Established dark web market disappears suddenly, leaving vendors and customers scrambling

Established dark web market disappears suddenly, leaving vendors and customers scrambling

Is the largest dark web market really gone? And was it an exit scam?  Dark.Fail tweeted the news on Twitter last night:

Empire, the largest darknet cryptomarket is gone. With no explanation from its admins and no announcement from law enforcement, this looks like a devastating exit scam. The darknet was in a golden age of trust. Expect a rough year of exit scams ahead as trust is rediscovered.

And over on Dread, Se7en posted something about the situation. Keep in mind that this was Se7en’s speculation/thoughts and not necessarily what really happened:

Empire Market Update

by /u/[deleted] • 1 day ago in /d/EmpireMarket
Its now been over 48 hours of the market being down. The market mod panel has also been down that long. I had hoped it would have returned by now. It is looking very unlikely that it will. The mod panel is down and the admins are not on jabber.I don’t think the admins ever planned an exit, planned exits usually disable withdrawals and continue accepting deposits for weeks sometimes even much longer. It was only a week ago when BTC on the market temporarily stopped working and the admins fixed it fast allowing BTC withdrawals again. If it was a planned exit i don’t think they would have put in any work fixing BTC withdrawals that close to the end. They had frequently told me they wanted Empire to be the longest living market in history and for the most part i do think that was their intentions and is why the market was online for as long as it was. Having said that. It is sad the admins didn’t give any notice of the closure and there is no excuse for that.

I know the admins were getting tired of keeping Empire Market running. The market was on auto-pilot for the last half a year with no new features being added. I had made suggestions, some of the suggestions was getting rid of PINs and only using PGP 2FA or reviewing XMR code to make XMR withdrawals more reliable. Most of my suggestions were ignored. Earlier on in the history of the market they listened to me more. The market launched with allowing weapon purchases, they removed it after i strongly advocated against the market having anything to do with weapons. In the last half a year it wasn’t just ignored suggestions. Communication in general between the mod team and the admins was very limited. This was frustrating but i had accepted that this is the way they wanted it.

Here is why i think the admins closed shop.

Empire Market started having good uptime again after the EndGame links were added 4 months ago. The market was online because the two admins agreed to make weekly payments to /u/SchwererGustav to keep the market online. Gustav had been holding down the market brutally for a long time and when the EndGame links were added, he took all those down too. That was probably the closest the market came to a breaking point and a deal was made. I wasn’t told of the specific details of the arrangement and i never spoke directly to Gustav but i can guess he must have been getting paid at least $10k or $15k a week maybe more.

The market was already in a complicated spot with Gustav and when new DDOS came from a new DDOSer that could hold down 9 EndGame links. This was probably when the admins decided to call it quits. I doubt they would want to pay multiple DDOSers and at the same time it wouldn’t work paying one DDOSer if another is holding the market down.

Having said all of that, if the Tor staff team had fixed the problems in Tor that makes an attack like this possible, i believe the admins would have stuck around longer. Tor staff know what they need to do to fix this and that is to add PoW to the network. Maybe they are working on this now and its nice to see they are talking about PoW more frequently but they have been stalling on this for years. I’ll go one step further and say if Tor staff team added PoW years ago even Dream Market might still be here.

I never had server access to the market but i did host the new forum. The forum was spared from the start date of the new DDOS but after the admins took the market down completely, even the mod panel. The forum started getting attacked after that. It was up and down for the day after the market was taken down then i took the forum down, waiting for the market or mod panel to return. In my point of view, putting in the cost and time to fight the DDOS and keep the forum online was a thankless task if the admins have stopped communicating with me and stopped paying me. This is why the forum was online for a short time after the market was taken down but was taken down later. They were not hosted together. I started at Empire as a volunteer forum moderator on the old forum and never thought i would come this far. This is a sour conclusion but i am proud of the work i put in.

I’m disappointed the admins ended the market like this. I apologize to anyone that had money in escrow. I can only advise that you use markets with MultiSig and only use that for big orders.

Much love. Se7en.

The post drew a very mixed reaction.

Expect it to take a while before the dust settles and vendors figure out where they are moving to.

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