Just over a month ago, we saw the fall of two major darknet marketplaces (DNM), AlphaBay and Hansa, through an elaborate international law enforcement (LE) effort. LE shut down Alpha Bay to drive buyers and vendors to Hansa, where officers sat quietly moderating the market and harvesting the information of thousands of marketplace users.
Now, our analysts are wondering, is TradeRoute the new king of darknet marketplaces?
The new players
Since last month's takedown, Valhalla and TradeRoute DNM have witnessed a surge in business. Trade Route appears to have become the go-to DNM, having more referrals and open registrations this week than Valhalla. Valhalla, on the other hand, is an invite only DNM, and our analysts found only limited chatter regarding its security or condition.
During our previous survey of the darknet markets earlier this year, we predicted that TradeRoute would be the market to watch, though we did not foresee that its growth would be due to recent circumstances.
The growth of listings on TradeRoute is substantial. The total number of listings as of 24 August is 31,580 across a variety of categories including drugs, fraud, services, digital goods, counterfeit items and even fireworks. Last fall, TradeRoute was hardly a player in the darknet market scene, offering a mere 1,746 listings in October of 2016. The current inventory is 17 times the number of listings back in the fall - a growth of 1,700%!
Cannabis-related offers lead the way, along with Digital Goods, similar to previous numbers and listing distribution of Hansa. TradeRoute is nowhere near the size of AlphaBay at the moment, but it is well on its way. Unlike AlphaBay, TradeRoute restricts vendors from offering certain items, including: firearms, explosives or anything intended to harm others, offers of hitman related services, and any illegal pornographic materials.
Early this week, reddit users were in an upheaval over a post in r/DarknetMarkets user HugBunter, suggesting that he had successfully hacked into TradeRoute's hidden service. He incited fear among readers, with over 350 comments discussing his claim to have found significant server security vulnerabilities that TradeRoute admins had completely ignored.
Market admins did not entertain this thread but instead posted an official response on the TradeRoute Discussion Forum, accessible to TradeRoute users only, refuting these hacking claims:
Darknet Marketplace Growth
While the takedown of Hansa and AlphaBay created significant paranoia across the DNM community, it has not deterred new market hidden services coming online. In the past month, the total number of hidden service URL’s classified as 'MARKETS' by our engine and Map of the Dark research has increased 54%. We predict that markets will continue to be a significant reason for Tor use.
One reddit user, JburnaDNM, expressed gratitude for both law enforcement and hackers, saying that due to the recent shakeups in the community, he’d been clean from drug use for almost four months, proving there can be light at the end of a very dark tunnel in the darknet.
Interested in exploring TradeRoute for yourself? Access at your own risk using the Tor browser, or our custom browsing platform, vAp0r (formerly Tor-Pi-Do).
We will continue to watch the shape and size of the darknet marketplaces as a result of this law enforcement effort and bring you more updates as they become available.
Curious about something you've read on our blog? Want to learn more? Please reach out. We're more than happy to have a conversation.