The dark web marketplace has become a home for many thousands of users in the hotly contested space for online black market trade.
Going offline unexpectedly on April 13th 2016, there has been no explanation from the team behind the darknet market, and users of the service have been quick to jump to conclusions – but no one is quite sure what has happened.
The Nucleus Market has been one of the largest dark web marketplaces in operation, doing a swift trade in a range of underground items such as recreational drugs, carding techniques, and user accounts details for companies such as Netflix and Uber, along with a range of legal items, too.
Its main rival at the current time is AlphaBay, who are still online, and who are no doubt seeing increased traffic since the Nucleus Market downtime started.
Of course, one of the main concerns for Nucleus Market users is the possibility that the administrators of the site have performed an exit scam – a trick whereby the team takes all the money entrusted to them in escrow and shut down the site, effectively stealing their users’bitcoins.
This has happened multiple times before on multiple markets.
The owners of largest market in 2015, Evolution, famously informed staff that they were about to jump ship with all their customers’ funds just mere minutes before they took the site offline, making off with at least $12millionUSD worth of bitcoin.
While it might seem like a great idea to make off with a huge amount of funds before law enforcement manages to track you down, what’s less appealing is the thought of many angry drug dealers then attempting to track you down.
For site owners that exit scam, you’d want to make completely sure that your identity is protected.
Nucleus Market appears to not have withdrawn any user funds from their wallet (as yet), so it is not known whether an exit scam is in effect.
There is also the suggestion that the site may have been hacked or under some form of large scale ongoing DDoS attack. A rouge vendor, theDmaster, who was known for a large amount of customer scams, was in talks with Nucleus Market site admins regarding the banning of his account mere hours before the site went down. This has fueled suspicions that the vendor is behind the extended outage.
There also exists the possibility that law enforcement is somehow involved with the situation, either in the arrest of the administrators, or in putting pressure on the market itself.
We haven’t seen any markets taken down completely by law enforcement in some time. The huge Operation Onymous, in 2014, was the last time any markets were taken down directly as a result of law enforcement’s involvement, although the operator of Sheep, which performed an exit scam in 2013, was arrested in early 2015 for his involvement in the operation of said marketplace.
What should users do?
Just what the fate of Nucleus Market is, is unclear.
The market was once offline for a week in 2015 and returned without any monetary losses, so the same thing could happen again – or it might not.
What is clear, as the days offline march on, is that vendors and customers need to find another place to do business, and not just rely on the hope that Nucleus will return again.
If you currently have bitcoin in escrow or in your Nucleus Market account, then it may be best to write it off for the current time being.
If Nucleus Market comes back online, you’ll just have a very pleasant surprise.
Vendors and buyers from Nucleus Market would do best to take a look at AlphaBay, the largest current online black market, or its smaller competitors Crypto Market or Dream Market. Each market has its benefits and its drawbacks, so you’ll need to sign up and have a browse around on each before deciding if it’s the right one for you.
Nucleus Market – we don’t know if you’re gone forever or not, but if so, thanks for all the good times.