On July 4th, AlphaBay Market went down and scared the hell out of users. One of, if not the most popular destination for illicit goods on the dark net, the site took over Silk Road’s throne after its founder was arrested. According to a new report, AlphaBay has suffered the same fate and international authorities have shut it down.
It’s common for dark net markets to suddenly shut down and make off with a boatload of bitcoins. But according to the Wall Street Journal, AlphaBay’s demise came after a coordinated effort by law enforcement from US, Canada, and Thailand.
Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the Journal claims that the site was shuttered and one of its operators, Alexandre Cazes, was taken into custody in Bangkok on July 5th. The Bangkok Post confirms that the 26-year-old Cazes was awaiting extradition to the US when a guard found him hanged in his cell. He is believed to have hanged himself using a towel.
Camille Habel, a sergeant with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s high-technology crime unit, confirmed to the Journal that the unit executed a search warrant in Trois-Rivières, Quebec on the same day that Cazes was arrested in Thailand.
We don’t have any further details about possible co-conspirators.
AlphaBay emerged in 2014, following the death of Silk Road. Andrei Barysevich, a director at Recorded Future Inc., and specialist in dark web matters tells the Journal that it “was the biggest marketplace on the Dark Web,” taking in a reported $600,000 to $800,000 per day. According to a source speaking with the Bangkok Post, police seized four Lamborghinis and about $11.7 million in Thai currency from Cazes when they arrested him.
While Silk Road made its name selling drugs, AlphaBay was prolific in its black market products. In the first six months of 2017, it reportedly sold $5 million worth of stolen credit card numbers alone. If a dark net market’s operators decide to take off with the bitcoins that are being held in escrow, users have no recourse.
Emily Wilson, an analyst at dark web monitoring firm Terbium Labs tells Gizmodo:
I’ve been saying all along that I don’t think this makes sense as an exit scam. The operation at Alphabay was well run and sophisticated ...
I’m very curious to see over the coming days and weeks how users react to the news. The drug community is naturally a little bit more skittish than the fraud community, and I think we will see them more openly discuss their intentions for next steps. The question now remains whether or not the vendors who were trading in non-drug related goods move on to the remaining major markets or if we begin to see a major fraud-related (not just carding-related) market take shape.
When Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht was arrested, the FBI seized bitcoins that were worth about $33.6 million at the time. A Secret Service agent who was part of the investigation into Ulbricht was later convicted of stealing $800,000 of Silk Road’s bitcoins. Even if no further accomplices involved with AlphaBay emerge, you never know where one of these cases might go.