AlphaBay Market

An overview of the defunct Alphabay market

AlphaBay Market

Established in late 2014, AlphaBay was ator site operating as a dark web. 

The site was launched by an individual going by the name Alpha02 back then, and it was the biggest market when it was at its peak. In the first three months in operation, the market gained over 14,000 users.

AlphaBay offered an extensive list of illicit products and payments were made via bitcoin.

During its time in operation, the market integrated four digital currencies namely Bitcoin, Monero, Ethereum and Zcash as a payment option paving the way for other markets to follow suit.


Vendors and product Listings
Total vendors: Around 40,000 vendors (According to the police's reports)
Listings:
 
1.      Fraud
2.      Drugs & Chemicals
3.      Guides & Tutorials
4.      Counterfeit Items
5.      Digital Products
6.      Jewels & Gold
7.      Weapons
8.      Carded Items
Total Listings: Over 369,000 listings

History in Brief

By the time the site was seized by law enforcement in mid-2017, it was the biggest market followed by Hansa and Dream.   

The website became a success and was recognized as the most prominent online market on the dark web by Dan Palumbo, Digital Citizens Alliance's Research Director, in October 2015. As stated in the interview, AlphaBay's founder believed the Evolution's exit scam significantly contributed to the growth of the market.

Up until it's the fall of Alphabay in July 2017, the moderator/s of AlphaBay continuously integrated innovative features into the site.
 
Although the market did face several site breaches and was shut down by law enforcement, it was considered one of the most secure and reliable tor markets because of a wide range of security features.

The takedown of AlphaBay was followed by the arrest of the administrator and chief founder, Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian national.

Notable Hacks on the Market

Before the seizure of the marketplace in July 2017, the website experienced multiple security breaches over the three years of operation.

The first breach resulted in 13,000 private messages being stolen after the API of AlphaBay was compromised in April 2016. Several months later, in January of 2017, another 20,000 messages and a list of usernames were leaked as the API was compromised again.

Reports then emerged that the attack was conducted by a single hacker who was hired by the moderator of the site for that particular attack only.

The downfall of AlphaBay, however, is believed to be a result of a series of fundamental operational security mistakes by the founder.

The Arrest of AlphaBay Founder

Back when the website first began operating, Cazes, the alleged creator used his email address -pimp_alex_91@hotmail.com, as the system's form address. Cazes used the same email address for both, his Canadian legal computer repair business and his LinkedIn profile.

Alexandre Cazes was also recognized as the founder of AlphaBay after he used the mentioned pseudonym in tech and carding forums where he advertised his identity as "owner," "designer" and "administrator" of AlphaBay.

The preparations to take down the market began several months prior. It took law enforcement at least two months to obtain the U.S and foreign warrants for executing seizures and searches in Thailand and Canada.

Cazes's arrest happened in Thailand, where he was living with his wife. He was then taken into custody by authorities in the region.

The police raided the company Cazes owned in Canada, EBX Technologies, two residentiary properties, as well as the location where the physical AlphaBay servers were reported to be. This then led to a seizure notice on the market.
                    
Following Cazes' arrest, he was awaiting a U.S. extradition. However, the suspect was found dead in his cell as a result of suicide before he could be extradited.

At the time of AlphaBay's demise, the marketplace was ten times bigger than Silk Road, its predecessor. The website had a strong reputation, 400,000 users, over 369,000 listings, and daily transactions worth $600,000 - $800,000.
 
Notable Features

The market supported PGP encryption which was used to set 2FA. The feature was compulsory to vendors but optional to buyers.

MultiSig transactions were also allowed on AlphaBay to protect the buyers of exit scams.

For an additional layer of security, one required a pin for purchases. It also offered multiple payment options which were not common back then, but this market was among the first to adopt several means

AlphaBay made use of inbuilt tumblers, to increase anonymity in the cryptocurrency transactions.

The market had a digital good auto shop for credit cards and it was fully automated to ensure quick dispatch once a purchase is made

The last notable feature of AlphaBay is the scam-watch team. This was a group of hackers, security researchers, and people specialized in malware infections, scam preventions, and fraud, that made sure, both AlphaBay vendors and buyers remain safe on the site.

AlphaBay News Summary
September 2014: AlphaBay is reportedly launched
November 2014: AlphaBay is pre-launched
December 22, 2014: A person using the pseudonym Alpha02 officially launches AlphaBay market
May 2015: The website announces the integration of an escrow system and digital contracts
October 2015: AlphaBay market counts more than 200,000 users
April 2016: The first security breach occurs, where 13,000 messages are stolen from AlphaBay's compromised API
September 1, 2016: The website starts supporting Monero as a currency
January 2017: The second leak of usernames and 200,000 private messages occurs
May 1, 2017: AlphaBay integrates Ethereum payments
July 1, 2017: The marketplace starts to accept Zcash
July 4, 2017: AlphaBay market is officially shut down by law enforcement

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