Users of the popular darknet marketplace Evolution were disappointed over the last couple of days as the site has been unavailable. Spotty access is normally unsurprising for the market, and there is a long list of alternative URLs. But none of them have worked, so it appears the site is down.
Evolution has become much more active in the wake of the arrest and subsequent conviction of Ross Ulbricht, the operator of the first major darknet marketplace, Silk Road. Its operators do not have the same philosophical drive as did the Silk Road operator.
Here is what it looked like when it was in operation:
Funds on the Move
In a more harrowing twist of events, it appears that all the funds from the site's hot wallet have moved, indicating more than just technical difficulties. Indicating more than even a raid on the anonymous operators of the site. They go by the names, by the way, of "Verto" and "Kimble." At least a couple users stated clearly that they believed these two were one person.
Conflicting reports of where the funds wound up have yielded two bitcoin addresses: 1BT96MaaZ2nA3etxccdpth2vdt7esewNnt and 1Ps2m56aEudGVKj7ch8mAje4x6bBzGVNgU. As you can see if you click the links, the latter is much more likely the case, presently housing over $12 million in bitcoins.
Verto took a minute to explain to users in the most cavalier way possible that he'd stolen their money out of fear of getting shut down. This post could be completely fabricated, of course, but here is the text of it verbatim:
Due to unforseen events I decided to close down Evolution Marketplace. We want to thank you guys for you effort and help making this the most profitable and popular marketplace. This wasn't an easy decision but due to other marketplaces getting shut down and the forum going downhill I decided to cut my ties and exit with an eight figure profit. The millions from evo will be divided up amongst the mods a few admin and members. Since this is such an abundance of money I may consider buy ins from former evo members in exchange for 1k bitcoinis. I'll be around around for a short period of time before permanently moving to the caribbeans, I hope you guys understand.
Users Frantically Take to the Surface Web
The subreddit dedicated to Evolution, r/EvolutionMarket, blew up in recent hours with rumors, attempts to get in touch with customers and vendors from the market, and much speculation about what will become of two individuals crazy enough to steal from perhaps hundreds of drug dealers at the same time.
One vendor wanted to let some customers know that despite losing the funds for the orders, he was still shipping the product. He also was reaching out to his main customer, making clear that he was not going to stop doing business just because he'd lost money – in fact, he seemed to imply, he'd need to do more business now to make up for the loss.
Another user posted that he had heard about a $5 million dollar bounty on the heads of Verto and Kimble. A user quickly rebuffed this rumor, saying it made no sense since the total stolen was barely twice that. A single user or group of users would have to come up with that kind of money to place such a bounty, an unlikely occurrence.
Other users wanted to know about what markets to use now that Evolution had disappeared. The feeling was that users should have been using alternatives all along, but then again, hindsight is 20/20:
Too Early for Too Much Speculation
There are, of course, numerous possible scenarios. The servers were found, the owners were arrested, and the coins now sit in a government-controlled account. The mafia finally figured out who they were and decided to shut them down, and the cost of staying alive was turning over all the coins. The operators suspected an impending raid, moved the coins to a new address, and will soon return to action.
Any of these things could be, with as little information as we have on the darknet to begin with – but at least one vendor, PlasticA, felt that it was too early for speculation. Reaching out to customers, they wrote:
After recent news there is not much to say. […] Personally I still believe it's a bit early to come to conclusions. perhaps they will come to us saying that it was an attack. [...][W]e had tons of orders on escrows. […] We are here to fulfill our orders regardless. […] Hopefully the truth will come out clear, and hopefully we will be able to help the investigation.
CCN will be following this developing story closely. If you are a vendor or user who was burned by recent events and would like to share your story (we will protect your identity as is possible under US law), please contact paul.madore (at) cryptocoinsnews.com right away.