Dark web marketplace AlphaBay's closure last week followed an international law enforcement operation and multiple raids, it has emerged. It has also been reported that a key suspect who was arrested in the raids has died in custody.
The world’s biggest online drug bazaar dropped offline on 5 July, sparking fears that its administrators had disappeared taking a swag bag of digital currency with them, pulling an "exit scam" like other dark web marketplace kingpins before them.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a Canadian suspected of running AlphaBay was arrested in Thailand on 5 July following an international police operation involving authorities in the US and Canada as well as Thailand. Alexandre Cazes, the 26-year-old who had been accused of being the site's admin, was found dead in a Thai jail cell on Wednesday, the WSJ adds.
The Bangkok Post reported that Cazes had been resident in Thailand for about eight years and had a Thai wife. Thai authorities said they'd seized four Lamborghini cars and three upmarket residences with a combined value of $11.7m (400 million Thai Baht). US authorities had apparently been seeking to extradite Cazes at the time of his death.
The AlphaBay marketplace disappeared in the early hours of Wednesday, 5 July. Redditors quickly voiced fear that an exit scam had taken place amid estimates that up to $3.7m in digital currency was tied up in the marketplace and might have been stolen. Assurances were made by purported AlphaBay admins that the outage was due to an unannounced security update on its servers, an assurance that rang ever more hollow the longer AlphaBay was unavailable.
AlphaBay took on the mantle from the infamous Silk Road before it to become the largest marketplaces on the dark web.
Dark web shoppers and traders often assume exit scams are taking place when dark web marketplaces go offline. Alternative explanations can including anything from DDoS attacks from competitors, law enforcement actions to unannounced site maintenance. Threat intelligence experts reckon that other darknet marketplaces will grow to fill the gap left by AlphaBay's demise.
Avi Kasztan, chief exec of Sixgill, predicted that "Dream Market" is likely to become the next major player on the dark web.
Dream Market has operated in the shadows of AlphaBay over the last year gaining traction over recent months to become the second largest market on the darknet. It specialises in offering drugs, counterfeit items, stolen data, fraudulent products, and more.
Threat intelligence firm Digital Shadows adds some AlphaBay users were so fond of their former haunt that they have created a new iteration of the marketplace, dubbed GammaBay. ®