24 hours ago TradeRoute went down. For those who don’t know, TradeRoute is where most the drug buyers, fraudsters, and assorted cyber criminals ran after the FBI, Interpol, and others shut down AlphaBay and Hansa Market in July of this year.
To recap, on July 5, 2017, law enforcement agents shut down AlphaBay and arrested it’s leader, Alexander Cazes, in Thailand. Cazes was thrown in a Thailand jail where he promptly hanged himself instead of being extradited to the USA to face charges. When Alpha closed shop, its members (AlphaBay had 240,000 registered members) ran to Hansa Market and were even directed there by undercover law enforcement. Two weeks later? That’s right, law enforcement shut down Hansa. Turns out Hansa Market was under the control of Interpol at the time and had been for AT LEAST several weeks. So the refugees ran to Hansa and set up shop, Hansa gets shuttered and….
And things got crazy. Nutty. Nuttier than Monkey Poo. The shutdown and collaboration of global law enforcement caused a level of paranoia and disarray among those groups which hadn’t been seen since the closure of the very first Dark Markets, ShadowCrew, CarderPlanet, CardersMArket and others. Cybercriminals didn’t know where to go or wo to trust. As a result, many ran to Reddit and started trying to engage in illegal activities there.
24 Hours Ago TradeRoute Went Dark. Right now, it is difficult to say what the cause might be. A low level TradeRoute Mod posted on Reddit that it was server migration and the site would return. That has been the only word from any of the TradeRoute staff. None of the Admins have posted any news or updates whatsoever. In that, it somewhat mirrors the first few days of the AlphaBay shutdown.
As more hours pass it becomes increasingly likely that TradeRoute will not return and that it is either an Exit Scam or Law Enforcement takedown. An Exit Scam, when a dark markets owner’s shut down the site and abscond with all the members bitcoins, is very likely as market owners have become increasingly paranoid about running a market and know if they are arrested they face life in prison. The average dark market has a lifespan of 18 months. A law enforcement takedown is also a possibility. Recently, law enforcement has gotten very good at finding those people who play in the shadows of the darknet. James Comey, Jeff Sessions, and contless others have recently said that those who commit crime online and think they are anonymous are anything but. Law enforcement across the globe has been proving those words correct recently.
What now? An outsider might think this is the end of darkmarkets, that the members might seek a legal lifestyle. They would be wrong. For the fraudsters, hackers, carders, thieves, and other cybercriminals who frequent these forums and markets this is their career. They aren’t going to give up and start flipping burgers at McDonalds. This is their career. The drug buyers and sellers? For the sellers there is way too much money to close shop and either sell locally or get an honest job. The buyers? They don’t have to deal with a local dealer. It is more convenient, more private. The buyers feel safer and have a better selection. Not much chance of them giving up either.
Is it a game of Whack-A-Mole? Usually. One market gets closed down, another opens. And if TradeRoute doesn’t come back we will see another market open in its place. But the increased success of law enforcement closing these sites down and arresting members will necessitate a change in the dynamic of organized cybercrime communities. Many think criminals will more and more resort to conducting business using secure, private messaging services. Others think we will see a new type of market arise, perhaps some decentralized market. This writer thinks it will be a mixture of the two as the forum and marketplace mechanism allows a trust factor to develop among criminals which is unavailable using strictly messaging services. We shall see, but one thing is certain–a change is on the horizon. It may take a couple of years, but will see a fundamental change in the structure of these communities. In the meantime–let’s see which market will pop up next.
Cybercrime, Identity Theft, Hacking, Fraud, Prevention
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Contributing Writer at British News Agency News247WorldPress