AlphaBay, which is one of the top darknet markets on Tor, has been down since midnight Tuesday, July 4th, in what was initially thought to be an exit scam.
Users of the market panicked due to the fact that the market was not only down for an unusually long period of time, but that the admins appeared to have made unusually large withdrawals, according to one bitcoin blockchain record. The withdrawals add up to 1,479.03904709 in bitcoin which, at present, is roughly equivalent to $3.8 million.
Be that as it may, it seems that everyone’s fears are unfounded. AlphaBay admin Big_Muscles, in response to the uproar, posted on AlphaBay’s official subreddit r/AlphaBayMarket, saying “Will be back online soon. Servers under update.” Another market admin confirmed the identity of the Big_Muscles account in a previous post, which appears to authenticate the announcement.
Another AlphaBay admin, trappy_AB, further confirmed Big_Muscles’ assertion that the market would be back in business shortly: “I have been in touch with our devs and admins and they are working to restore AlphaBay as soon as possible. As I have said before, during downtimes, there are added risks that you should understand and be weary [sic] of.” He went on to warn customers of increased phishing attacks during the market’s downtime, in which potential thieves claim to have alternate addresses for AlphaBay that they may be unaware of, or bitcoin addresses associated with the clone AlphaBay links.
According to the site DarkNet Stats, which monitors the online statuses of darknet markets and other popular sites, AlphaBay is still down at the present time. If you attempt to reach the site at the present moment, you will be greeted with the ubiquitous “connection has timed out” message:
If what the admins say is true, then AlphaBay should be back online within a short time. Those who frequently purchase goods from the market will have to be patient.
Despite the fact that AlphaBay may not be down permanently, customers’ fears of it shutting down are based in reality. Three major darknet markets – East India Company, Oasis Market, and Evolution Market, have successfully exit scammed between 2015 and 2016 (Evolution being one of the largest and most well known).
Exit scams are a common risk for customers of darknet markets. If, for any reason, a vendor decides to stop doing business, it can be tempting for him to continue receiving payments, even with no intention of delivering the promised goods.
Many of the newer markets have instituted anti-scam measures, such as two-factor authentication (2FA), invite-only systems, and multisig payments. Users also frequently rely on feedback written on forums and the associated subreddits to establish a vendor’s reputation. In many cases, these systems have worked.
So, it appears that AlphaBay is not shutting down after all, but it’s unknown exactly when it will be active again. Customers will just have to check back periodically, and wait until the doors are open.