With the content and items available on darknet sites, it is for sure no government would want to sit idly and watch the markets grow as few individuals enrich themselves at the expense of countless lives lost to dangerous drugs.
More so, the information and items available on the platforms are used by criminals at large to siphon funds running into millions of dollars from other people’s bank accounts.
Hackers will often steal confidential information from organizations and post them on the markets for people to buy—further causing reputational damage to the affected entities.
In well-orchestrated operations that involve bribing authorities, people can smuggle weapons of various types from darknet sites to their respective countries, which ultimately causes an increase in crime-related activities.
In recent years, dark web markets have fallen prey to authorities across the world.
As much as authorities are trying their level best to contain the situation by gaining control of the markets, arresting the individuals and ultimately closing down the sites, the business is still thriving very much, and consumers of illegal products continue to make purchases from the digital markets.
One reason for this is due to the existence of other sites that offer similar services.
So, once a top-performing and popular site is brought down, there’s room for smaller, competing sites to categorically grow and ultimately replace the fallen market.
At the time the Silk Road was seized by U.S. authorities, it was the world’s largest darknet site.
And by this, it was raking in millions of dollars on a monthly basis for the site administrator Ross Ulbricht, who was also known as Dreaded Pirate Roberts (DPR).
In its years of operation from early 2011 to the time of its closure by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in October 2013, the site garnered sales totaling more than $1.2 billion, giving the admin earnings of over $80 million.
However, the fall of the Silk Road was not the end of the FBI’s war on darknet markets, but rather the beginning in some way.
A good illustration is the rise of AlphaBay, which at the time of its seizure was nearly ten times the size of the Silk Road.
AlphaBay was launched nearly a year after the fall of Silk Road.
This time marked a turning point for darknet markets that still rings true today—no matter how hard authorities try to bring down the sites and crush the businesses, the darknet market vice will continue to grow.
What’s more is that people will learn from the mistakes of others, using that insight to inform their decisions and actions in the future.
More specifically, users will often view a takedown as a sort of case study into how a previous market giant failed.
Consequently, errors in other markets will be eliminated, thereby forcing authorities to derive new means of countering their actions.
When AlphaBay first went offline in July of this year, there was much speculation as to why the market’s admins would not preemptively inform users of the reason.
Some parties indicated that the outage might be an exit scam, as others remained loyal to the market in hopes that the disappearance was temporary, possibly so admins could deal with some sort of operational or maintenance issue.
However, authorities were quick to ramp up another operation to take down another top darknet market.
Reports indicate that Hansa Market, one of the top three dark market sites at its prime, was seized before AlphaBay, but AlphaBay was shut before Hansa.
Authorities were establishing a game plan to monitor the activities of AlphaBay “refugees” who had moved their businesses over to Hansa.
Subsequently, the method yielded results as authorities spotted a peculiar trend where users previously registered on AlphaBay used the same addresses and password to register in Hansa.
But, in an unprecedented move before Hansa was shut down for good, the site had spontaneously ceased to accept new registrants to the market.
And upon visiting the site, there was a post indicating that registration is closed temporarily due to a heavy flow of “refugees” from Alphabay.
The goal was to trick people into believing the site had to adjust its technical capabilities to cope with the large increase in new registrations as a result of AlphaBay’sfall.
This tactic seemed to have worked, as online forums indicate.
People suspected administrators were closing the site in order to expand their servers.
When the site opened up again, numerous individuals rushed to open up accounts worrying it may be closed again.
It was at this point that the trend in similar usernames and passwords was noticed by the agencies conducting the operation.
Even before the raids, notorious customers with accounts in various darknet markets noticed that several vendors followed suit and were offering the same services.
What’s more is that the listings, product descriptions, and names of the vendors were the same in all marketplaces.
So it would be easy enough for a user with little knowledge to tell what was happening on the ground.
Then there is the issue of markets conducting exit scams, which are historically rampant on the dark web.
They usually ensue after a market administrator closes the site without warning, leaving no time for users to remove their digital currencies from the system.
In the past, several markets have orchestrated these stunts, with Evolution being the most notable of them all.
In other instances, like when Outlaw went down earlier this year, there was wide speculation as to what had transpired.
As a result, news outlets and blogs carried out posts stating that it was either an exit scam or a hack.
In short, the dark web market ecosystem is certainly a field that carries a lot of uncertainty—due to the sensitivity of users’ information as well as the type of goods sold.
For this reason, one can easily deduce that the main causes that bring the markets down are hacks, exit scams and law enforcement-enabled seizure.
And as earlier mentioned, it is up to users to follow through a proper procedure to avoid falling victim and losing their funds as a result of the above three reasons.
In the case for market places that have been pulled down since their inception to date, users have lost funds running into the millions of dollars.
Either way, it is an individual’s sole responsibility to protect themselves while undertaking their various activities on the dark web.