Alphabay - The story of the once largest market
Behind the Silk Road, AlphaBay is one of the most famous darknet marketplaces to ever exist. During its heyday, Alphabay was the largest DNM in the world and peaked at 400,000 users in 2017. The market was notable for supporting Bitcoin, Ether, Zcash, and Monero. The site got taken down in a globally-coordinated law enforcement operation in the summer of 2017. AlphaBay was 10-times larger than the Silk Road at the time of its shuttering.
How it started
Alphabay underwent an alpha launch in November 2014 and then an official launch in December 2014. Within three months of being online, the site had already accrued about 15,000 users. The marketplace created by Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian citizen. Created and envisioned as "the largest eBay-style underworld marketplace."
In its prime, AlphaBay become a major commercial hub for a variety of illicit activities. The site allowed vendors to sell data stolen from Uber and TalkTalk in 2015. Bomb threat service on the DNM was probably used in 2017. Such actions raised law enforcement officials’ awareness toward the DNM. Still, the platform proved secure enough and thus popular enough to reach about half-million users at its peak. Majority of those users having registered to make drug purchases.
The Fall of Alphabay
In July 2017 the site succumbed to "Operation Bayonet", a multinational law enforcement operation that targeted the AlphaBay and Hansa darknet marketplaces. The platform’s creator Cazes got arrested in Thailand. He committed suicide ahead of a planned extradition to the United States for a variety of charges. His assets at the time were worth more than $23 million. Despite wealth and technical expertise, Cazes made a series of basic errors in operational security that doomed AlphaBay from the start. One of those errors was using the same email for both his clearnet and darknet activities. Another was having the DNM’s servers hosted in his name.
AlphaBay may be dead, but its popularity has led to more than a few copycat sites springing up that are more or less precise copies of the DNM. In that sense, the AlphaBay user interface has lived on as a sort of mainstay for many projects.