AlphaBay Rising to be Become the Amazon of Dark Web

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.

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Darknet market in the form of binary code, 3D illustration
AlphaBay, the most popular dark web marketplace in existence, has been justifiably compared to e-commerce giant Amazon.

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

Hand of businessman in suit on dark digital background using wireless computer mouse
AlphaBay has risen to become the largest and most reliable English-speaking darknet marketplace in the entire dark web.

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.

Black Friday Sales On AlphaBay Market

Black Friday is the one time of the year when massive price drops lead millions of shoppers to flock various online and physical outlets to take advantage of the annual discounts on a wide range of products.

Websites crash and shops are often destroyed in the resulting melee as shoppers struggle to buy as many things as possible before the one-day period is over.

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The AlphaBay Market and a host of other DNMs participated in the recently concluded Black Friday sales event where drugs were listed at discounted prices.
The AlphaBay Market and a host of other DNMs participated in the recently concluded Black Friday sales event where drugs were listed at discounted prices.

Traditionally reserved to mainstream online and physical shops, it is a rarity to see dark web marketplaces such as AlphaBay partaking in the tradition.

However, this year’s event was marked by significant discounts from various dark web markets, including AlphaBay as DNM customers were treated to huge discounts on drugs and other illicit items.

AlphaBay Vendors Offered Deals on Narcotics

Vocativ reported several discounts on various hard drugs, most popular of all being the $2 LSD tablets offered by drug vendors on AlphaBay Market and other DNMs, with the top priority being given to customers who purchased in bulks of ten or more pills.

The offer stated that these customers would receive refunds and quick delivery times on their orders.

To sweeten the deal, the LSD vendor was offering to provide ten free testing strips to the buyer who would want to send their order for testing at the Energy Control facility in Barcelona.

The philanthropic discounts went on AlphaBay Market where an AlphaBay drug vendor was offering massive discounts on the synthetic opiate fentanyl.

For users who were interested, $750 could get them around 2,500mg of the drug with no limit on how many purchases could be made.

The AlphaBay vendor was, however, attention-shy, owing his hesitance to the fact that fentanyl is highly illicit and very dangerous.

He was also quick to post a disclaimer, saying that he was not planning on selling his product to people who were not well versed with the use of the drug and the potential risks involved in consuming it.

He planned on setting the distinction by asking his potential buyers the potency of fentanyl when compared to heroin.

Fentanyl is a controversial drug, and its presence among the Black Friday deals will do little to prevent the abuse of the lethal drug.

Despite the AlphaBay vendor’s seemingly cautious measures, there is no guarantee that the drug will not just as easily fall into the wrong hands.

Marijuana Makes an Appearance in Black Friday Discounts

Marijuana Businesses Embrace Black Friday and the Holidays

Marijuana, one of the most popular drugs purchased on the darknet markets, was not absent in the latest spate of discounted products this year.

In the spirit of Black Friday, one drug vendor was reportedly offering an ounce of medical-grade marijuana popularly known as Gorilla Glue #4 for $100.

Being one of the most potent strains of marijuana, this particular drug is known to have the strongest euphoric effects and is a commonly sought after treatment for people suffering from intense pain, insomnia and stress.

The award-winning strain of marijuana won first place in the hybrid category at the 2015 World Cannabis Cup.

Cuban Cigars Also on Offer on AlphaBay Market

On the less illicit products that were on sale in AlphaBay Market on Black Friday, a brand of Cuban cigars referred to as the Churchill cigars were also put on sale at discounted prices by an AlphaBay Market drug vendor.

Considered the largest Cuban cigars, the Romeo y Julieta brand is a really sought after brand of cigars, especially since the lack of a steady relationship between the USA and Cuba has effectively led to the banning of such products.

The AlphaBay Market vendor sought to cash in on the Black Friday rush by offering packs of the popular cigar at really good prices, giving cigar enthusiasts something else to be thankful for this year.

Black Friday Tradition Carries On

Bargain hunters will certainly keep a keener eye on AlphaBay Market and other darknet markets next year to capitalize on the massive sale discounts, which will definitely be turned up a notch given the success of this year’s event.

As far as the illicit drug trade goes, events such as these normalize it to a point where markets like AlphaBay Market seem more commercial than the underground criminal hubs they are often portrayed to be.

Whether this will peak the attention of the law enforcement agencies, even more, we are yet to find out.

Vendor is Scamming People On AlphaBay

Alphabay-and-Nucleus-MarketWith increased focus on darknet markets following the closure of Nucleus Market, there’s been a lot of debate as to which darknet site is the most popular right now. While most people prefer using AlphaBay Market rather than the rest, their subreddit thread has recently been filled with complaints about illegal deals and sc ams targeting bitcoin users.

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The main culprit on AlphaBay Market has been an individual with the account name ManWithAXan. Approximately a week ago, he seemed legit having no negative comments on his page and all feedbacks being positive. But lately things have started to change and now he has several bad reviews, coming from people claiming to have been conned by him. Those who have placed orders with this AlphaBay Market vendor are still waiting for their shipment to arrive, though it’s unlikely to happen. Just a few days ago the same user reportedly offered somebody a free product sample, but on another different thread. He was probably just baiting them to place a much larger order.

ManWithAXan has been bragging about generating more than 30k in profits within 2 months only. However, it’s now clear that all his money is not legit. Some people have even claimed that he’s attempting an exit scam, which is characterized by no package being sent and no communication from the vendor as well. The trader is actively accepting orders but not fulfilling them. Sometimes he replies buyers through online text message when they request for more details about their orders, but still fails to fulfill them. Certain AlphaBay Market users are already placing blame on the site’s admin, wondering why this vendor is still operational despite having being exposed by disgruntled buyers.

There are several darknet markets currently available to users; however, not all of them are trustworthy. Therefore, any kind of live trade website must ensure that buyers and traders are well protected. Especially when dealing with bitcoins as the main source of payment. Since cryptocurrencies cannot be charged back after a transaction has been made, the risk of falling prey to scam artists is very real.

AlphaBay Market is currently the leading darknet market, though it might just be a matter of time until such platforms are completely shut down by cops. A short while ago, the Norwegian police force assembled a special unit to focus on Darknet Market Sites.

reddit-logoWhen searching through AlphaBay’s subreddit, it’s easy to identify what types of products they sell on the platform. Most of the feedback and comments revolve around drug deals, which are facilitated by the anonymity of the dark web. Given the open nature of these platforms and also lack of oversight, it’s easy to buy or sell anything to anybody across the world. This concept of trading attracts many bitcoin users from different walks of life, but that doesn’t mean they are totally safe from fraudsters. Several buyers have complained of getting scammed, with one Reddit user in particular pointing out that he spent close to 1,200 EUR in BTC and received nothing in return. The excessive amount of negative comments targeting AlphaBay Market sellers has taken a worrying trend, it’s now up to the admin to do something and save face for the site.

Cybercrime Trends Are Increasing

Research carried out by the security software and hardware firm based in the UK, Sophos, showed that cybercrime trends in 2016 point towards an increased use of advanced social engineering techniques as well as customized and targeted document-based attacks. James Lyne, global security research head at Sophos, warned that the cybercriminals are becoming more and more effective because of the employment of these techniques.

Speaking at the RSA Conference 2016, Lyne, who also works as an instructor at the SANS Institute, provided more information about these cybercrime trends and warned organizations about the emerging threats. According to him, true and tested threats and attack methods such as phishing attacks and drive-by downloads are being commonly employed as in the past.

However, he added that today’s cybercriminals are seeking new and greener pastures and are much better at using stolen information to make money. He also said that they have created a more mature marketplace on the dark web which is capable of putting even legitimate e-commerce sites to shame.

Explaining as to how darknet markets operate, he said that cybercriminal signing up on the sites are provided with a GPG or PPG key for authentication purposes. Researchers at Sophos who signed up for purchasing data for testing purposes received an email containing a PPG-encrypted Excel file having all information about a credit card account within two seconds of completing the purchase. He said it would be great if real retailers could provide their customers with such an experience.

Over and above all these, what was more distressing as far as Lyne was concerned was the advancement cybercriminals have been able to achieve in effecting social engineering attacks. During Last year’s RSA Conference he had pointed out the improvement in quality in social engineering attacks as they had moved beyond emails related to Nigerian princes to more targeted and well-researched information so as to fool targets.

For example, cybercriminals no longer send emails offering tax refunds as their success rate has become low. Instead, they send a résumé to a company that has put up an advertisement for job positions. Some users click on such emails even though they contain wrongly spelled words and grammatical mistakes. This trend raises a lot of concerns because it is capable of introducing document-based malware.

The latest development in this area is customization of document-based malware. Cybercriminals are purposely limiting the distribution of document-based malware so as to focus on approximately 2,000 to 3,000 people in a company. As a result, attacks have become more sophisticated and powerful. Further, combining document-based malware with advanced social engineering techniques creates a more devastating effect.

Alpha Bay Market

sans_logo_big_blue_n_whiteDuring his talk, Lyne specifically mentioned about the Alpha Bay Market, a marketplace that operates on the Tor network. Alpha Bay enables cyber criminals to sell, buy and trade data. He also explained as to how Alpha Bay would automatically delete credit card numbers they put up for sale once they have been displayed for a couple of days. This is because the account number would have been changed during that time. However, he warned that in addition to email addresses and credit card information, Alpha Bay offered several other products as well.

Alpha Bay Market, based in Russia, was officially launched in December 2014. It grew steadily and as many as 14,000 new users signed up during the first ninety days of its operation., the website that provides information on darknet markets, placed Alpha Bay at the top based on probability of surviving for a period of six months. As of now, it is the largest online darknet market (with more than 230,000 users), as per Dan Palumbo, director of research at Digital Citizens Alliance.

Alpha Bay allows vendors to sell drugs, stolen credit card information, weapons, and several other illicit and legal items. However, the site forbids the sale of Russian victims’ customer data. Payment for the items purchased from the sites has to be made through Bitcoin in order to ensure anonymity. Transactions are always processed by means of a centralized Escrow system so as to provide protection to buyers.

Phishing Site Mimics The AlphaBay Market Login Page

downloadAlphaBay Market begun its operation towards the end of 2014 and came it to fill in the gap that was left after Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 went down. The site has gained popularity in the recent past as one of the largest darknet markets after it was used to sell compromised Uber accounts together with data that was stolen from the 2015 TalkTalk breach. The site was attacked by criminals who used phishing attacks to gain access of other criminals’ credentials.

The Attack

AlphaBay Market was launched by members of Russian carding forums and has been facilitating illegal goods that are commonly sold in anonymous marketplaces. Goods sold on the site include weapons and drugs and has become a very reliable source of these goods for those in need of them. The site utilizes an .onion address that allows it to run on the Tor network as a hidden service. Paul Mutton, security experts at Netcraft, discovered the attack.

In this attack, a phishing site was created in a way that it mimics the address of one of the darknet markets, AlphaBay Market. The address that was used by the phishing site was created to look very familiar to what regular customers on AlphaBay Market are used to ensure that they will not suspect anything. The address then points to a phishing site by AttractSoft GmbH host from Germany. The phishing site mimics AlphaBay Market login page hence unsuspecting users are prompted to enter their usernames and passwords. The user is further forced by a client-side check to complete a security code CAPTCHA field that does not have to be correct because any code entered is accepted, whether right or wrong.

For one to be able to replicate the original website, replication of .onion address associated with hidden services has to be reproduced. To make the connection authentic, one must use this address. This address can be derived from public key making it difficult to impersonate a site without raising curiosity without the owner’s key pair access. These fraudsters have created similar addresses by computing a partial match by utilizing tools such as scallion. A partial match that can be created this way is pwoah7f5ivq74fmp.onion. In this case, however, the fraudsters just created a domain using as their address. The HTML source utilized by the phishing site looks like it had been stolen from a lookalike site and used the domain name. This domain name has been repossessed by GoDaddy who is its registrar. This domain name is very typical of those whose funding have been attributed to fraudulent deals or those that have been subjected to chargebacks.


This particular attack utilized domain that was most probably preferred since it is free to register addresses using it and that is also has a string that is similar to the .onion TLD address based on their length. The two cannot be distinguished easily by a person not keen to check. The fraudsters must have used the understanding that most site users do not stop to check the address hence will log in without verifying if they are on the right face or not.

Possible transactions that can be carried out on AlphaBay Market include buying and selling of spam sending services, the receiving and sending of fraudulent bank transfer service details of user accounts together with other services that are important to those engages in the phishing business.

Mutton indicates the AlphaBay Market phishing attack is a perfect example of criminals stealing from other criminals, he further urges that the veteran users of AlphaBay Market are not likely to fall into this trap as they are normally very keen and will never fall for replicas. According to him, it is only new users on the site that may fall victim to this fraud. It is a clear indication that thieves do not honor each other and will go ahead and steal from themselves. The attack raises the question about how safe our online activities are with all the fraudsters out there.

Danish Personal Information For Sale On AlphaBay

Alpha Bay

Alpha Bay is the largest underground marketplace on the dark web. Alpha Bay is a darknet market that offers various legal and illegal goods. Here, users can buy drugs, electronics, counterfeits, and stolen credit card data among others.

Danish Personal Information
Alpha Bay has a massive abundance of Danish personal Information to sell on it. According to sources, complete packages of Danish information is being sold on Alpha Bay, including address, date of birth, telephone number, control codes, credit card numbers, email addresses and passwords. This personal information is purchased online for as little as only 75 Kroner. According to a 2015 survey, 34,000 Danes were the unfortunate victims of identification theft while 75, 000 Danes had reported credit card misuse issues.

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Recent trends in the underground illegal markets

Recently, a news survey reported, that the underground hacking markets are undergoing some noteworthy trends. One of these trends was the growing number of dealings in personal data. Nowadays criminal crews have started to offer all such documentation for a particulars price, which is used for highly sophisticated frauds and identity theft. Amongst these documents, passports, social security numbers and drivers’ licenses were also included. The process is a complicated one, first the hacker procures the documents, and then the criminal crews purchase these documents from them at a price. Surveys have shown, that nowadays, the markets are largely booming with fake counterfeit documents like passports, fully-fledged identity kits, social security cards, and utility bills. It is very much apparent that the hackers underground have started to take advantage and monetize on each item of personal data that they can too also find to carry out frauds online and in person frauds as well.

The immense value of personal details

stolen data

Credit cards: While searching for stolen credit card information, one can find two different kinds of offers. One of the offers is for dumps and the other one is for the CVV of the credit card. A CVV is the card verification value. It is a record of the name, card number, expiration date and the address of the cardholder on it. While a dump, is the information that is taken out from the magnetic strip at the back. It is to clone an original credit card by copying all the raw information to another magnetic strip. The difference between the dump and the CVV is that one can use a CVV in an online store, while user can use a dump in case of real physical transactions. The prices of CVVs and dumps are dependent on a number of factors. These are the type of card, the country, the expiration, and others. A dump is more expensive than a CVV.

PayPal accounts and bank logins: PayPal accounts are especially popular amongst the criminal crews. This is because a PayPal account is effectively used during the cash out process. Prices of PayPal accounts differ, according to the age of the owner, the account balance, and the country. Through phishing campaigns and through infectious malware, secure information is phished out of the victim’s computer. The prices are dependent upon the bank balance, the insurance of the account as well as the validity.

Online Accounts credentials: These are another type of information sold on darknet markets such as Alpha Bay. The account credentials related to Facebook, Apple, eBay, Twitter, Amazon and Instagram accounts are very high in terms of demand. An online account is utilized for two purposes, the first one is the cash out process, and the second is the sophisticated scamming schemes.

AlphaBay Offering Bond Waivers To Darknet Vendors

It’s been happening for a while now. All the signs were here:

First, Agora shut down their market, allegedly to try and fix certain loopholes they’ve found in the Tor network.

After that, AlphaBay Market announced that it has become the marketplace with the largest community counting more than 200,000 AlphaBay users; only Abraxas was bigger and Nucleus was trying to rival them, yet not even remotely close to their numbers.

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After this, Abraxas market went missing, as well as the Middle Earth market. The reason for their sudden disappearance is not yet been confirmed. At first it was assumed it could have been a DDoS attack but now it looks positive that they were exit scams carried out by the admins to steal all of the members bitcoins.

Alphabay Market

With Abraxas and Middle Earth markets missing in action, and Agora out of the picture too, it seems reasonable to believe the claims of AlphaBay that they have indeed taken over and have become the top Darknet Market.

Still, some new (and interesting, if not symptomatic) developments have been unfolding on the Darknet these days. It’s been announced that AlphaBay is offering bond waivers to a select group of “qualified” vendors that built their business on Abraxas and Middle Earth markets. How about that?!

On November 7th, AlphaBay support posted a statement on Reddit assuring vendors and users that AlphaBay Market is very much alive and here to stay.

According to the official invitation, AlphaBay is working to convince qualified, big-name vendors (some say vendors with 200+ sales; others  on the contrary say vendors with 1000+ sales) to get over Abraxas and Middle Earth markets and the money trapped in escrows, and transfer their business to AlphaBay. The Market also offered free accounts to vendors willing to give them a chance.

What’s more, they are aware of concerns the users have for leaving their money in Escrows. That’s why they offered additional protection from exit scam – the true 2-on- 3 multisig protection and even FE option to large-scale vendors. They’ve given the detailed instructions on how to apply for waivers and the procedure is quite simple. However, all applications are individually evaluated.

3 Keys Graphic Multi Sig 1

The idea of AlphaBay to waive vendor bonds in a time when other markets are having troubles for whatever reasons was considered indistinct. It sounds very much like a tactic to hook vendors from other darknet markets to them and lure the big-time sellers by advertising and waiving the bond.

Some unsatisfied users are starting to believe that this market is just a short-term strategist and so-called “carders” who are looking to step out of the game before the heat and run off with people’s escrow holdings. They expect an exit scam to happen sometime in the future. I find this hard to believe actually as this market is not targeting the USA therefore minimizing the focus of USA law enforcement and the fact that they are not based in the USA either will give this market a much longer life expectancy that others.

A number of users are reluctant to give their trust to a market that is so heavily advertising. For, indeed AlphaBay is well-known for their PR campaign, unlike any other market on the Darknet. Users’ main fear is that this marketing campaign makes them an obvious and easy target for LE, which is also a huge risk for the users as well.

Another group of users believe that these “carders” are behind the DDoS on Abraxas, if in fact there was an attack at all.

Whichever the case, the majority of users is still quite happy to do business via the AlphaBay Market and more and more each day are willing to give this market a chance. Especially since they hardly have any rivals left.

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.

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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.


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.


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.

The Deep Web And The Darknet Hidden Services

It seems like only yesterday when most people where browsing the internet, blissfully unaware of what is happening underneath its surface. Then the media realized there is an interesting story to be told there and thus series like House of Cards was created, followed by an “in-depth” story on the Deep Web and Silk Road’s downfall.

What this did is create an unnecessary confusion over the terms “Deep Web” and “Darknet”(or Dark Net) and the things these terms represent. The mistake here was the use of said terms interchangeably, probably caused by the lack of research done on their history.

The term “Deep Web” was actually coined by Mike Bergman and the company Bright Planet as a name for unindexed part of the web. To understand this better one would first need to understand the way in which search engines look for content. For a search engine like Google or Yahoo any content not connected to something via a link is practically non-existent. This includes dynamically created pages like, a Gmail account or information you need to use the site’s search box (which search engines cannot do) to find. This being said, it is clear that about 96% of the web can in fact be considered “Deep Web”.

deep webThe misconception was created when people wrongfully started using the term “Deep Web” to describe what is known as “Darknet”. The difference here lies in the fact that while Deep Web is unindexed due to technical inabilities of a search engine, the content on the darknet is purposefully hidden from the surface net. While there are numerous ways to hide content on web, the one most commonly used by users is through the use of Tor or The Onion Router.

This is specialized software used to access sites with hidden content which can be recognized by having an “.onion” suffix in the URL. It was first created by the US Navy as a way to encrypt data and increase anonymity, but since all the data was sent from the US Navy and to US Navy the project was abandoned and shared with the public due to obvious lack of practicality. The way Tor works is by having a network of computers become “nodes” through which users are rerouted when making a search query. This makes their IP change every time it jumps from node to node making it increasingly difficult to track. While this system is very strong it still has its vulnerabilities and should not be takes as completely untraceable. The main thing to note about browsing the darknet with Tor is that it differs from conventional Internet browsing. Since it is unindexed, you cannot type the name of the web page in the browser and hope to get a list of pages that match your query. Instead, you need to have the link to the page given to you by somebody who already visited the site in order to be able to enter it. There is no comprehensive index of websites residing on the deep web. Some have built small lists of deep web links.

This system however opens the possibility for a whole new world, or rather “underworld” on the internet. By creating special randomized URL’s that can only be read by Tor, a completely different community has appeared fueled by anonymity. Any black-market good from stolen credit card information to firearms and drugs can be found on the darknet. Another thing that became synonymous with it was “hacking” or rather “cracking” for those who have term preferences. The anonymity that the darknet has to offer makes it a haven for those looking to offer their “technical knowledge” as a service, but also those praying on less tech-savvy people, looking to relieve them of their credit card and personal information.

tor browserThe most common places where one could find illegal goods being marketed are the darknet markets. After the downfall of the biggest and most notorious online black market, the Silk Road, many new contestants began to battle for the top place. In the upcoming period hundreds of marketplaces where created and brought down continuously, mainly due to newly found mistrust in the safety of Tor and darknet in general. One other thing that this created was the rise of false marketplaces and opportunities for scammers. The most notorious story one will hear on the darknet is the one revolving around the Evolution marketplace’s exit scam. The owners of said site created a stable community and were one of the prime contenders to replace Silk Road before closing the site and disappearing with $12 million of their customer’s Bitcoins. After this incident the darknet market community was severely shaken, but despite that it still remains functional on sites like AlphaBay, Agora, and Nucleus.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are some sites on the darknet that contain child pornography and other disturbing content. This is the one major downfall with the darknet because while it gives a place for free thinkers, political activists, drug users and anyone else that cherishes their privacy, a place to be open and free it does also give the same liberties to the sick and twisted scum of the earth pedophile’s.

With all the illegal actions taking place and questionable content being posted on the darknet, it is easy to forget the good sides of such a place. For example it offers a possibility for uncensored freedom of speech for countries where governments are stricter regarding their media. It also offers a safe place for people to exchange information and stories with the media and between each other, anonymously.

To summarize, the difference between Deep Web and Darknet, while not too big still exists and lies within their scope. The Deep web is the entire wealth of information unindexed by search engines for one reason or another. The Darknet however, is actually a small fragment of the Deep Web, artificially hidden from the search engines and usually connected to illegal actions.

While both Deep Web and Darknet terms are relatively new and still evolving, it is important to use them properly now more than ever to raise technical awareness of the public and avoid misinformation as much as possible.

The Anonymous Virtual Currency “Bitcoin”

bitcoinBitcoin is largely considered the first decentralized cryptocurrency created. It was published as an invention by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 and it was released as open-source software in 2009. While there were systems similar to it before it was published, Bitcoin has brought about a revolution in online economy and has inspired the creation of multiple other cryptocurrencies.

What makes Bitcoin one of the favorite means of payment online is the fact that while today’s economy largely relies on big banks, Bitcoin does not, since it is a completely decentralized system to begin with. This means that no single person, corporation or country has control over the Bitcoin market and nobody can claim them unlawfully. This is possible due to Bitcoin system’s design, making it essentially one big, virtual ledger. Everybody can access it through specialized software and since it is open-source, everybody can check it out to make sure that it does exactly what its creators said it would.

The primary way one can get a hold of Bitcoin is through mining them. While normal currencies are based on gold or silver reserves, Bitcoin are based on mathematical algorithms. By allowing your computer to be used for solving complex mathematical calculations using the Bitcoin software you are carrying out an action known as “mining”. Your computer is essentially helping in finalizing transactions which are part of Bitcoin block-chain earning you a small part of transaction fees which are translated into Bitcoin of value equal to the amount of your contribution. As its name suggest the block-chain is a structure made of Bitcoin blocks, lists of transactions happening all over the world. The block is updated regularly and its updates are sent to all miners working on it.

The way miners work on a block is by applying a set mathematical algorithm to it and gaining a so-called “hash” out of it. It is very easy to create a hash out of a block and computers can perform this task very rapidly. To make sure that the amount of available Bitcoin does not become too large, developers designed a way to make mining more difficult the more coins are mined out. This is done by prompting the miners’ computers to create a hash with specific properties which differ for every hash needed. Another important thing when mining for Bitcoin is “nonce”.  When Bitcoin block is hashed along with a “nonce” it should give a set output and unless one does not get that exact output, the “nonce” is incorrect and searched for again. Since “nonce” is checked in order from 0 upwards, it takes a considerable amount of time to find the right one.

A thing to note about Bitcoin is the anonymity involved with making transactions with them. To store Bitcoin, one needs only a personal address of their wallet. While everybody can tell how much Bitcoin there are on a certain address, no one is able to tell who the address belongs to. If one uses different Bitcoin addresses constantly and never deposit Bitcoin from different addresses into a single one, there is virtually no way to trace who the Bitcoin belong to.

It is for this reason that Bitcoin have become the primary currency when doing any form of business on Darknet. Due to illicit nature of many actions conducted on darknet markets it is vital that its users remain anonymous. There are multiple ways to protect one’s Bitcoin when dealing with unknown vendors, but one should always make sure to deal with reputable people before giving away their personal information. It is also important to note that there are numerous phishing sites around darknet, praying on inexperienced people and their Bitcoin wallets.

The most important thing is not to use the same account information twice and to make sure that the information you give does not link to any of your personal information. More than 80% of reported scams on darknet are nothing more than inexperienced users giving away their information to phishing sites, just to find their Bitcoin taken away by somebody.

Lately the Bitcoin has begun to take heavy criticism of their privacy policy, mainly due to their block-chain being public and accessible by anybody. It is for this reason that many people contemplated switching over to a different cryptocurrency like Altcoin or Darkcoin. The problem that has risen from this was somewhat counterintuitive to what one might think happened. Since the two above mentioned crypocurrencies have a “hidden”, encrypted block they raise more suspicion about the people using them. Firstly, there is the mentality that, it is obvious that if somebody would go to such lengths to protect their identity they must be hiding something.

Bitcoin-CryptocurrencyThe second thing needs a little bit more explanation. It is obvious that for those looking to hide something, it is the best option to increase possible suspects as much as possible. If there is only information that the suspect is using Bitcoin to conduct business it is not too helpful since millions of people are doing so just to buy a coffee at a local coffee shop or order something over the internet. The amount of people using other, more anonymous cryptocurencies is much lower, meaning less people to sift through if one was to look for you. So, essentially the decreased anonymity of Bitcoin has made it much safer and less suspicious to use than other, safer cryptocurrency options.

The only real problem that users of Bitcoin face, which greatly affects small vendors on darknet is its volatility or constantly changing value. For a small business, a single Bitcoin, with its value changing by tens or hundreds of dollars on a weekly basis can make a difference between making a profit and losing money. This is the primary reason why people are looking into alternative payment options, but so far none has offered the benefits that Bitcoin does.

If we sum it all up it is clear that Bitcoin will remain the currency of choice for darknet market users as long as its benefits outweigh the risks, but if a good alternative appears in the future, there is no doubt that it will be accepted with open arms.