Taking Down the Founder of The Dark Web Marketplace (Thailand)
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The dark side of the internet is explored in a documentary produced by Channel NewsAsia.
An overview is presented here, but you can watch the full replay on:
The Dark Web
There's a dark side to the internet. Look deeper and discover sextortion syndicates, black markets, illegal wildlife…
The documentary series explores taking down the founder of the dark web marketplace in Thailand.
Alexandre Cazes created the dark web marketplace AlphaBay, which enabled a plethora of illicit transactions ranging from drugs and guns to stolen credit cards and forged IDs. Despite hiding behind the anonymity of the dark web, authorities were finally able to track him down and arrest him due to a simple ‘mistake’ he made at an early stage of AlphaBay, when he used hacked accounts.
Before further details, let us clarify a few fundamental concepts:
What is the Dark Web?
The dark web is a section of the internet that is hidden from search engines and can only be accessed via Tor, an anonymizing browser.
While the words “deep web” and “dark web” are often used interchangeably, they are not synonymous. Anything on the internet that is not indexed by and thus available through a search engine like Google is referred to as “deep web.” Anything behind a paywall or requiring sign-in credentials is called deep web content. It also contains any content that has been blocked from being indexed by web crawlers by its owners. The deep web contains fee-based resources, membership websites, and sensitive corporate web pages, to name a few examples.
The dark web is a branch of the deep web that is purposefully concealed and accessible only through a special browser — Tor — as mentioned below. The dark web’s exact size is uncertain, but most estimates position it at about 5% of the total internet. Despite its sinister name, not all of the dark web is used for illegal purposes.
Alexandre Cazes’ AlphaBay was the world’s largest dark web marketplace, and Cazes profited from commissions on transactions worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year. The FBI tried to apprehend him, but Cazes had kept a low profile online. His social media activity was scrambled — he still had a Linkedin account.
What is a dark web marketplace like AlphaBay?
A darknet market is a commercial website on the internet that uses darknets like Tor or I2P to run. They mainly serve as black markets, selling or brokering transactions involving narcotics, cyber-arms, guns, counterfeit money, stolen credit card information, forged documents, unlicensed pharmaceuticals, steroids, and other illegal goods, as well as legal items.
Cazes had made a seemingly minor error: when a new member joined AlphaBay, they would receive a welcome email with the email header Pimp Alex 91 @ hotmail . com from a Hotmail account. Law enforcement was able to determine that the email address belonged to Alexandre Cazes, who was born on October 19, 1991, and whose numeric identifier in the Hotmail email address matched the numeric identifier in the email address, and then link it to his LinkedIn profile.
Law enforcement also discovered a post on an online tech site, www. commentcamarche .com, in 2008 about how to properly delete a virus from a digital picture. It was posted by a person known only as “Alpha02.” Alpha02 user included his name “Alexandre Cazes” and email address “Pimp Alex email@example.com” at the end of the post. At the time he wrote, Alexandre Cazes was 17 years old.
Cazes used a front company to hide his banking activities and large cryptocurrency assets, according to law enforcement. The company claimed to provide web design services, but its website was barely usable and doesn’t appear to support any significant business operations.
Cazes was tricked out of his home by a fake car crash, and the Thai police swooped in to his computers before they could be secured or encrypted.
Posts give glimpse into mind of Canadian behind dark website
His father remembers Alexandre Cazes as a gifted, trouble-free young man while the U.S. Department of Justice…