Ever since the coronavirus outbreak swept the globe, darknet markets (DNM) have grown exponentially and the lockdowns worldwide are prompting first-time DNM buyers. Currently, the largest DNM on the invisible web is the marketplace Empire, and the only thing impeding the rush of DNM sales these days are the general worries over the postal and mail delivery services shutting down.
The response to Covid-19 has caused an interesting predicament for the masses worldwide, as business shutdowns and government-enforced lockdowns have disrupted the global economy. One economic sector, however, is thriving during the financial downturn, as swathes of people are visiting darknet markets (DNMs) in order to obtain contraband amid the hard times. It’s a well known fact that during any economic crisis and long-standing unemployment there is always a massive increase in global substance use.
At the time of writing, the largest DNM is the marketplace Empire Market and throughout forums and social media Empire is the go-to destination for everyone’s DNM wares these days. Other popular DNMs include the Majestic Garden, Kilos, Monopoly Market, White House Market, Dark Market, Cannahome, Cannazon Market, Hydra, UAS Service RDP, Wannabuy RDP, and Global Dreams. Data stemming from dark.fail shows which DNMs are “online,” markets that are “offline,” and of course DNMs that are “maybe” online.
Empire, the darknet's largest market, has been offline for over 12 hours. Their DDoS filter is online but the site itself is down.
They posted an update on Dread: "We are aware […] Empire is not going anywhere."
— dark.fail (@DarkDotFail) July 11, 2020
The researcher behind the dark.fail web portal also has a Twitter account that gives updates about the status of certain DNMs. On July 11, 2020, the dark.fail Twitter account wrote about Empire Market coming back online after a long outage. “Empire Market is back online after ~18 hours of downtime. Their DDoS filter remained online throughout,” the Twitter account explained that day. Last month, the researcher behind the dark.fail discussed the prominence of DNMs with the Vice columnist Mike Power.
“Darknet drug markets are in a golden age,” the dark.fail analyst said. “People worldwide have been stuck at home exploring Tor [an internet browser used to access markets privately] and buying drugs. In January, the markets were hard to access, as they were under permanent attack from hackers. Now, they are operating quicker than ever before.”
Additionally, Mike Power’s investigation notes that the lockdowns are prompting first-time DNM buyers. Moreover, a recent Naval Criminal Investigative Service or NCIS report has found U.S. Navy officers have been using DNMs a lot more these days while traveling abroad.
The press release published by the NCIS stresses that Navy officers should not purchase LSD from DNMs.
“NCIS, in conjunction with law enforcement partners, continues to use investigative tools—including source networks and tipsters—to identify and prosecute DON personnel attempting to buy LSD or other illicit substances on the dark web,” the U.S. Naval service said.
The last few weeks of DNM data also show that bitcoin (BTC), monero (XMR), and litecoin (LTC) are the top coins used on DNMs. The four-week time span measured on 1000x Group’s dashboard shows the aggregate DNM vendors’ coin acceptance rate measured in percentages. At the time of publication, analytics from 1000x Group’s tracker notes there are 11 DNMs that accept BTC only. Three DNMs accept BTC and a mix of altcoins like LTC, and XMR. There are two DNMs that strictly support monero (XMR) acceptance, which includes the Monopoly Market and White House Market.
1000x Group’s statistics indicate that on July 14, 2020, litecoin (LTC) vendor acceptance was around 28%, while bitcoin (BTC) is accepted by the majority of DNM vendors. XMR is supported by 67.4% of vendor acceptance on July 14 as well. Monero has been very prominent on DNMs, as the privacy-centric coin has seen increasing demand on DNMs month after month since the Covid-19 outbreak started. Further, a report from Bitfury’s subsidiary Crystal Blockchain shows that bitcoin (BTC) mixing services on the deep web has risen by 2,100%.
Also despite the U.S. developing a cryptocurrency intelligence program that targets darknet forums, the subreddit r/darknet has grown to a whopping 120,000 subscribers. There’s a lot of discussion happening on r/darknet if you bypass the trolling and DNM users have various concerns these days.
A number of DNM users have been talking about the recent “Blue Leaks” data dump that revealed a few documents that talked about cryptocurrencies and DNM usage. Out of all the documents that stemmed from more than 200 state and federal law enforcement agencies, one document described how the FBI was having a hard time with XMR tracing. Another leaked document detailed the role cryptocurrencies play in bioweapons sold on DNMs.
However, the biggest concern for DNM users today is the postal and shipping services breaking down. The subreddit forum r/darknet is littered with dozens of posts concerning how the global economy shutdown is affecting drug shipments and how it could get a lot worse in the future.
One individual described how even when the pandemic started getting worse, his DNM deliveries always “came on time,” but now he’s been waiting 52 days.
One particular thread called “Trump Is Destroying the USPS” was quickly locked down by r/darknet moderators after getting a number of upvotes. The fact of the matter is DNM usage has grown tremendously during the last few months since Covid-19 started, and the only thing that’s really worrying DNM patrons is a massive mail disruption.
What do you think about the growth of DNMs and the worry over postal and shipping service concerns? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.
Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons, 1000x Group, Twitter, NCIS, dark.fail, Empire Market
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