A handful of top darknet markets have gone offline, according to corroborated reports. The markets affected are Dream Market, Trade Route, Wall Street and Tochka.
Following these reports, DarkWebNews launched investigations to confirm the news and, as it is, the URLs are unreachable for all of these marketplaces.
What is available, however, are a group of phishing sites that closely resemble the original markets in question.
These sites are so well made that it is extremely difficult for one to determine the difference between the original site and the duplicated version by appearance.
If one observes the URL closely, they’ll likely notice that a few characters have been altered, removed or added.
And since the URLs of Tor sites are a combination of mixed-random letters, then non-observant persons will be duped into entering their details.
For a fact, phishing sites are meant to obtain the user logins from a given platform.
And in the case for the Tor-operated markets, it’s more than likely that the interest of the hackers is to get the logins of these users so that they can use them to steal users’ funds.
The funds held on these markets are mostly Bitcoins, but as the world of cryptocurrencies continues to take shape, we see that markets are expanding their payments method by adding other forms of cryptocurrencies such as Zcash, Monero and Ethereum.
As a result, in case of a cyber attack, the hackers can steal funds in more modes.
However, due to the impact of the event, the story has caught the attention of users in multiple forums including Reddit ,and some speculations have started to emerge as to what might be the cause of these top markets going down simultaneously.
Previous events show that markets fall through busts by authorities, hacks or exit scams.
But for the case of these four major marketplaces, the outages appear to be a result of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack.
A DDoS attack is a type of hack where blackhat hackers utilize vulnerabilities found in the Domain Name System (DNS).
This is the same mode earlier used by the notorious hacking group OurMine to infiltrate the whistleblowing site of Julian Assange, WikiLeaks.
According to some users, the reason why the outages appear to be the result of a DDoS attack is because all the markets went down simultaneously—making it unlikely that this is a government-initiated operation intended to close the markets.
When a DDoS attack is facilitated over the Tor network, the operation enables hackers to anonymously disable the route that the sites can be accessed through.
Since the markets came down unexpectedly, it is obvious that many users had their Bitcoins stored in the platforms. Perhaps, millions of dollars’ worth of Bitcoins are at stake depending on what the future holds.
Now that these markets are offline, it is notable that hundreds of thousands if not millions of users have been affected in one way or the other.
Since this is an illegal trading industry, the site admins, vendors (sellers) and customers are the stakeholders involved, and the effect is felt by all of them depending on their operations.
For the site admins, substantial loss ensues in the form of commission that is to be generated from the purchases, sales and withdrawals of funds from the respective site.
For the vendors, there is no flow of goods and services. And the customers, who are the heartbeat of any business, cannot purchase what they require.
Now, this is not the first time that a major market has gone offline.
The fall of these markets happened unexpectedly, and as a result, the users of the platforms lost their funds.
These markets never recovered, and as such, peak demand provided room for smaller markets to grow.
When the Silk Road was seized by authorities in 2013, it was the world’s largest dark web market. But with time, markets like AlphaBay came up to have even larger customer bases.
This meant that AlphaBay was generating more profits than the Silk Road.
It is evident, in this case, that the saying “when one door closes another one opens” is correct. An illustration is visible in darknet markets trends over time.
Despite that fact that markets exit the scene from time to time, others continue to pop up and subsequently dominate the industry.
And now that the top markets have all gone down, smaller markets are likely to see an influx of new customers.
For this reason, most will have to upgrade their systems by expanding or changing servers to cater for the latest developments.
From the sequence of events, the Tor-based markets carry a lot of unpredictability, and therefore the users need to be very adaptable and ensure they stay safe on the dark web by hiding their identity as well as taking measures to protect their funds.
To protect their money, users should only deposit funds on their accounts just when they need to use them. And afterward, if by any chance they happen to be in excess, the withdrawal should be with immediate effect.
By following this simple and basic tip, then fewer losses are likely to be experienced by those who regularly use dark web markets to carry out their various operations.
For the four major markets that are currently offline, then there is a possibility that they may be back or that they’ll never be seen again—depending on what is happening behind the scenes.
If it is indeed a DDoS attack, the site operators are likely to fix the problem in due time.
But if it a government takedown then the site is down for good.
Technically speaking, there are countless of possibilities as to what might happen next and is it stands, only time will tell before the complete account of the truth is known to the public.