Dark web marketplaces used to be quite popular among cryptocurrency enthusiasts. Today that isn’t necessarily the case any longer. With Empire Market being the latest to conveniently disappear, it is evident this industry could be running on its last legs.
What is Empire Market?
Originally founded in the first half of 2018, Empire Market quickly made a name for itself. It is the marketplace that eventually filled the void left behind by Alphabay. Ever since law enforcement agencies have begun shutting down dark web marketplaces, it has become incredibly difficult to keep such an operation alive for long.
In the case of Empire Market, the platform gained support quickly. Its weekly volume is estimated at over $6.5 million, which is rather impressive. Before the platform suddenly disappeared , there were over 55,000 listings. All in all, a very successful enterprise, but one that comes at a cost. Being successful in this industry attracts the attention of law enforcement sooner or later.
Users of Empire Market were pleased with the overall service. It has support for multisig wallets and numerous cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is far from ideal for dark web marketplaces, due to its lack of privacy. With two-factor authentication, forced vendor PGP, and a vendor bond of $750, it certainly checks all of the right boxes. The platform also charges a 4% commission on all transactions.
Where has it Gone?
That is the big question right now. Empire Market went dark a few days ago without any prior warning or indication. A system maintenance seems unlikely, given the lengthy downtime.
According to team members, there is an ongoing DDoS attack taking place. A plausible scenario, as DDoS-as-a-service is often sold through dark web marketplaces. Why anyone would take down this platform, remains unclear. it is a possibility to keep in mind. However, a three-day DDoS attack seems unlikely, even under the best of scenarios.
An exit scam seems a far more plausible scenario. The marketplace operators have moved significant amounts of cryptocurrency to different wallets. This started before the platform went dark and has continued during the downtime as well. There’s ample speculation as to why this is taking place. Pulling an exit scam seems to be the most logical explanation, after all.
— NEWSBLUES (@PHIL4ACES) August 23, 2020
According to a team member, there are “many false narratives”. He claims the team is working hard to bring the platform back. This message is signed by a correct PGP key attributed to Empire Market.
"Beware the many false narratives and FUD circulating. We are here and are hard at work. Doing anything safely takes time." – PGP verified update from Empire Market staff on Dread pic.twitter.com/lfX3MhZsoi
— dark.fail (@DarkDotFail) August 23, 2020
However, it is unclear what is going on exactly. For now, there is no indication that this platform will be coming back in the near future. Assuming it will remain offline, one has to wonder if any of the moved funds will be returned to their original holders. Highly unlikely, but one never knows if there is a genuine reason for the current situation.
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