AlphaBay Takedown Just One Chapter in Dark Web Saga

January 9, 2018

Did the takedown of AlphaBay last summer have much effect, or will black markets on the dark web carry on with business as usual? Both, according to Wired’s article, “The Biggest Dark Web Takedown Yet Sends Black Markets Reeling.” Writer Andy Greenberg details the immediate aftermath as customers of AlphaBay, the largest dark web marketplace in existence, frantically searched for other sources—apparently causing technical difficulties for two of the leading alternatives. He also notes the (reasonable) secrecy around just how the FBI pulled this off, causing other dark web vendors to wonder whether they will be next.

On the other hand, a robust demand for black market goods has been a fact of life for millennia, and that does not stop with AlphaBay’s defeat. Greenberg writes:

Even so, the chaos in the wake of AlphaBay’s disappearance shouldn’t deal a death blow to the dark web’s vibrant drug trade, or even cause much more than a temporary shakeup, says Carnegie Mellon’s Christin. He points to prior dark web crises like the 2013 takedown of the Silk Road, the bust of the Silk Road’s sequel site in late 2014, or the so-called ‘exit scam’ pulled by the dark web market Evolution in 2015, in which its administrators abruptly absconded with their patrons’ bitcoins. Each time, Christin points out, the dark web’s overall business took a temporary dive, but came roaring back more quickly after those setbacks and continued to grow as a whole. AlphaBay, for example, had more than 20 times as many product listings as the original Silk Road. (Some research has found that even bad news about the dark web markets only attracts more users to them.) And AlphaBay’s buyers and customers will eventually find a new home.

And so the adventure continues. What is next in the fight between law enforcement and dark web marketplaces? Stay tuned.

Cynthia Murrell, January 9, 2018

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