The fall of AlphaBay Market, through an international law enforcement takedown, was indeed bad news for darknet market users as the majority ended up counting losses because their crypto funds were seized.
The seizure also led to the arrest of the market’s admin, Alexander Cazes, who ultimately died by suicide in a Thai Prison shortly after he was apprehended.
After the seizure of AlphaBay Market, which transpired in July 2017, the following month saw a group of developers come together to establish a replica of the fallen marketplace. This AlphaBay clone is known as Empire Market.
The new market, as mentioned on the website, exists in memory of AlphaBay Market.
In this guide, we will walk you through through the whole process of accessing the marketplace, browsing its listings and using it in the safest way possible.
Empire Market itself is very easy to navigate. However, don’t jump right into accessing the market quite yet.
In order to keep yourself safe and secure on the dark web, you need to get a VPN, download Tor, set up a PGP key and deposit money into a Bitcoin wallet (if you want to make a purchase on a darknet market).
A guide for each of these steps can be found below. Once you’re done following the instructions in each guide, come back here and proceed to the following steps to join Empire Market.
First, Get a VPN
After choosing the VPN service you want to use, go ahead and install the program and turn it on.
Tor is the only browser that can guarantee you a full access to the sites that are unreachable through the public network. Tor is short for “The Onion Router” which means the program can reach .onion URLs, the official domain for dark web platforms.
However, we do advise you not to experiment with the settings on the program, especially if you’re new to Tor. It’s best to just keep the browser on its default settings.
Set Up PGP
PGP encryption is a necessary and important part of this whole procedure. Participating in the dark web community is not impossible without PGP, but we highly recommend it because you will always need encryption while using dark web markets.
Getting Bitcoins & Storing Funds with a Bitcoin Wallet
On the dark web, users make purchases only using cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is the most common method of payment used on the dark web.
Every darknet market accepts Bitcoins as payment. You will come across many markets that actually support other cryptocurrencies too, but you will never find a marketplace that does not operate with Bitcoins.
After you buy your Bitcoins, you’ll need to store them in a Bitcoin wallet. You will use your wallet’s address every time you transfer funds to the marketplaces you are buying goods from.
We suggest using Electrum Wallet to store your Bitcoins. You can download the wallet here.
After you have set up your wallet, you are officially done with the preliminary steps you need to take in order to use any darknet market.
Continuing to the next chapter of this guide, we will now show you how to access and use Empire.
Accessing Empire Market: Go to the URL
Accessing Empire, as mentioned, is possible only via Tor. Remember to first turn on your VPN and then go ahead and open the Tor bundle you have already downloaded.
On the upper search bar, copy this .onion URL address in order to reach the market: http://empiremktxgjovhm.onion/ref/32822.
Tor is doing half of the work for you, bouncing through the network in order to protect your anonymity. The VPN is doing the other half of the work, offering an additional layer of security by masking your IP address.
Right after you hit the ‘Welcome’ page of Empire, you will be required to either register or login to the market.
Upon visiting the market through the above URL, the login page appears.
Remember—do not enter details that are similar to your real name or identity, since this might incriminate you in the event of a law enforcement investigation.
Other details to be entered in the registration process include login phrase, referral link (if you have been invited by another party) and selecting a default currency which can either be Bitcoin or Litecoin.
If you have a website, you can insert the URL in the relevant box. Just make sure your website and messaging platform usernames cannot be linked to your real identity. Create new accounts with fake usernames if you have to.
The next step is to enter your public PGP key. Then simply enter the CAPTCHA. The essence of this is to confirm that you’re a real human and not a robot.
And now, you may click the ‘Join Empire Market’ icon.
Just like its predecessor, AlphaBay, Empire Market also gives the account holder a mnemonic generated by the site. It is essential to store the mnemonic because in case you need to contact the support team, you may be requested to provide this detail.
Failure to do so could mean that the support team will not be able to assist you.
It’s vital to take additional steps to ensure that your account is secure. This includes, but is not limited to, the use of PGP, 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) and a PIN.
Now that you have created an account, you may want to make some changes further in future. If this is the case, the process itself is very simple. Click on your username on the right corner of the homepage and start editing.
How to Search
Users of the marketplace can use the search bar found on the right side upon scrolling down. Searches can be conducted using keywords, type of product, price range, country of origin, destination and vendor level.
Once you enter the specific product or service you are looking for, you are free to look through the page. If you happen to notice a product you like, take our word for this and don’t rush into buying.
There are several fundamental steps before the payment is done, as outlined in the coming steps.
Always Check the Vendor
Checking the credibility of the vendor is essential. The higher the ratings are going for the vendor, the more responsible and trustworthy they are.
Shown in the picture, here is exactly where you will find the vendor’s name. Click on it to open the vendor’s official profile. Here, you will see all the information you need about a particular vendor.
Right below the username of the vendor, you will see their level. Logically, the higher the level, the better the vendor is. On your left side, you will see the vendor’s statistics, containing information for all the sales they have carried out.
On the vendor’s profile, you can find any possible information you may need.
We also suggest checking the vendor’s feedback. Open every option and read the comment carefully. After you are done and you decide to buy products or services from that specific vendor, you can go ahead and make a purchase.
Once you have selected the price of the product you desire, proceed to deposit funds in the form of Bitcoin or Litecoin. After that, go to the listings and purchase the product by clicking the ‘Buy’ option and following the procedures.
This darknet market is fully aware of scammers and has taken the precaution of protecting users from anyone who has the intention of defrauding others.
For digital goods, vendors have to wait for 48 hours; for physical goods, they’ll have to wait 14 days. The timeframe is meant to give users time to receive products and, in the event of a dispute, then all can be sorted effectively.
Empire Market fully understands that investigative bodies such as law enforcement agencies are ever on the prowl for darknet market users.
They employ several measures that include tracing the source of cryptocurrency transfers by analyzing transactions. However, crypto coin developers employ the use of Stealth Addresses and Ring Signatures to complicate the whole process.
Empire has taken the step of advising users to tumble their crypto coins for increased anonymity. They have inserted .onion links to the sites that offer the service:
- For Bitcoin: BitBlender
- For Litecoin: PrivCoin
The balance of the default currency can be seen on the top right corner of the homepage just below the username.
You can also use the ‘Balance icon’ which is found at the top of the page, as shown below.
Depositing funds into the account for purchasing goods and services is a simple task. By going to the balance section and scrolling down, a replica of the page below will appear. The only difference is the cryptocurrency.
An address will be generated for depositing. It is essential to pay attention to this because any money sent to an old address will not reflect on the account since a new address is formed after each deposit.
The other thing to note is that for both Litecoin and Bitcoin, only two confirmations are required for funds to reflect on the account.
In case the market is seized by law enforcement or is shut down by some other avenue, it is important to take measures to safeguard your crypto funds. This step is also crucial for darknet market sellers because they engage in high trade volumes.
Also, whenever an order has not been processed after a specific timeframe, or in case a dispute is ruled in favor of the buyer, funds are returned to the buyer’s account.
The categories of Empire Market can be found on the left side of the homepage. They are:
- Fraud – 13 results
- Drugs & Chemicals – 645 results
- Guides & Tutorials – 267 results
- Counterfeit Items – 46 results
- Digital Products – 299 results
- Jewels & Gold – 0 results
- Weapons – 1 result
- Carded items – 1 result
- Services – 2 results
- Other Listings – 0 results
- Software & Malware – 51 results
- Security & Hosting – 0 results
Clearly, the ‘Drug’ category is the biggest that can be found on this marketplace. The drugs that can be found are also divided in several subcategories.
- Benzos – 285 results
- Cannabis & Hashish – 81 results
- Dissociatives – 3 results
- Ecstasy – 24 results
- Opioids – 49 results
- Prescription – 101 results
- Steroids – 0 results
- Stimulants – 65 results
- Tobacco – 0 results
- Weight Loss – 40 results
- Other – 0 results
- Paraphernalia – 0 results
- Psychedelics – 6 results
The following list shows the products and services with the most results on Empire.
- Benzos (Drugs & Chemicals)
- Legit Software (Digital Products)
- Prescription (Drugs & Chemicals)
- Cannabis (Drugs & Chemicals)
- Social Engineering (Guides & Tutorials)
- Stimulants (Drugs & Chemicals)
- Fraud (Guides & Tutorials)
- Opioids (Drugs & Chemicals)
- Fake IDs (Counterfeit Items)
- Weight Loss (Drugs & Chemicals)
- Ecstasy (Drugs & Chemicals)
- Hacking (Guides & Tutorials)
- Drugs (Guides & Tutorials)
- Psychedelics (Drugs & Chemicals)
- Security Software (Software & Malware)
Vendors on Empire
As we already know, Empire Market is based off of AlphaBay. Because this market has just launched, only a few vendors are actually working currently due to the fact a lot of the dark web users are not familiar with the market yet.
Most of the vendors are already vendors on other bigger markets such Dream Market or Wall Street Market.
For now, read the vendors’ descriptions, get informed as much as possible about the product you want to purchase, join the forum or contact the vendor, then make an assumption whether you should order or not.
If something seems sketchy or suspicious, then it probably is. Here, we advise you to be smart about following the security steps above in this guide.
Anyone can become a vendor in this new marketplace. However, before requesting to be a vendor, several factors are put in place to ensure that the buyer is protected.
But before anything else, one has to pay a $100 (USD) vendor fee which is refundable upon closure of the account. However, if the person was a vendor in some other top market and they have the necessary proof, they can be admitted without the fee.
Among measures taken to protect buyers is the non-use of Finalize Early (FE) unless it is with permission from the site admins. This protocol is primarily meant to reduce fraud in which the buyer pays for something and ends up not getting value for their money.
In the event the site admins end up getting a large volume of complaints from the customers about a specific seller, then it is without a doubt that the vendor account will be terminated, losing the $100 refundable fee.
Further, sellers must ensure they use PGP and 2FA. It is not a choice but rather a must-have. Buyers can stay without the two.
Other things to note is that explicit content involving children, prostitution and hitmen services is not allowed. And any threats from a vendor or buyer will result in the termination of individual accounts.
To get more clients, Empire Market has introduced an affiliate program where one can refer others. Whenever the person who joined through a link makes a purchase, then the person who referred them gets to earn 20 percent of the profits.
Based on the issue they’re confronting, a user can reach out to the support department by opening a ticket. Depending on how they gauge the problem, they can mark its priority as low, moderate or high. One thing to note is that the pin and mnemonic may be required when opening a ticket.
Click on the last button on the main bar menu named ‘Support.’
To be involved in the forums on Empire, you have to own an account in the first place. To join a forum, click on the ‘Forums’ button on the main menu bar and proceed towards joining the community of Empire Market.
Though Empire Market is relatively new, the market is growing. The site’s admins are working on it tirelessly, making it the best version possible.
However, don’t ever forget that sometimes it is not up to the admins to protect you from being hacked or tracked. The dark web is full of fraudsters and hackers, so don’t expect to make friends there. Be cautious and save yourself from troubles.
If you think about taking an extra step to secure yourself, then totally go for it. Create new nicknames or aliases, birthdays, combinations of numbers un-relatable to you, and enter a different city or even continent that’s far away from your actual location.
Don’t reveal anything real about yourself. If you do, it will cost you.
It is up to you to follow each step carefully. And remember: Always keep your VPN running whenever you use the Tor Browser and enter the dark web.
We hope this guide was helpful. Stay safe and have fun!