She escapes the Biggest Bust on the Web Bomb. Now He is Back

Just over four years ago, the United States Department of Justice announced the takedown to AlphaBay, the most dark web market bust in history. Thai police arrested 26-year-old site manager, Alexandre Cazes, in Bangkok, and the FBI arrested AlphaBay’s central server in Lithuania, wiping out a market that sold hundreds of millions of dollars a year. hard drugs, hacked data, and other contraband to 400,000-plus registered users. The FBI called the destruction of the site a “landmark operation.”

But the fate of a key player in that big black market scheme is never explained: AlphaBay’s first number-two manager, a security specialist, and a self-described cofounder, who bears the name DeSnake. Now, four years after losing its market share, DeSnake appears to be back online and has also launched AlphaBay under its own leadership. After four years off the radar, he hasn’t kept quiet about his return.

In an ongoing chat interview, DeSnake told WIRED how he walked unscathed from taking over AlphaBay, why he is also alive now, and what his plans are for the resurrected, formerly dominant online black market. He spoke to WIRED via encrypted text messages, from an ever-changing series of pseudonymous accounts, after his identity was confirmed via signing a public message with DeSnake’s original PGP key, which many security researchers have attested.

“The biggest reason for my return was to make the AlphaBay name more memorable than the market lost and the founder committing suicide,” DeSnake wrote. Cazes used to be found dead in an apparent suicide in a Thai jail cell a few weeks after his arrest; like much of the dark web community, DeSnake believes Cazes was murdered in prison. He was motivated to rebuild AlphaBay, he said, after reading about an FBI presentation of the circumstances of Cazes’ arrest which he considered disrespectful. “The AlphaBay name was put in a bad light after the raid. I’m here to fix that.”

A kind of practical paranoia permeates DeSnake’s messages on WIRED, both at its own level and in his plans for AlphaBay’s updated technical protections. (DeSnake says he uses the male pronoun.) The live version of AlphaBay, for example, allows users to buy and sell only the cryptocurrency Monero, which is designed to be more difficult to track than Bitcoin, to whom The blockchain has proven to sometimes allow powerful forms of financial tracking.. AlphaBay’s dark web site can now be accessed not only through Tor, like the original AlphaBay, but also I2P, a less popular anonymity system that DeSnake encouraged users to use. He repeatedly described his vigilance as making Tor vulnerable to surveillance, though he did not provide evidence.

DeSnake said his security practices-both as he applied within AlphaBay and on a personal level-exceeded the first of his predecessor, Cazes, who went through online management at Alpha02. Cazes was caught, in part, by analyzing the Bitcoin block that confirmed his role as boss at AlphaBay, a fraud that is even more difficult, if not impossible, than Monero. DeSnake argues that new protections like these will make AlphaBay even harder to remove from the dark web this season. “I gave up [Cazes] a lot of ‘holy grail’ of uncertainty, but he chooses to use only a few things while he marks other methods / methods as ‘overkill,’ ”DeSnake writes, in his seemingly alien arrogance and similarity. misspelling in English. ” In this game there is no extravagance. “

DeSnake assured his continued independence of a security regime in border operations at most. He says his work computers run an “amnesiac” operating system, such as focused on security the distribution of Linux tails, Designed to not store data. In fact, he admits, not storing any sensitive data on hard drives or USB drives, encrypted or not, and refuses to explain further how he got this visible magic trick. DeSnake also claims to be preparing a USB-based “kill switch” device designed to wipe the memory of his computers and shut it down in seconds if they leave his control.

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