Dark web market bandits disappear with estimated US$12m in bitcoins

19 Mar 2015

An illegal market operating on the dark web selling everything from drugs to false identities has mysteriously shut down, leaving many of its suppliers wondering where its owners and their US$12m have gone.

Known as the Evolution Market, the illegal website could only be accessed through IP-concealing encryption software, such as The Onion Router (Tor), and had become the only remaining underground website dealing in these goods following the clamp down on the Silk Road.

However, according to KrebsOnSecurity, its many vendors and customers may have found themselves at the end of internet superhighway robbery due to the flawed model whereby both customers and vendors would place their transactions into an escrow system, essentially pooling their money, which the moderators would then distribute, to ensure greater security.

However, in recent days, users began to notice that the transfers were facing significant delays, which the moderators, simply known as ‘Kimble’ and ‘Verto’ had put down to being overwhelmed with transaction requests, something which they said they would address within 24 hours.

Bitcoin takes a hit

This proved to be a bit of a ruse in that less than the given time for fixing the issue, the site suddenly went offline and has not re-appeared since, with all involved fearing their estimated US$12m worth of bitcoin has disappeared with the moderators.

Speaking to KrebsOnSecurity, one regular customer of the store describes the situation as a classic exit-run that should really come as no surprise, given Kimble and Verto’s history as the creators of another website that elicited in organising and profiting from credit card fraud.

Given the fragility of the bitcoin value, its value has now plummeted in one of many instances of mass robberies of bitcoin, with its lowest value coming in at US$250 per bitcoin on 18 March compared with US$293 on 16 March.

Bitcoin thief image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic