Versus responded by immediately announcing his retirement. “We will say there was a clear agenda behind how this was originally handled,” wrote the site administrator, who went by the name William Gibson, “but we leave that to your own conclusions.” .
DeSnake, meanwhile, has argued on both Dread and WIRED that he has no personal or professional connection to threesixty, the hacker whose discovery of a vulnerability took down AlphaBay’s biggest remaining competitor. “We handled it in the best way possible, due to the severity of the issue,” DeSnake says.
In addition to the circumstances surrounding the release of Versus, the recent decline in the number of dark web markets may be due to the generally hostile environment they face, says Flashpoint’s Ian Gray. Marketplaces are often bombarded by distributed denial of service attacks launched by competitors using waves of unwanted traffic to knock them offline and face constant conflicts between buyers and sellers. Market administrators also sense the ever-present threat of law enforcement looming in the background. All of this prompts a take-the-money-and-run approach for any dark web admin who achieves some level of success — and has allowed DeSnake, who appears to be more ambitious and persistent in his goals, to elevate AlphaBay again. high. “With all these other shutdowns, you have so few players in space,” says Gray. “There’s really only one that’s pretty well established, and that’s AlphaBay.”
When AlphaBay first reappeared, Gray and other dark web analysts and users expressed suspicion that DeSnake might be compromised by law enforcement. Although he appeared to prove his identity as the right-hand man of the former AlphaBay by signing messages with the same PGP cryptographic key he had used in the past, many dark web dwellers feared he was controlled by a police department as part of an undercover operation. operation, such as when Dutch police secretly took over the dark web drug market Hansa in 2017.
After nearly a year back online, however, DeSnake says he feels “vindicated,” given that few if any stings have lasted this long. “For the majority of vendors and customers, the question has been asked,” DeSnake says.
While DeSnake turned out to be the rightful heir to AlphaBay — and isn’t pulling an exit scam himself — he still faces the risk of a law enforcement pullout, which is only growing. as the resurgent market takes center stage. “It’s Russian roulette running a dark web market, especially with all the information we got from the takedown of AlphaBay,” says Grant Rabenn, a former federal prosecutor who led the investigation that led to the investigation. AlphaBay’s bankruptcy in 2017 and the arrest of its original administrator, Alexandre. Cazes, who was later found dead in a Thai jail of an apparent suicide. (DeSnake claimed, without proof, that Cazes was murdered.)
Rabenn suggests that the 2017 case also allowed US law enforcement to obtain a “good amount of information” about AlphaBay personnel. As the dark web market grows, this previous investigation could provide leads on DeSnake’s identity as federal agencies refocus their attention on AlphaBay and its new boss. “It’s definitely about putting a target on yourself, not just because of the historical conduct and relationships, but also being the best,” Rabenn says. “Everybody go get that one.”