The Goods & Services of a Darknet Market
In a series of earlier posts, we introduced you to darknet marketplaces, the e-commerce sector of the darknet. We not only shared the history of the fascinating trading and marketplaces, i.e. Silk Road, but also shared some insight into who the current market leaders are and how to safely navigate and transact with vendors in this arena through the follow-up pieces on cyptocurrency. While there used to be only one or two principal players in this space, there are now thousands of vendors distributed across some 50 markets who are actively trading across the deepest and darkest parts of the internet.
Darknet Market Leaders
While there are numerous markets now actively offering goods and services on the darknet, the top three sites that rule in total number of listings, vendors, and overall activity are: AlphaBay, Hansa, and The Dream Market. We discussed last time how to access these darknet markets, and how cryptocurrency transactions work. Today, we will venture more into the categories of the types of goods and services on offer and the specialties of each of these markets. Bear in mind, these marketplaces change rapidly and the data discussed below is a snapshot of each market during the last week in April (4/21/17 - 4/28/17).
AlphaBay Marketplace is one of the best looking, fully-functional markets on the Darknet. Its uptime is well over 95% and the site refreshes most expediently. According to DeepDotWeb, AlphaBay was founded by a reputable and foundational member of the carding community, alpha02 and DeSnake. Alphabay saw a major surge of users (over 18,000 registrations) shortly after the demise of the Evolution Market in early 2015 due to one of the largest known darknet exit scams, second to The Sheep Market exit scam we tweeted about earlier this week. For this reason, Alphabay takes security quite seriously offering multisig transactions, Finalize Early (FE) for verified vendors, and regular Escrow accounts.
Alpha Bay also recently announced they will be accepting Ethereum transactions starting on May 1st, 2017 and were one of the first markets to support alternate cyptocurrencies such as Monero. Despite their owner’s origins in carding, Alphabay has a wide mix of products on offer, and lead the pack with over 200,000 listings (68% of their market) dedicated to drug related offerings.
Most notibly, AlphaBay is the only market in the top three we reviewed with vendors offering actual handguns, CS gas, and explosives as opposed to manuals or ammunition. It has a category dedicated to offering weapons, totaling over 4,000 listings, and the burgeoning burglar can even use AlphaBay to purchase their “Thief Mask – Hide Face” for less than $20 USD.
The youngest of our top three markets surveyed, Hansa, also known as the market with the little red pirate ship, is currently trending to be more reliable than AlphaBay at an uptime statistic of 99.03% as reported by dnsstats.net. Not affiliated with the Hansa marketplace that was hacked Hansa is built upon, as they call it, a trustless system as they rely heavily on the multisig transaction system to prevent vendors as well as the site staff to access the deposited virtual currency until the buyer finalizes the transaction. They also refuse to offer any “Finalize Early” option, regardless of vendor reputation and buyer-vendor relationship.
Hansa differs from other markets in that they are not exclusively known for being a drug market. In fact, less than half of their listings are drug related. Instead, they have the highest offering of any market of guides and tutorials and feature an extensive selection of digital goods including database leaks, numerous listings for purchasing access to adult websites and content, and even the more bizarre listings such as an offer for over 300 secret recipes from top American food chains or the “FBI’s software investigation tool.”
THE DREAM MARKET
The Dream Market has the longest historical running on the darknet, trading since 2013, but despite their longevity and simplified user interface, the site does not look or feel as well thought out as Alphabay, despite leading Hansa in the total number of listings. Market reviews on DeepDotWeb are extreme with many stating they had been scammed or treated rudely by the market admins, but those could easily have been entered by competitors of the market.
The Dream Market has a pretty steady uptime of 96.42% and supports not only multisig transactions, but Finalize Early and two-factor authentication (2FA). Unlike AlphaBay, Dream Market only supports bitcoin transactions. It has simplified its listings into 5 principal categories, dominated in total listings by digital goods and drugs. However, the total listings per category do not match the totals given in the sub-categories, suggesting that the total number of listings we analyzed may have an error of somewhere between 4 and 15%. Dream Market relies solely on the escrow system for purchases and despite offering a vendor rating scheme that includes vendor scoring from other markets like Agora and AlphaBay.
Unlike most markets, Dream Market does not offer any rating system for buyers to help reduce the likelihood of a Federal or Local Law Enforcement Agency from trying to infiltrate and lure the vendor.
The Dream Market does however, offer the highest percentage of offerings dedicated to digital goods, with over 2,000 listings for e-books alone covering everything from digital privacy to trigonometry.
THE TOP GOODS
This week, OWL Cybersecurity Analysts took a snapshot of the market categories and total number of listings across the top 3 markets and found that drugs and digital goods comprise over 70% of the listings of each marketplace. After analyzing over 450,000 listings across the top three darknet markets, we tallied these statistics to draw some initial conclusions.
While AlphaBay dominates the Darknet in drug-related listings, they trail behind Dream Market in digital good offerings; however, Dream Market’s oversimplification of categories, and possible mis-categorization of listings, made it difficult to decipher the listings into their respective sub-categories.
In addition to drugs and digital goods, a significant portion of the listings across these three markets include: fraud items (e.g. personally identifiable information, database dumps and account logins); guides and tutorials; adult content; counterfeit related items such as passports, clothes, currency; and services, including social engineering and carding support.
Other categories worth mentioning comprise less than 10% of the total marketplace offerings, including weapons (primarily offered on only AlphaBay), jewelry (consisting of mainly Rolex watches), electronics, and security and hosting related items, which have seen an uptick in listings with recent concerns over the true anonymity of darknet activity.
We also observed that many darknet vendors trade across all three markets, as such the total number of listings do not necessarily represent unique individual offerings. We intentionally chose not to discuss the aliases most active on these markets but will explore the dark world of darknet marketing/advertising and customer service for these adventurous entrepreneurs in a later post.