Silk Road 1 was considered a trailblazer.
During its heyday, the site was undoubtedly the largest of the darknet markets ever created.
Ross Ulbricht started the venture as a legitimate business with no intentions to entangle himself with the illicit trade that was hinged on the exchange of drugs, weapons, and illicit paraphernalia.
Several mishaps and a major FBI crackdown later, Silk Road 1 was relegated to memory as one of the most successful darknet markets ever to exist.
Compared to the modern day AlphaBay, Silk Road 1 would have seemed insignificant.
AlphaBay has risen to become the largest and most reliable English-speaking darknet marketplace in the entire dark web.
Experts have compared the soaring success of the high-earning market to e-commerce giant Amazon.
In a niche that is famous for incessant FBI crackdowns, numerous exit scams, and unexplainable disappearances, AlphaBay has displayed resilience that has been termed “uncharacteristic,” but is undoubtedly the reason why the AlphaBayis still going strong.
AlphaBay Gunning for the 1,000-Day Mark
Come December this year, AlphaBay will mark a milestone no darknet market has had the honor of experiencing—1,000 days in operation—making it the only English-speaking market to have ever lasted that long.
Although most experts are generally at a loss over what has kept the lights on at the organization for so long, some insightful opinions have helped to shed some light on the well-oiled machine that is AlphaBay and the reasons why it will only live to grow bigger.
Terbium’s Emily Wilson believes that AlphaBay’s unprecedentedly long run can be attributed to its unquestionable reputation.
The dark web is not famed for its honest breed of characters and a series of exit scams performed by vendors, and even entire darknet markets, attest to the fact that no one can be trusted there.
AlphaBay’s levels of honesty and transparency mirror those of any legitimate business operating in an environment regulated by laws and regulations set by authoritative institutions.
In addition to being trustworthy, Wilson attributes much of its popularity to its user-friendly design.
AlphaBay Hidden Services are hosted in Russia
Experts are in unanimous agreement over the following fact: AlphaBay has remained safe from takedowns for so long because it hosts its hidden services in Russia.
Considered the global core of all activities pertaining to cybercrime, Russia is one of the few places where the FBI has no jurisdiction.
Coupled with the fact that AlphaBay is run by a team of highly organized professionals, it is easy to see how the platform has managed to thrive for so long.
Nicolas Christin from the Carnegie Mellon computer security firm admits that the marketplace’s growth isn’t as significant as it was in 2013.
He explains, however, that AlphaBay is still as lucrative as ever.
A curious detail about AlphaBay, one that is often unmentioned in the media, is the fact that the administrators have instated rules that are meant to protect Russia as a whole.
For instance, it is prohibited to sell stolen data from Russian organizations, government institutions, or private citizens.
What’s more, a prerequisite for malware vendors is that all their products should have a built-in feature that prevents harm from coming to a computer with a Russian IP address.
Malware vendors who target citizens from the Russian Commonwealth as a whole are banned from using the platform entirely.
Law Enforcement’s New Approach to Cybercrime May Facilitate Further Growth
The change of authorities’ approach will also positively impact the growth of AlphaBay, says Christin.
Unlike in the past where federal agencies were bent on killing internet crime one takedown at a time, a more relaxed approach has been deployed.
Focusing on major vendors instead of struggling to shut down massive darknet marketplaces has proved to be more rewarding.
As such, it is unlikely that AlphaBay’s demise—should it ever occur—will be a result of a well-orchestrated takedown.
A Reddit thread from the site administrator of AlphaBay revealed just how well-organized AlphaBay’s strategy is.
Far from solely relying on service fees to make a living, AlphaBay actively invests in various ventures using the Bitcoin stored in the platform’s virtual wallets much like banks and other financing institutions.
It is clear that AlphaBay is more than just a run-of-the-mill marketplace with the sole aim of providing a platform for the crime.
It is, in many ways, a pioneer and one of the only places on the dark web where the lines between legitimate and highly illegal are often indiscernible when it comes to trade.