Dark Net Marketplaces Thriving in Wake of Silk Road Shutdowns, Offering Greater Choice of Illicit Goods

The successful takedown of both versions of Silk Road, the latest as part of a broader operation against dark web

The successful takedown of both versions of Silk Road, the latest as part of a broader operation against dark web sites, has not put an end to dark commerce. To the contrary, competing marketplaces like the Agora, Nucleus and Evolution Marketplaces have increased market share. And as discussed on Ars Technica, they are getting “darker”: there are fewer limitations on what can be posted for sale and more nefarious items making their way into the mix.

One of the most popular is Evolution Marketplace, administered by “Verto,” the same administrator of Tor Carding Forum (TCF) – a “private forum that charges $50 to join” and “has long maintained a brisk trade in stolen financial details.”

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Evolution has over 26,000 listings for drugs, weapons, pornography, pirated software and even malware. Over 15,000 drug-related listings were found.

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And as described by Dan Palumbo, research director at the Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) advocacy group, they go beyond the lines drawn by Silk Road:

“They sell weapons, stolen credit cards, and more nefarious items that were forbidden on both versions of Silk Road. Silk Road sold a lot of dangerous things, but operators drew the line at their version of ‘victimless crimes,’ i.e. no child pornography, weapons, or identity theft. Now, four of the top five DarkNet Marketplaces sell weapons while three of the top five sell stolen financial data. This is a darker DarkNet. It speaks to the challenge facing law enforcement as they knock one set of bad actors offline, another comes along with bigger and bolder intentions.”

Still, it does set some limits. It does not condone sales in child pornography, prostitution, services for murder or Ponzi schemes.

The site takes a 2-4% cut on all sales, which are made in bitcoin. It has also adopted security measures already employed by “mainstream” crypto services. For example, transactions can require signatures from two out of the three parties involved: the buyer, seller and escrow.

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