New Digital Citizens Alliance Research Shows "A Darker DarkNet" Emerging Since FBI Takedowns
Washington, DC - Since last month's FBI shutdown of online drug marketplace Silk Road, the site now known as the leading online black market for illegal drugs - Evolution Marketplace - has seen explosive growth in its offering of drugs and other illegal items. New numbers from the Digital Citizens Alliance show the takedowns did succeed in lowering the numbers of drugs and illegal items available since our last review of the markets in August. But some new sites that have emerged as potentially key markets are growing rapidly. These sites are also more dangerous in their nature.
"Evolution Marketplace is a much different animal than Silk Road," said Digital Citizens Alliance Research Director Dan Palumbo. "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."
The November 6 takedowns knocked down nine of the 18 sites Digital Citizens had been tracking. Two others disappeared, scamming vendors and sellers out of their Bitcoin. As of December 12, the numbers of illegal drugs listed dropped 31 percent from what researchers saw in August. The number of total listings (drugs and other illegal offerings) dropped 22 percent in the same time.
Evolution Marketplace had already passed Silk Road as the largest illegal black market for drugs before the takedown. Now, with a new field of competitors, Evolution Marketplace has widened the gap between itself and the other markets. Currently, Evolution Marketplace has 45 percent of the drug lists and 52 percent of total listings. It is by far the leader in fraud related activity with a large section devoted to credit card fraud and identity theft.
The Digital Citizens update, which can be found here, also looks at new developments concerning the second ranked DarkNet market, Agora Marketplace, as well as the new market in third place in the overall numbers.
"It is a victory for the FBI to take down a large group of markets at once and see the numbers go down, but we have to see what happens as the new, and existing, markets continue to adapt to a new landscape," Palumbo said. “We should remember that after the first version of Silk Road went down in 2013, the traffic was up by more than 30 percent just six months later. This is a persistent crowd and they will keep looking for ways to evade law enforcement."
The Digital Citizens Alliance published its first look at the DarkNet Marketplaces - Busted, but Not Broken: The State of Silk Road and the DarkNet Marketplaces - in April 2014 after 10 months researching the DarkNet. Researchers will continue to publish quarterly updates reviewing changes in the markets with the next update coming in April 2015. If you have additional questions or comments about the update, please visit our Facebook and/or twitter pages (@4saferinternet).