DarkMarket’s Feminist Flight Towards Equality and the Curious Case of CanariesNovember 19, 2019
In late August, Dark Fail (a Tor onion link repository service) added several onion domains for two new dark web marketplaces, DarkBay and DarkMarket. Just as with the myriad of other new markets, these two sites must find ways to differentiate their offerings, as well as build trust among the dark web community.
DarkMarket, an English-speaking “boutique marketplace”, has taken two very noticeable approaches to these challenges, with claims to be the first female-run market, and the introduction of new trust mechanisms.
Curious on the differences between AVCs, marketplaces, and forums? Read our blog post:
Understanding the Different Cybercriminal Platforms.
What is DarkMarket?
DarkMarket itself appears to have gone live in July 2019. The more seasoned readers may recognize the DarkMarket name, so it’s worth noting that this is not the same site as either the English-speaking dark web marketplace which was shut down in 2008 following a law enforcement operation; nor the Russian-speaking criminal forum active since at least 2011.
Despite the popular name, this is a relatively new, albeit fast-growing dark web marketplace.
The types of products and listings are typical of dark web markets, with carding tools, accounts, giftcards, and drugs all popular items for sale.
Example listings on DarkMarket
However, with more than 14,000 products listed and almost 24,000 users, the market already has a respectable following. In terms of new listings in 2019, DarkMarket is already up there with the top dark web marketplaces.
Claims of Equality
DarkMarket purports to be the first dark web marketplace exclusively created by women. It’s certainly the first time we’ve observed this sort of approach from marketplaces, and while it’s impossible to verify this claim, it does demonstrate the different methods cybercriminals use to differentiate themselves within an increasingly crowded ecosystem.
While they may have staff in “many locales around the world”, the DarkMarket administrators have taken the interesting approach of banning users from the United Arab Emirates and Russia. We can only speculate on the reason for this, and questions remain about how this will be technically implemented.
Information about the geographical nuances of DarkMarket
Canaries A Growing Mechanism of Trust
We have previously discussed the necessity of building trust for new (and existing) dark web markets. From escrow services to vendor reviews, there are a host of pre-existing mechanisms in place build this trust for users. However, a new(ish) approach we’ve witnessed on DarkMarket is through a feature called a Canary. The purposes of the Canary is to update marketplace users on the status of administrators, including whether they remain in control of the marketplace. The updates are performed through a personalized, cryptographically signed message stating they are alive and in control of the marketplace.
While DarkMarket has this feature, it’s not the first to do so. We first observed this method on the English-language, dark web, social forum Dread.
Unlike some of the high-profile Russian-language cybercriminal sites, users of English-language forums do not inherently trust the profile of its administrators and/or the forum itself, and this Canary update could facilitate an increased sense of community security.
We thought it was only a matter of time before other cybercriminal platforms adopted this type of feature, and DarkMarket has not let us down.
2020 Vision for Dark Web Marketplaces
New dark web markets are likely to continue to emerge, but they all face similar challenges to differentiate themselves and generate trust in their userbase. DarkMarket has taken novel approaches to both of these challenges, which are likely to influence their longer-term success.
In particular, keep an eye out for this Canary feature to be introduced on more forums and marketplaces as they consistently seek to remediate allegations of law-enforcement involvement or the unexplained disappearance of administration team members.