Just above four A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the removal of Alphabet, the largest dark web market in history. Thai police arrested the bank’s 226-year-old administrator, Alexandre Kazes, in the bank, and the FBI seized Alphabet’s central server in Lithuania, wiping out a marketplace that sells millions of dollars worth of hard drugs a year, hacking data, and its more than 400,000 registered users. For other prohibited. The FBI has called the site’s disruption a “landmark operation.”
But the fate of a key player in that huge black market plan was never explained: Alphabet’s former number two administrator, security expert and self-described co-founder, known as De Snake. Now, four years after his market death, De Snake is back online and has relaunched the alphabet under his own single leadership. After being off the radar for four years, he is not silent about his return.
In an extended chat interview, Dee Snake told Wired how he left Alpha Bay’s takedown unharmed, why he’s resurrected now, and what his plans for revival are, once the dominant online black market. After he verified his identity by signing a public message with DSNEC’s original PGP key, he contacted Wired via an encrypted text message, often from a series of pseudonymous accounts, which were verified by multiple security researchers.
“The biggest reason I came back is to make the name Alphabet more memorable than Marketplace and what the founder thinks is suicide,” De Snake wrote. Cage was found dead in an apparent Thai prison cell a few weeks after his arrest; Like many in the Dark Web community, De Snake believes Cage was murdered in prison. He drove Alphabet to rebuild, he said, after reading an FBI presentation on the circumstances of Cage’s arrest, which he said was disrespectful. “The name Alpha Bay was badly named after the expedition. I’m here to fix it.”
A kind of practical paranoia has entered Desneck’s messages into the ward, on a personal level, and into his plans for new technological protection of the alphabet. (DeSnake says he uses male pronouns.) For example, the revived version of AlphaBay allows users to buy and sell only with the cryptocurrency Monero, which can be much more difficult than Bitcoin, which blockchain can sometimes prove. The strongest form of financial tracking. AlphaBay’s Dark Web site is now accessible only through Tor, like the original AlphaBay, but I2P, a less popular anonymous system that encourages DeSnake users to switch. He has repeatedly described his warnings that Tor could be risky for surveillance, although he did not provide any evidence.
De Snake says his safety practices – which he is implementing both within the alphabet and on a personal level – go much further than his predecessor, Cagez, who went through the online handle Alpha 02. Cazes is caught through bitcoin blockchain analysis, which confirms his role as AlphaBay’s boss, a strategy that would be much more difficult if not impossible with Monero. DeSnake argues that such new protections will make it much harder to remove the alphabet from the Dark Web at this time. “I did [Cazes] Numerous ‘sacred grails’, but he chose to use only a few things when branding other methods / methods as ‘overkill’, “” wrote DeSnake, his seemingly foreign-confused and sometimes misspelled English. “There is no overkill in this game.”
De Snake credits his ongoing independence to an operational security regime that is the ultimate frontier. He says his work computers run “Amnesiaq” operating systems, such as Linux’s security-centric tail distribution, designed to store any data. He claims, in fact, not to store any kind of misleading information on the hard drive or USB drive, whether it is encrypted, and he refuses to explain how to pull this obvious magic trick. DeSnake claims to have developed a USB-based “kill switch” device designed to erase his computer’s memory and turn them off in seconds if he loses control.