Dark web marketplaces have witnessed an unprecedented rise in popularity in recent years. However, these marketplaces are prone to a number of issues, the most prominent of which emanate from the sector itself.
Two key issues that dark web markets face are hacks and exit scams. The Outlaw Market appears to be the latest victim of one or both of these occurrences, according to recent reports.
The prominent dark web marketplace went offline on May 16. A message posted on the homepage reveals that the site was shut down due to a hack. It also stated that the platform’s wallet had been stolen.
However, many users fear that these developments may be an exit scam orchestrated by the site’s administrators. The tone and clarity of the message show that Outlaw Market may never recover.
Outlaw Market is among the earliest dark web marketplaces, having been founded back in 2013. It was created when Silk Road 1 was still operational. What followed was a steady flow of users joining the site, although it wasn’t a popular online destination at the time.
It managed to gain considerable traction following the takedown of Silk Road after owner Ross Ulbricht was arrested and incarcerated. Outlaw Market deals in a variety of illegal products including weapons, drugs and data dumps.
According to its administrators, Outlaw Market was developed with an emphasis on superior security features.
The developers created their own software and avoided open-source platforms in order to make the marketplace difficult to exploit.
This and other aspects of the site may suggest a significantly reduced chance of the platform being hacked.
In addition, no information has been provided on how the hack was carried out.
The message on the Outlaw Market’s site was not published by the top administrators. For these reasons, many dark web users believe that this is another case of an elaborate exit scam.
One of the lower level administrators of Outlaw Market came out to assure users that the event wasn’t an exit scam. The admin published a message on Reddit and Pastebin on May 19.
According to the post, this admin has not been in communication with the top admins although he/she believes that an exit scam is highly unlikely.
A crypto market researcher going by the nickname 2CTFM later interviewed the admin. He/she pointed out that the moderated escrow system employed by Outlaw Market ensured that the money in the system was reduced drastically, adding that in the event of an exit scam, the main admins could have taken no more than $ 20,000.
To the best of his/her knowledge, this amount was stuck in Outlaw Market over the weekend and was released and even paid out.
According to the admin, this indicates that the occurrence wasn’t an exit scam. Apparently, the top Outlaw Market admins spent several hours attempting to fix the payout delay issue. This is highly uncharacteristic of individuals who are planning on bailing.
The lower level admin entertained the thought that the main admins might have been victims of a doxxing attack and therefore decided to shut down the marketplace.
One Reddit user was of the opinion that the possible exit scam may have something to do with the sharp increase in Bitcoin prices over a short period. Bitcoin price shot up to $2,000 from $1,800 within that week.
According to the user, Outlaw Market admins simply took advantage of the price increase to rake in a significant amount of money. Until conclusive information surfaces about the incidence, these assertions remain largely speculative.
It is possible that hackers targeted Outlaw Market. There are increasing cases of hackers targeting dark web platforms to steal funds, collect ransom revenue or find bugs.
A good number of dark web platforms run bug bounty programs in an effort to reduce exploits. Hackers can earn rewards in the tens of thousands of dollars for reporting bugs.