The AlphaBay Story

@Flamingo - Feb 18 2021

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The AlphaBay Story.

Barring the Silk Road story, the tale of AlphaBay is possibly the most famous in the Darknet, and the most mired in mystery and controversy.

After a launch in late 2014 by the pseudonymous duo of Alpha02 and DeSnake, AlphaBay Market grew quickly, in part due to its vibrant fraud community (the administrators were avid fraudsters) and its acceptance of the previously-obscure privacy-based cryptocurrency Monero.

AlphaBay gained a staggering (for the time) number of users, reportedly 400,000 at the time of the market's seizure during the law enforcement takedown Operation Bayonet, a pincer movement involving the star-crossed Hansa Market, which had been seized and honeypotted (operated by Dutch police) a week or two beforehand. Experts claimed the number of transactions on the market's 370k listings exceeded hundreds of thousands per day, and the market was about ten times the size of Silk Road by numbers. Despite all this, it was taken down by a few foolish mistakes on the part of the administrator Alpha02, revealed to be Canadian national Alexandre Cazes.

As well as linking his real-life identity to the servers hosting the market and the pseudonym "Alpha02" (which he previously used on other projects) and keeping all his sensitive data (including an exhaustive net worth statement with all of his assets mapped out, making seizure trivial) on an unencrypted laptop, his biggest mistake was using his personal email (the infamous "pimp_alex_91" Hotmail address) in automated emails sent to registered users in the early days of the market. This email was also directly linked to his personal LinkedIn and the legal businesses he owned.

Cazes was arrested in Thailand following a US warrant on the 30th of June, 2017, and commits suicide by hanging in his cell a month later on the 12th of July, the morning before he was due to meet with his lawyer to discuss his chances of escaping extradition to the US. He was 26 at the time.

Even now, four years later, the effects of AlphaBay's life and death can still be felt. Arrests are still being made, markets are being built to memorialize Cazes and his market, and rumours still abound about the location (or even the general existence) of the administrator DeSnake and the controversial situation of Cazes' death, giving birth to many conspiracy theories.

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