Shock development: Darkweb drug n' gun dealers are untrustworthy
Evolution bazaar owners steal $12m in Bitcoin
In a turn of events that should shock nobody, the operators of one of the largest darknet drug markets have apparently run off with user funds.
The Evolution underground market, which sold guns, drugs, and a cornucopia of illicit merchandise, went dark. A self-described administrator said on Reddit that the site's owners have gone AWOL and taken the site's bitcoin stash with them.
According to the poster, a pair of administrators took off with the site's escrow funds, netting possibly as much as $12m.
"I have admin access to see parts of the back end, the admins are preparing to exit scam with all the funds," the whistleblower writes.
"Not a single withdrawal has gone through in almost a week. Automatic withdrawals has been disabled which is only done on rare occasions."
The Reddit post goes on to suggest that people using the aliases "Verto" and "Kimble" have made off with the site's escrow fund and shut down operations.
The claim has been verified by veteran security researcher and reporter Brian Krebs, who notes that the fraud is particularly relevant given the status Evolution has gained in the underground since the the shutdown of the Silk Road marketplace in 2013.
Krebs said that the site holds a large amount of money as escrow, serving as the middleman between buyers and sellers while items are in transit. This would allow the site to accumulate a large amount of money, and give the operators the chance to make off with ill-gotten gains.
"Evolution operates on an escrow system, allowing buyers and sellers to more confidently and successfully consummate sales of dodgy goods," Krebs explained.
"But that means the market's administrators at any given time have direct access to a tempting amount of virtually untraceable currency."
While users of the service are taking the news particularly hard (one claims to be in a life-threatening bind,) the shutdown will do little to stem the darknet's trade in illicit goods. Every time an underground market has been shut down, either by police or administrators, another crop of sites have emerged in its place.
Count on a successor to Evolution to emerge soon, we reckon, and for more ripoffs will follow. ®