Following the demise of the largest darknet marketplace (DNM) in mid-July 2017, the underground market Alphabay returned in August 2021, and during the last year, Alphabay has managed to once again regain its position as the world’s top DNM. Furthermore, Alphabay relentlessly conducted business amid a domino effect of DNMs folding last year and throughout 2022.
After a Rocky Start and Celebrating Its One-Year Anniversary Since the Return, Alphabay Ends the Year as the King of Darknet Markets
Last year, a number of DNMs left without a trace, like the world’s largest monero (XMR) accepting marketplace, White House, and the DNM Joker’s Stash. This year, a number of darknet marketplaces have dealt with casualties and it started with Europol’s takedown of Darkmarket in January. A month prior, the DNM Monopoly had gone offline but on Jan. 28, 2022, the DNM researcher Darkdotfail tweeted that “Monopoly Market’s servers were seized” and it was “very likely law enforcement action.”
Through the thick of it all, Alphabay (AB) has managed to become the world’s largest illicit marketplace on the deep web in 2022. The marketplace was also the largest DNM in 2017, but it was seized by international law enforcement on July 13, 2017. At that time, thousands of AB users flocked to both Hansa and Dream.
Later, Thailand police revealed that Alexandre Cazes, the alleged administrator of Alphabay, was arrested. Days later, on July 18, 2017, Cazes was found dead in a Bangkok prison in the Laksi district. In addition to taking down AB and finding Cazes before he died, international law enforcement operated the DNM Hansa for more than 30 days before taking it down.
49 months later in Aug. 2021, the popular DNM forum Dread started seeing appearances of the Alphabay co-founder “Desnake.” It was once thought that Cazes was Desnake but now it is assumed he may have been known as the AB co-founder “Alpha02.” In Aug. 2021, a former AB moderator called “disc0” vouched for Desnake, and reports started to appear about a newly launched Alphabay.
In Aug. 2022, AB celebrated its one-year anniversary return after the takedown in 2017 and Cazes’ death. The DNM operates in a different manner than it did back then, as the underground shop is hosted on both Tor and I2P. Anything to do with Russia is forbidden when it comes to products and services, and fentanyl is completely banned from the new AB marketplace. Like the retired White House DNM, the new Alphabay supports monero (XMR) transactions only.
Desnake Prioritizes Monero Transactions, I2P Connections, Alphaguard — Founder Intends to Transform Alphabay Into a Decentralized Market Like Openbazaar
In November 2022, discussions and threads found on the hidden Dread forum, and the clearnet Reddit forum r/darknet, show that AB is a very popular market. Besides AB, other popular DNMs in late 2022 include Tor2door Market, ASAP Market, Abacus Market, Archetyp, Darkfox Market, and Vice City. In Feb. 2022, the platform Dark0de exit scammed and the DNM World Market exit scammed during the first week of April.
While the DNMs Darkmarket and Monopoly failed earlier in the year, last April German law enforcement agencies shut down Russia’s largest DNM, Hydra. After the fall of the original Alphabay in 2017, Russia’s DNM Hydra was a force to be reckoned with over the next few years before law enforcement shut it down. Reports had shown that Hydra’s complex drug delivery system overshadowed Western darknet markets.
Although, the new AB is considered more sophisticated, in terms of privacy, by offering monero transactions, a feature called Alphaguard that claims to “safeguard” wallets in the event of server seizures, and I2P connections. Reports published by the threat intelligence blog Flashpoint Team further detail that “Desnake intends to morph Alphabay into a ‘decentralized market’” by 2023.
What do you think about Alphabay’s rise since it came back in August 2021? Let us know your thoughts about this subject in the comments section below.