Running parallel and with almost as much force as the global spread of ecommerce, is the overwhelming success of the Dark Net.
What is the Dark Net?
A darknet is really just any overlay network, accessible through certain encryption patterns or through the use of specific software and can be used, for example in file sharing activities.
This is not to be confused with the ‘Dark Net’, described by James Bartlett in his book of the same name, 2014. The Dark Net is a phrase used to describe the illicit virtual underground where pretty much anything is available without the oversight of internationally agreed legal standards, from child brides to drug markets.
Obviously, the Dark Net is a tad more interesting, than a darknet and a dip into the current scandals in that world, a bit more exciting than file-sharing. Well, It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt or in the case of the most recent Scandal, until someone commits suicide.
Welcome to the Dark Side
Although the standard representation of the Dark Net has always been a picture of a person typing in the dark, the reality is people are much more likely to access the dark web in a public place, like a Starbucks, not to detract from the vampire imagery, but in real life, where bombs are bought online in a fast food chain, it’s better to stick to the facts.
We are almost certain that the creator of AlphaBay, the dark web’s most popular marketplace, was Alexandre Cazes, the same man that killed himself in a jail in Thailand.
Why almost? On this side of the cyber-fence, it’s a lot harder to prove it. It will take law enforcement a while, possibly years, to prove definitively that the Canadian computer expert is DeSnake, the infamous admin of AlphaBay.
So, what was AlphaBay before its demise?
AlphaBay was the largest online marketplace for illegal drugs, pornography, and weapons. It was all paid in Bitcoin or another form of cryptocurrency. That was the key that allowed people to keep their anonymity.
It also had to rely on a lot of cyber technology, not only to protect itself from scammers and hackers, but also to continuously governments and law enforcement agencies around the world.
AlphaBay successfully evaded everyone and everything for 3 years. What helped it rise to the top is that the other online marketplaces are unstable and unreliable. There were several marketplaces whose admins withdrew all the money, closed sites down and tried, sometimes successfully to make off with their swag of virtual cash. It happened twice in 2015 with Outlaw and Evolution, two prominent dark sites. For the Evolution Market, the amount taken was $12 million! I guess you can consider that a successful exit… though not very legal.
They are criminals after all, it’s not so easy to demand reliability when you are trading in child pornography.
However, business is business, and like every street hustler and dealer knows, you provide the good product, time and time again and they will keep coming back.
Amidst all of this corruption, corrupting the already corruptible dark layers of society, AlphaBay has a serious reputation for providing high standards, top quality products and great customer service.
In reality, the admins of Alphabay have the ability and opportunity to reprogram their software any way they wish, I suppose they were playing the long game.
So this is what everyone thought had happened when on July 5th, a few days ago, the site shut down. There was outrage but no one knew for sure what happened. and presumed it was another successful criminal exist in the life of the admin of a dark web commerce site .
To get a clearer picture of the size of Alphabay, the day the alleged exit happened, the daily amount of money that was traded on the site was $800,000.
But still, the world wasn’t sure. So, a few days later the police arrest Mr. DeSnake, or Alexandre Caze, and confiscated his numerous lamborghinis and luxury villas in Thailand. Fast -forward and he has been found strangled in his jail cell in Thailand, arguably a suicide.
What’s the lesson for us here?
The real lesson we learn is that virtually all the areas in our life and day-to-day living are going to become increasingly dependent on AI and storage of our data online.
That being said, we need robust cyber security in the form of human experts and artificial intelligence to protect our information from being stolen. And because of the AI involved it will become larger for cyber criminals to get away with their crimes.
I’m not suggesting that it is becoming harder for people to steal money and valuable information, it’s more of a cat and mouse race. And the only real currency is cyber security expertise.
The more cyber security centers, degrees, agencies we open around the world, combined with rapid hiring of personnel and global partnerships will help us get to a more cyber-secure future.