Ever since two of the leading darknet marketplaces shut down, massive transitions have been taking place on the dark web.
As the demand for services and products being sold haven’t gone down, users are simply migrating to Dream Market—which happens to be the biggest darknet marketplace now.
Since late July, Dream Market and a few other counterparts have experienced a 28 percent surge in overall traffic.
Dream Market in particular now features more than 98,000 postings.
Here’s the gist of what’s been unfolding over the last few weeks.
What Exactly Happened?
Speculations were rife that the highly popular darknet market AlphaBay had been seized by law authorities when it disappeared in July, and to the disappointment of millions of dark web users, the rumors turned out to be true.
Soon after AlphaBay’s demise, Hansa, another leading marketplace, was taken down as well.
With transactions worth hundreds of thousands of dollars down the drain, life has been tough on the darknet.
With the United States Department of Justice terming this operation “one of the most important investigations of the year,” it’s safe to say that this is just the beginning.
Writing on the Wall
Ever since the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation took down Silk Road back in 2013, analysts around the globe had predicted a similar fate for the dark web’s remainder of marketplaces.
This summer, AlphaBay’s servers were confiscated in an operation led by authorities mainly in the U.S., the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom and France.
Operations were also conducted in Thailand and Lithuania.
The suspected founder, Alexander Cazes, was arrested on July 5.
A week later, he was found dead in prison. Authorities state that Cazes committed suicide.
Effectively three days later, a number of Dutch authorities had complete control over Hansa.
If reports are to be believed, Hansa was secretly under the scanner for as long as a month after the initial capture.
Dream Market Emerges as New Leader
Born out of the ashes of Silk Road, like many of its other counterparts, Dream Market now features the highest number of listings—98,000 and counting.
It is also one of the oldest marketplaces on the darknet, with a loyal user base.
The fact that the website grew by 4,000 postings in just one week shows that darknet market users haven’t really stopped trading as such.
Of course, certain goods have taken a substantial hit and likely will not see the light of day until the dust settles.
Online forums had initially speculated that even Dream Market’s servers were compromised, but there seems to be no real evidence to support this.
Even though the overall consensus is to lay low, thousands of transactions are still going on at Dream Market.
The Current Scenario
Even though a swath of users, mostly vendors, have deserted Tor networks after this summer’s law enforcement takedowns, darknet marketplace sales are still going strong.
Tobacco and alcohol sales are still high, thanks to the 16 percent traffic surge that TradeRoute was blessed with.
There seems to be minimal fear despite the crackdowns, as Dream Market, TradeRoute and a number of other marketplaces have openly welcomed users who were displaced by AlphaBay’s shutdown.
This is primarily due to the fact that vendors always tend to use fake details to conduct their business, coupled with various IP proxies and VPN services.
So far, only the arms trade has taken a decent hit—a 37 percent drop off for RsClub Market was recorded.
But sales are bound to kick start again if the crackdowns come to an abrupt halt.
What Lies Ahead
A few networks report that a large chunk of usernames and passwords have been uncovered by the police and will be utilized for subsequent investigation.
The truth is, takedowns and arrests like these are inevitable in any illegal marketplace, be it online or offline.
What is interesting to note is that they hardly seem to have a decisive and fatal impact on the practice in question.
As of now, police in multiple countries seem to be in hot pursuit of several leads.
But, as to whether the trail runs cold or not, only time will tell.