It’s hard out there for administrators of illegal dark web markets trying to steal their users’ cryptocurrency in peace.
Barely a week after Wallstreet Market — one of the largest remaining illegal online marketplaces in the vein of the Silk Road — went into a suspicious maintenance mode, German authorities have seized the site and arrested its alleged operators. Oh, and law enforcement says the three individuals now in custody not only ran the site, but were in the processes of exit-scamming when they were busted.
In other words, the accused allegedly weren’t content to simply take a commission off the sale of drugs and stolen data, but they straight up decided to steal all their customers’ cryptocurrency held in escrow for good measure.
A visit to the site, accessible via Tor, on May 3 shows a seizure notice from police.
An accompanying press release, translated from German by Google Translate, details the alleged fruits of the scheme.
“As part of a search of the homes of the suspects were cash amounts of over €550,000, as well as cryptocurrencies BITCOIN and MONERO in 6-digit amount, several high-quality motor vehicles and numerous other evidence, especially computers and data carriers, ensured.”
The release notes that the servers were confiscated on May 2.
While the German Bundeskriminalamt, the country’s federal police, appear to have led the takedown, authorities across the pond got in on the action as well.
“In the US, during the investigation by the Los Angeles Procuratorate, two of the highest volume suppliers of narcotics in the illegal online marketplace ‘WALL STREET MARKET ‘ were identified and arrested,” the press release (translated via Google Translate) explains. “While searching the homes of US suspects, a variety of illegal weapons and millions of dollars in cash can be found and secured in addition to drugs.”
The US Justice Department’s criminal complaint, dug up by Krebs On Security, provides additional details as to the scale of the now-shuttered marketplace. Namely, that it boasted roughly 5,400 vendors and 1,150,000 customers.
The takedown of Wallstreet Market is another incident in a now-familiar pattern of dark-web markets. Just like with AlphaBay before it, as Wallstreet Market grew in popularity, the target on its administrators’ back grew larger. The admins of Wallstreet Market may have felt that pressure and decided to exit scam their way to riches and freedom, but their plans decidedly fell apart.
If the past is any indication, expect to see a repeat of this entire mess with an entirely new marketplace n the near future. And the next time your favorite dark-web market starts experiencing “technical difficulties,” take that opportunity to burn your computer and run for the hills.