Ever since the dark web’s most popular drugs, weapons and illegal services market mysteriously went offline just a few weeks ago, online forums and public opinion platforms have displayed ruthless speculation that is anything but passive.
Online communities were, by all accounts, outraged at AlphaBay’s disappearance without any notice from administrators, demanding justice for vendors whose cash had been stored in escrow accounts pending order deliveries.
But breaking news just surfaced that can satisfy some unanswered questions raised by users of the market and those closely following the story.
New reports say AlphaBay’s disappearance was the result of law enforcement raids in three countries on July 5.
The crackdown seized equipment from alleged AlphaBay administrators in these raids, which happened in the United States, Canada and Thailand. All of this has been confirmed by a source quoted by The Wall Street Journal.
Background: AlphaBay Before the Fall
AlphaBay first launched in 2014, quickly rising the ranks of dark web popularity for its reliability and reputable standards of operation.
The site elevated to widespread use and respect after administrators of other darknet markets conducted elaborate exit scams over the last few years, getting away with stealing millions of dollars in Bitcoin from vendors.
After Outlaw first went offline, administrators claimed the site had been subject to a hack. It was later revealed that they’d run off with users’ cash instead.
These scams are precisely what uplifted AlphaBay to its former reputation as a safe and thriving market run by trustworthy admins.
Before the takedown, the site was reported to average $600,000 to $800,000 per day in sales, with around 400,000 members.
Speculation Surrounding AlphaBay Ownership
After the AlphaBay went offline on July 4, the collective reaction among users and onlookers largely centered around utter outrage, which was almost immediate.
A Bitcoin transaction was recorded on blockchain indicating someone had transferred millions of dollars in Bitcoin. Users on Reddit saw this as circumstantial evidence that AlphaBay administrators had run off with users’ cash that had been stored in escrow accounts.
Users were quick to voice their complaints on the AlphaBay subreddit, alleging an exit scam just hours after the market went offline.
Meanwhile, some commenters were claiming to be AlphaBay staff. One posted a notice saying the site’s developers and admins were working hard to get the market back up as soon as possible and that in the mean time, users should be wary of clicking on links posted by commenters who claim the site is back up. This was in response to phishing attacks that targeted the AlphaBay community during this time of crisis.
New Developments: Law Enforcement Raids
Canadian news outlets were the first to report that law enforcement was responsible for the site’s outage. This news followed after Royal Canadian Mounted Police had raided two resident addresses in the country, as well as one business in Montreal.
Though no arrests were made, the suspects’ equipment was seized by authorities.
Another raid occurred in Thailand, in which 26-year-old Canadian national Alexander Cazes was arrested at his house in Bangkok. The arrest was the result of a U.S.-issued warrant related to drug trafficking offenses.
Cazes is almost certainly the creator of AlphaBay, know as DeSnake. Shortly after his arrest, he was found dead in his holding cell after having hung himself with a towel.
Several websites supposedly run by Cazes appear to have near-direct connections with AlphaBay, and they seem to have fallen offline around the same time AlphaBay was seized. Reddit users also allege Cazes was an AlphaBay administrator commonly referred to as DeSnake.
After AlphaBay’s disappearance, other top darknet markets have stepped up in response to the situation, though not all have done so in the same way.
Hansa for instance put a halt on new registrations, citing technical problems.
But other top-tier dark web marketplaces Dream Market and Silk Road 3.1 remain open to new registrants.
Find a list of the top markets here.