to prove otherwise. According to this particular survey, believing that sites like AlphaBay Market contribute significantly to the increase levels of knife crime is unfounded.

The 5 Largest Darknet Markets

Considering the amount of growth that has been reported from the darknet community and especially the darknet marketplaces like AlphaBay, a question comes to mind. Which of the darknet markets currently hold the title of the largest on darknet? In this article the focus will be put mostly on the size viewed as the number of listings on a particular market rather than the quality and the reputation of the market in question.

Darknet MarketsAfter the dust has settled from the turmoil caused by numerous major market shutdowns, a clear ranking is starting to appear among the contestants for the largest marketplace. While there are many factors that play a role in the growth of a darknet market such as AlphaBay, it seems that timing and security play the most vital part. The largest markets currently are those that were created after the shutdown of Silk Road. While some of them still witnessed failure or just plain exit scammed, most of the current major markets like AlphaBay are from the post-Silk Road era.

==> Click here for the AlphaBay Guide and AlphaBay URL <==

While it has recently announced that the Agora market is going to be temporarily shut down due to maintenance it still remains the largest market on darknet until solid proof of any scam-related action is brought to light. Created in 2013 after the Silk Road shutdown it has managed to survive for 2 years, proving that the people behind it are a dedicated group of professionals. This reputation, gained over a long period of time (many markets do not last for more than 6 months) has served to attract customer and vendors on a daily basis, thus increasing the size of the market exponentially. This has caused Agora to have over 26 thousand listings and growing. Not even the recent announcement of temporary shutdown has stirred its users, as many of them are reluctant to switch to other markets during this period.

AlphaBay

The second and third places are occupied by AlphaBay and Nucleus. There is not a clear ranking for these two markets as AlphaBay and Nucleus are very similar in size and both are regarded with equal respect. AlphaBay was opened in late 2014 quickly after the confirmation on Evolution market’s exit-scam. This has caused many of Evolution’s users to transfer over to AlphaBay Market making AlphaBay grow very rapidly in a short period of time. AlphaBay is owned by a frequent of carding forums known as alpha02 and while carding business inspires distrust in part of darknet community, there are those who are advocating that alpha02 is an experienced darknet user with extensive knowledge in privacy protection. One thing that makes AlphaBay attract so many users is the fact that AlphaBay is constantly being upgraded with numerous AlphaBay features, enhancing the ease of use of their service.

Alphabay and Nucleus MarketThe fact that Nucleus is on par with AlphaBay concerning size is not that odd considering the fact that it was opened in the wake of Evolution exit scam. One other thing that seems to be getting pointed out a lot by people on various forums is the uncanny resemblance of Nucleus UI compared to the one of the Evolution market. This raises the question if the two marketplaces are in any way connected, but can also be attributed to Nucleus’ owner just wanting to make the site easier to use by utilizing an already familiar UI (which was reported to be quite responsive despite all other accusations).

Compared to the first part of the list the last two markets are half as big but have recorded a steady growth and constant customer influx from the moment they were opened. These are Abraxas and Middle Earth Marketplace.

The slightly bigger of the two, the Abraxas market seems to be a constant topic of conspiracy theories. Some of them are good, some are bad and some are downright ridiculous. There were some particular incidents from the Abaraxas’ staff but all of those were quickly and promptly fixed, leaving only suspicious looks towards the market. While this is not among the largest markets on darknet it certainly is, despite everything, one of the fastest growing ones. If one disregards all the conspiracy theories surrounding it, Abraxas seems like a pretty well-made market, which resembles Agora a lot, to the point that some are claiming it to be Agora’s testing tube for site features.

Middle-Earth

The last of the five markets and the smallest of them is the Middle Earth Marketplace. It is important to note that this marketplace only seems small when compared to giants like Agora and AlphaBay, when in reality it is the fifth largest one on darknet with over 5 thousand listings. The one thing that immediately becomes evident is that Middle Earth Marketplace requires its visitors to use JavaScript which makes most of them stay away from it the moment they realize this. In addition to this there are reports of scammers present on this site, but in no greater number than on other markets. The site design is quite colorful compared to other sites, making the site have mixed reviews from the community. Lastly there is a system implemented on Middle Earth Marketplace that prevents the user from withdrawing the funds without spending them, on the premises of “tumbling” being forbidden on the site.

All things summed up, with many major market shutdown’s recently the landscape of darknet is beginning to shape in such a way that newer markets have less and less possibility for success. The large, already established markets are using their reputation to amass the users who are afraid of being scammed or robbed of their bitcoins in any way. With the Agora’s recent temporary shutdown, AlphaBay is starting to pick up the speed as far as growth goes. With AlphaBay feature heavy site and several measures of security and scam prevention AlphaBay is a very likely contender for the title of the largest darknet market in case Agora does not reappear soon.

AlphaBay Come Back From A Downtime With New Infrastructure

Earlier last week the admins of AlphaBay have posted a message on their subreddit saying that the market will be put offline for approximately 24 hours in order to improve its infrastructure in anticipation of Agora refugees.

Reddit DarkNet Market New Interface
Ever since the biggest market on darknet, Agora, announced a temporary shutdown, there were many vendors and buyers alike who started looking for a new darknet marketplace that will offer them stability and consistency. Due to this, many marketplaces started getting a good amount of new users migrating from Agora and in light of that are experiencing problems with load on their servers. One of the biggest contenders to Agora, AlpaBay, has obviously been the place of choice for many people and as such has suffered the most strain on their servers due to a sudden increase in traffic.

==> Click here for the AlphaBay Guide and AlphaBay URL <==

Reddit Alphabay Market New Interface
For this reason it seems that admins decided to inconvenience everybody for a higher goal and shutdown the site temporarily before optimizing it to suite the new community. The service was down for a little more than 24 hours and the downtime was thoroughly explained on AlphaBay’s forum and subreddit. There were also improvements to AlphaBay’s wallet infrastructure and a new hot wallet was created to replace old ones. The old wallet left online for 3 days in case somebody sends their bitcoin there by mistake, but getting your funds back from it will take time since the process will have to be carried out manually. Escrow timers and auto-completions were also extended by 48 hours to compensate for the time lost.

Another important thing to note is that it was reported that AlphaBay Market will be giving free vendor bonds to vendors that decide to migrate from Agora. This will serve as an enticement for major Agora vendors to transfer to AlphaBay earning them more customers in the process. While AlphaBay admins are aware that this will also make the scammers try to abuse the system, they are confident that their ScamWatch team will be able to mitigate it to minimum with the help of the community. AlphaBay admins are urging their users to be extra vigilant at this time to avoid being scammed and are advising them to report any suspicious activity on the Scam Reports section of their forum as soon as they notice it.

new interface
Despite the fact that marketplace downtimes are usually followed closely by false accusations of scamming and bad reputation for the market it seems that AlphaBay users are actually pleased with the results of the latest updates. According to AlphaBay’s subreddit, users are reporting that the site’s speed has increased multiple times and that the improvement in service was well worth the wait. While there are still those that were inconvenienced by the downtime, many are reporting satisfaction and positive reviews from the new service.

All of this will just serve to put AlphaBay one step closer to overcoming Agora, especially now since more and more Agora users are deciding to move to AlphaBay which is sure to increase its community exponentially. All that is left is to wait and see whether Agora will recover from their reported technical issues or will AlphaBay Market manage to take its community over in the meantime.

AlphaBay Introduce Anti-Scam Team “ScamWatch”

It is a well-known fact that darknet is teeming with scammers praying on unprotected personal and bitcoin information. While the practice of scamming is generally frowned upon on darknet, there are those who employ the view that one deserves to get scammed if they are “stupidly” careless.

AlphaBay ScamWatchOn the other hand, a darknet marketplace known as AlphaBay has recently implemented a feature in hope of battling scam attempts involving their website. The so-called “ScamWatch” was put in place to browse the AlphaBay URL and search for any suspected scamming attempts. The ScamWatch is made up of three trusted moderators of AlphaBay Market and there are rumors that highly rated community members will have a role in this as well.

==> Click here for the AlphaBay Guide and AlphaBay URL <==

As the feature was being implemented there was a message on AlphaBay’s reddit page explaining the details of ScamWatch and how will it work. They claim that there are three paid “investigators” who are keeping a close eye on any suspicious activity on AlphaBay. The staff of ScamWatch will all keep their standard moderator privileges, but will also be able to delete listings, moderate topics and even make listings physical, but they will not have any role in disputes or forum permission moderation.
AlphaBay ScamWatchThe way in which ScamWatch works is that they will have to watch for suspicious users 24 hours per day and after determining that such a user exists, they will have the ability to freeze said account and prevent the user from withdrawing funds. The freeze of account can last up to 24 hours during which time the administration will review the cause and evidence for taking such action. While part of community believes that instant banning would be a better option, the owner of AlphaBay claims that instant banning could lead to abuse of power and that the 24 hour freeze is a sufficient measure.

While the concerns over this feature giving AlphaBay the ability to freeze all of its accounts and perform a scam themselves are rising, the owner of AlphaBay, alpha02 promises that such things will be carefully watched for and will be punished most severely. In light of this event alpha02 account will be renamed to “Admin” and will be receiving the messages only from staff members. For those who need to contact alpha02 personally, an encrypted message can be sent to somebody from the Staff with the note to be forwarded to “Administration” account.
AlphaBay ScamWatchThere will be an AlphaBay support section implemented and split into three sub-sections: the Bug Reports, the Scam-Reports and the Helpdesk. The ScamWatch will help the Staff in resolving issues from Scam-Reports, while the HelpDesk and the Bug-Reports will be in Staff’s exclusive jurisdiction. Any issues that have sufficient evidence backing them will be handed over to Administration for further investigation.

There was also a message from Trappy_Pandora, a spokesperson of AlphaBay, posted on reddit following the announcement of ScamWatch saying that while SW members might not be the most friendly of people, they are trusted members of AlphaBay who will not abuse their position.

With this latest addition AlphaBay has truly shown that they are stepping up their game when it comes to creating a relatively healthy darknet community. Let’s just hope there are no hidden agendas involved this time.

Alphabay Darknet Market Features

Given the fact that darknet markets are known to be short-lived it is not odd that most of them are made to be quite simple from the technical side of things. Outside the basic features needed to conduct business online and those that provide increased security for users, very few markets opt for “enriching” their site with users’ convenience in mind.

This makes the fact that AlphaBay is implementing such features all the more interesting. This should not be considered as a bad thing, on the contrary many of these features hugely improve the stability of AlphaBay and reduce the percent of scams and failed transactions occurring. While this has made AlphaBay more technically complex and part of darknet community frowns upon it, it seems that people are starting to get used to such additions and are welcoming them at that.

==> Click here for the AlphaBay Guide and AlphaBay URL <==

Alphabay Digital Contact
One of the more recent features added by the owners of AlphaBay Marketplace is what they call a “Digital Contract”. This feature works in the same way that its name suggests. Like the regular contract both parties in a transaction decide on forming it to cover some additional business matters. One of them then pays the $5 contract fee and is prompted to write out the contents of the contract. While there is no given draft for this, the administrators of AlphaBay Market advise that the contract is written in such a way that it covers all the necessary data and possible circumstances one can think of. This will ensure that in case of dispute arising, there will be sufficient data to reach a clear and unbiased verdict. These contracts will be made visible on user’s profile regardless of whether they have been completed successfully or not. This will enhance the already existing rating and feedback system that exists on AlphaBay and ensures the legitimacy of its vendors.

Alphabay Digital Contact
Another feature that was implemented on AlphaBay is the Auto Shop. This feature has seen use in selling stolen credit cards and hacked accounts. There is also the possibility of filtering your searches by Name, ZIP, Country, BIN, Seller, City or others making the relatively large list of entries easier to navigate. There are some negative rants on AlphaBay reddit however, mostly regarding scamming. It seems that Auto Shop has an unusually large amount of scammers and the fact that the feedback feature is not usable when using Auto Shop does not help the matter. There are several instances of scamming reported on AlphaBay reddit and a significant part of community seems to stay away from this feature to avoid the danger of unnecessarily loosing Bitcoin. Despite this, AlphaBay Marketplace has not lost credibility, as their main website and marketplace are still one of the most stable and secure places to do business on Darknet.

Aplhabay Autoshop
And with the new ScamWatch feature being implemented as you read this, there is hope in even more reliable service on AlphaBay. While this will not outright remove the possibility of users being scammed it seems like a step in the right direction when it comes to creating a somewhat trustworthy community on Darknet.

For those looking for safety when buying or selling on the darknet, AlphaBay Marketplace is starting to pull ahead as the true successor of the original Silk Road even though it has yet to improve a lot in the eyes of Darknet community. With its moderators working hard on improving the user experience, one would have a hard time believing that AlphaBay is in fact, a Darknet website.

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