Posts Tagged ‘drug website’

“Atlantis admins shut down the site and ran away with the coins. It’s the truth.” - Cicero, Moderator of Atlantis Marketplace forum

Image: bitcoinexaminer.org.

Image: bitcoinexaminer.org.

A little under six months ago – not long after they opened shop – I conducted the first in-depth interview with online drug barons Loera and Vladimir, founders of Atlantis Marketplace.  The two were excited at the prospect of not only wrenching market share from incumbent black market giant Silk Road, but also bringing new business in and legitimising the online illicit drug market space.

Last week, Atlantis announced it was shutting down due to mysterious and unspecified “security concerns”.

The announcement, repeated on the Atlantis Facebook page, official forum, Reddit and Twitter, called it “terrible news” and the owners sounded truly contrite. They gave users a week to withdraw their crypto-currency, after which it would be donated to a “drug-related charity”.  That was the last anybody ever heard from anyone representing the administration of Atlantis.

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“We will be an adversary not to be trifled with. We have big plans for Atlantis, and we’re here to stay.”.

As online drugs marketplace Silk Road sustains blows from an ongoing attack its owner says “appears to be DoS in nature,” the forums are awash with queries, rumours and speculation about newcomer, Atlantis Marketplace.  Is it responsible for the attacks on Silk Road? Is it a better, more stable alternative? Who runs it? Is it just one great big honeypot for law enforcement agencies to gather intelligence on drug dealers?

Newcomer Atlantis Marketplace aims to cannibalise Silk Road's market share

Newcomer Atlantis Marketplace aims to cannibalise Silk Road’s market share

There is something a little bizarre about chatting to directors (yes, they have a board) of an underground black market about their company model.  But that’s what I did last night when two of the founders of Atlantis, ‘Loera’ and ‘Vladimir’ answered my questions in real time (over encrypted chat, naturally).

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With the media reporting that internet drug dealing is on the rise, it’s no great surprise that new marketplaces have started popping up wanting a piece of the action.  Most of these seem to be wannabes with no real hope of making a dent into the big boy’s market share.  But a couple seem determined to provide real competition to Silk Road, the undisputed market leader with 7,053 drug listings.

Online black market places are competing for a share of the profits

Online illicit drug marketplaces are competing for a share of the profits

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For two weeks, users of online drugs marketplace Silk Road have been unable to log in to the site more often than not, reporting timeouts, missing catchpas and other technical difficulties.  Millions of dollars in Bitcoin has been inaccessible to the site’s thousands of members and trading has halted.

Where’s my Bitcoins?

The reactions of the community have run the gamut from hopeful acceptance to threats of violence against the site’s owner, admins and other random anonymous people.  Amazon has stocked up on pitchforks and tinfoil hats as speculation on the forum has reached fever pitch.

Here are five of the theories for its temporary demise, in one easily-digestible blog:

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Is Silk Road’s owner – The Dread Pirate Roberts – sailing off into the sunset with wads of cash? Has he sold Silk Road as a going concern and included the goodwill of his name and reputation in the price?

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This image is probably very copyright to Sony and I’m sorry, but it is really really hard to find an appropriate image. Please don’t fine me, Sony

Today the owner of Silk Road announced the closure of its sister site, the weapons-dealing Armory.  The reason was not heat from law enforcement or negative press, it was simply that the site was not profitable and members complained that many listings were scams.

There are dozens of black market sites selling all manner of things on the Dark Web, but only Silk Road seems to have any real commercial success.  The closure of the Armory raises the question of whether it is the business model or the products that cause a market to fail.  Complaints of scams riddle the dark web and the online black market might not be as successful and prolific as some fear.  Is there something about drugs that inherently make them the only truly viable anonymous online black market product?

As I delved into the Dark Web I noticed a plethora of advertisements for contract killers. I decided to try and engage one of the more prolific advertisers, an organisation that claims to have many successful hits, to kill a fictitious ex-husband.  Here’s what transpired:

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Yesterday the Australian Institute of Criminology released a report that independently verified what they had already been told by users themselves:  when ecstasy is not available, recreational drug users turn to crystal meth.

Your dunny might be telling tales on you

The verification came from an analysis of sewerage water from a municipality in Queensland.  “Estimates were made of the average daily dose and average daily street value per 1,000 people. On the basis of estimated dose and price, the methamphetamine market appeared considerably stronger than either MDMA or cocaine.”

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A drug dealer ripping off customers?  The nerve!

Tony76 got to keep the money AND the drugs…

Silk Road, as I reported previously, is the online illicit drug marketplace that has defied law enforcement efforts to close it down.  Last month, Silk Road reported the greatest scam in its fifteen-month history, which cost the site’s users over a hundred thousand dollars in just two days.

Silk Road’s vendors live and die by their reputation and feedback, which buyers give much as they do on eBay.  Nobody on Silk Road had a better reputation or more enthusiastic feedback than Tony76, a vendor of heroin, stimulants and psychedelics from Canada.

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Below is the full text of an article I wrote for The Age, which was the Focus Feature on 27 April 2012.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/the-drugs-in-the-mail-20120426-1xnth.html

A screenshot from online drugs marketplace Silk Road, taken April 2012

More Australians are buying illegal drugs from internet websites and having them delivered by regular post straight to their door. Eileen Ormsby reports on the new frontier of drug dealing.

IT’S JUST like eBay, complete with vendor feedback, sales, prize giveaways, gift certificates, and escrow and dispute resolution services. But Silk Road doesn’t sell CDs or used clothing – it’s a one-stop, internet shop for illegal drugs. Buyers quoted on the site’s forums say the drugs are cheaper and of higher quality. Customers are also keen on the fact that they no longer have to meet an unknown dealer in a dark alley somewhere.

And the delivery of drugs bought (illegally) on the Silk Road website is not carried out by a typical drug dealer – it’s done by the postman.

A growing number of people in Australia have abandoned traditional channels for buying illicit drugs in favour of purchasing them on Silk Road. Established a little over a year ago, Silk Road has grown from a relatively small operation into a thriving marketplace where consumers of illicit substances can browse listings of everything from prescription drugs to cannabis, methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.