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Darknet Marketplace Watch - Monitoring Sales of Illegal Drugs on the Darknet (Q1)

Illegal drug sales have moved out of the poorly lit alley and into an equally shadowy, dangerous place - the Darknet. Wired Magazine says the Darknet is a "second, parallel Internet. Right now it’s full of nasty (or, at the very least, illegal) activity like illicit drug or arms sales, or pedophile rings. The Darknet is populated by precisely who you’d expect to be skulking in the darkest corners of the online world. They have something to hide."

Digital Citizens Alliance investigators track the numbers of illegal and dangerous drugs found on the most popular Darknet Marketplaces. The first report, Busted, but Not Broken: The State of Silk Road and the Darknet Marketplaces, was published in April 2014. Below is the latest listings on the sites we looked at last April as well as a few others that have joined the list.

Updated on 24 April 2015.

Over the past nine months Digital Citizens has posted quarterly updates on the state of DarkNet drug markets. Just as we prepared to post the figures for Q1 2015, the “market leader” in the space surprised us all. Evolution Marketplace, the leading drug market on the DarkNet, shut down as its founders ran off with millions worth of bitcoin. Our numbers were dated before we could even post them.

Rather than publish those findings, we decided to wait and see how the vendors, buyers, and other marketplaces reacted. Included are the most recent listings count as of April 22, 2015, as well as our figures from March 17, 2015, and an analysis of what has transpired since Evolution closed.

  • Our research shows that there are now more listings for drugs and nearly as many total listings among DarkNet drug markets as there were before Evolution’s operators ran off. That’s even more impressive when you consider that nearly half (49.61%) of all listings for drugs and other illicit goods sold on the DarkNet disappeared when Evolution went down.
  • Additionally, 47% of all drug specific listings disappeared with what had been up to that point the most “reliable” site of the DarkNet drug markets.
  • Instead of a large amount of growth concentrated among two or three central players like we have seen in the past, our research shows that the wealth is being spread. We’ve seen 7-8 sites experience significant growth over the last month.
  • The next largest competitor left was Agora, an alternative that is well known and respected in the online underworld, whose only major flaw is their inability to maintain continuous access to the market. Boasting over a third of the drug listings (34%) at the time, Agora looked poised to see the same type of growth that Evolution had experienced after Silk Road 2.0 was seized as part of Operation Onymous. However, that has not been the case.
  • Since Evolution disappeared, Agora has been plagued by the same lack of accessibility that allowed Evolution to overtake it as the leading market after Operation Onymous. Agora has a paltry uptime statistic of 55.73%. Contrast that with an average uptime of 94% among the other 14 sites that we are tracking according to Deep Dot Web.
  • Agora is still by far the largest site and owns 37% of total listings on the DarkNet. However, due to its downtime issues and increased competition among DarkNet marketplaces Agora has only increased market share of listings by roughly 6%. That is far below the amount of growth that we expected to see in the aftermath of the Evolution scam.
  • 8 out of the 12 sites that we were tracking when Evolution went down have doubled in size in the last month. Sites like Nucleus, Black Bank, AlphaBay, Abraxas, Middle Earth, and Crypto Market have been the main beneficiaries of this diffusion of listings within the market for illicit goods online.
  • If you look at the increase in listings you will see Nucleus (increased by 7,428), Black Bank (increased by 6,696), and AlphaBay (increased by 5,853) have all grown significantly more than Agora (increased by 3,533). In the case of Nucleus, the site has double the amount of new listings compared to Agora since the fall of Evolution.
  • Our Researchers also noticed an uptick in nation specific markets. We were not able to gather statistics due to language barriers, but we are starting to track sites from France, Italy, Russia, and Poland and hoping to have statistics soon. They are the following:

    French: French Dark Place 3.0
    French: French marketplace
    French: French Dark Net
    Polish: Torepublic
    MarketRussian: Ramp
    Russian: RuTor
    Italian: Babylon
    Italian: IDC

Previous updates:

Q3 2014 DarkNet Update
Q4 2014 DarkNet Update

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