The dark web is an environment that is always changing and evolving as law enforcement authorities seek to crack down on its activities and expansionist efforts. The recent events highlighted below are of note as they have significantly affected the operational environment of the dark web.
- The dark web marketplace AlphaBay was seized by the U.S. Department of Justice. Before its seizure AlphaBay was the largest and most popular marketplace over the darknet, selling everything from drug paraphernalia to digital goods. In terms of the scope of its size, AlphaBay grew to ten times the size of the Silk Road market. This seizure targeted more than 40,000 vendors and more than 200,000 customers.
- The Dutch Government was able to seize control of the Hansa marketplace for over a month without alerting the dark web community. Dutch authorities were able to locate the servers of the Hansa marketplace and create a copy of the marketplace on their own servers. Due to the closing of the AlphaBay marketplace during this time period, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Dutch government were able to track both vendors and buyers who moved to the Hansa marketplace after the seizure of AlphaBay. Dutch authorities noticed an eightfold increase in traffic to the Hansa marketplace during this time period.
- Deep Hosting, a major darknet host over the Tor network announced that it was recently breached and had some of its data stolen by a hacker named of “Dhostpwned”. Through the breach the hacker was able to obtain data from 91 dark websites which included: hacking forums, drug marketplaces, carding markets, and malware repositories.
The recent turmoil throughout the dark web environment has led to increased discussions over many top dark web forums about the future operations of dark web marketplaces. It is possible that both vendors and buyers may go underground for a short duration due to all of the attention coming from law enforcement authorities as of late. There is also speculation that other top dark web marketplaces could be compromised similar to the Hansa marketplace.
However, it is likely that a marketplace will rise up to fill the power vacuum left by the seizure of both AlphaBay and Hansa. It was not too long ago that the Silk Road was the largest market on the dark web. Over time, AlphaBay was able to surpass the success of the Silk Road and became the largest dark web marketplace. It is apparent that the seizure of these top two marketplaces will likely lead to an increase in operational security among both dark web vendors and buyers as paranoia is at an all-time high. It is important to clarify that the dark web is not eliminated after these major seizures. The dark web will still be an attractive environment for those looking to sell or purchase illicit goods as it provides the best opportunity for these activities to be undertaken with anonymity.