AlphaBay Market, the darkweb’s largest drug site, mysteriously went offline earlier today. It sparked fears of an exit scam, after users also discovered a mysterious multi-sig bitcoin transaction for 1,400+ BTC out of a suspected AlphaBay wallet.
[UPDATE 7:00AM EST] AlphaBay admin u/Big_Muscles has explained in a brief Reddit post that the site is undergoing a server upgrade.
The long-running site has been a mainstay of the online drug markets over the past few years. It has stayed active as other smaller sites exit scammed users out of millions of dollars worth of bitcoin.
Going offline for short periods isn’t unheard for a large volume site such as AlphaBay. However soon after the site became inaccessible, eagle-eyed Redditors began examining a number of suspected AlphaBay wallets, noticing this recent transaction of 1,400+ BTC passing through a number of wallets that have transacted over 2 million BTC.
Rumors Abound: Did AlphaBay ‘Exit Scam’?
While at this stage everything surrounding the downtime should be considered FUD, many theories have already emerged. One of the wilder scenarios was that the publicity surrounding the medical details of millions of Australians being offered for sale on the darkweb led to the shutdown by Australia authorities.
Outside of speculation, most posters on r/AlphaBayMarkets were already resigned to the fact that this may be another exit scam. If the larger suspected AlphaBay wallet were emptied, it would represent he biggest exit scam ever pulled — somewhere in the range of a billion USD.
Reddit user u/jealterhee wrote: “They have exit scammed, not with millions though, with a good billion.”
However, Chris Ellis from the World Crypto Network examined the AlphaBay transaction and did not find anything confirming it was from an AlphaBay address:
Dark market website Alphabay is down but I cannot find any evidence that the multisig address being circulated is connected to their site.
— Chris Ellis (@MrChrisEllis) July 5, 2017
Later, after further digging, he noted that the suspicious transfer seems to belong to an exchange. The most likely AlphaBay wallet still contained over 33 thousand Bitcoin. He said:
The 359FSXmTtzgpgphvRf439XdwmiQkWPDcyX address is linked to top tier exchange not AB. 1Kd6zLb9iAjcrgq8HzWnoWNVLYYWjp3swA may be AB but still has 33k BTC balance #Bitcoin
If the operators of the site were to walk off with the 1400+ BTC transaction it would be an amount in the region of $4 million USD. That’s plenty of money, but nowhere near what it is assumed they could have taken — if the other address holding over 33k BTC is indeed controlled by AlphaBay.
Trust Is Everything on the Darkweb
Whatever happens in the immediate future, it seems AlphaBay’s place on top of the drug market mantle is now finished. While occasional downtime is acceptable, to regain the trust of the market after such a long and so far unexplained period offline will be a difficult task.
Trust in the darkweb market industry is everything. Even if the original operators were to prove they were still in charge of the site, suspicions would immediately be raised that they were now part of a law enforcement honey pot sting.
What’s your theory on AlphaBay’s downtime? Let’s hear your thoughts.
Images via Pixabay, Wikipedia