For Sale: A Formerly Popular Dark Web Marketplace

For Sale: A Formerly Popular Dark Web Marketplace

Anybody in the market to buy a defunct darknet site? If you are, you might try reaching out to the backers of Genesis Market, the once high-and-mighty peddler of stolen data. They seem to be getting desperate to sell their once prized possession for scrap.

The Record reports that a number of posts have recently popped up on underworld forums advertising the sale of Genesis. Once a big destination for hacking services and stolen data, Genesis was neutralized by the FBI earlier this year in an operation that involved the arrest of dozens of site admins and users. Hundreds of raids in countries all over the world effectively knee-capped the platform’s business. From the scope of the operation, you’d think there wouldn’t be much left to sell.

Now, however, it would appear that someone is trying to do exactly that. The Record reports that on June 28 an account that seems connected to the operators of Genesis began posting about a sale of the business. The user claimed that the FBI had only seized the marketplace’s open web domains; its darknet platform, they claimed, was still useable. The sale apparently includes all of the illicit business’s infrastructure, including “a complete database (except for some details of the client base), source codes, scripts, with a certain agreement, as well as server infrastructure.”

This is like if Elizabeth Holmes still owned Theranos and were trying to sell it from prison. It’s not a super appealing proposition, though you can’t knock a hustler for trying. If you’re a prospective buyer, however, the concerns with such an acquisition should be obvious.

They include:

  • Buying this site is almost definitely illegal and will get you into trouble.
  • It doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that it’s some sort of FBI honeypotting effort.
  • The reputation of Genesis is totally shot among the darknet crowd, and it’s hard to imagine it’ll make a comeback anytime soon.

As a snapshot of how the dark web’s doing lately, this episode seems revealing. The digital underworld has been on a real losing streak for the past several years, thanks largely to the aggressive actions of the Biden Justice Department. While it’s true that many areas of cybercrime are still booming (see: the MOVEit hack, for instance), a report from February showed that many darknet sites’ revenues had dropped dramatically after the shuttering of the Hydra marketplace by the FBI late last year. Before its downfall, Hydra was one of the most trafficked cybercrime hotspots on the web. The government’s action against it appears to have put a sizable hole in the dark web economy at least temporarily. Genesis’s takedown earlier this year only furthered the disruption to the web’s Tor-driven shadow markets.

That said, digital crime never dies, it just evolves. While Genesis and Hydra may be effectively dead, cybercriminals are now hopping on over to OMG!OMG! or Mega—two of several new popular dark web hubs that seems to offer many of the same services. Until the next big FBI bust, the e-crime hustles will continue.

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