Alphabay admin arrested after he used his own Hotmail account to send emails for the dark net trading site
Possibly one of the biggest black markets on the dark net Alphabay was shutdown this month after it was revealed that the owner of the website had been using his OWN Hotmail address for sending emails out from the website.
25 year old Alexandre Cazes was the alleged master mind behind Alphabay which offered everything from drugs, weapons to fake ID using anonymous crypto currencies such as Bitcoin for payment. At its peak the website had over 250000 listings with 200000 registered users, making it larger than Silk Road another darknet marketplace such down in 2013.
After the website was taken offline on 5th July there was an announcement by the FBI that they had arrested a man in Thailand on suspicion of running the site, which cops estimate had over $1 billion in trade. Some feared that the authorities had broken the security of the TOR network used to connect to the dark net and it may no longer be safe to use as it could have been compromised but it was later revealed that it was more the lax security measures taken by the Alphabay admin which ultimately led to his downfall.
It appears that Cazes had used a Hotmail email – [email protected] – to to deliver password recovery and user emails account details for Alphabay . While this in itself would not have been too disastrous if he had setup the account while connected to the TOR network and only used it for this purpose, but it appears that he also used the same Hotmail account and alias on other online forums and also on his Linkin so investigators were easily able to trace it to a Canadian born in 1991 currently living in Thailand.
Now it is possible of course that Cazes was set up as patsy by the masterminds behind the site to throw cops of the scent but the nail in the coffin for Cazes came when police raided his address in Thailand to find him logged into the Alphabay website from his laptop.
For someone savvy enough to create a online marketplace as big as Alphabay he did very little to protect his own identity, as well as the gaff of using his own Hotmail address his laptop also had a spread sheet listing unencrypted passwords for administering the Alphabay website, as well as a list of his bank accounts and bitcoin accounts. Despite the fact that there was many fake IDs available to buy on Alphabay he apparently chose not to purchase on use one instead opened bank account in his own name and that of his wife to hoard his ill gotten gains
In total the cops have believed to have seized around $8 million in crypto currencies from Cazas accounts and the couple had purchased several houses around Thailand as well as in Cyprus and in Caribbean and also owned several cars including a Lamborghini which goes to show how much money he had made in a relatively short time.
Although it appears that Cazas had began to become more aware of his security by getting second passports in places like Cyprus it looks like it was too little and too late as once the police had traced the Hotmail account to him it was only a matter of time before the net would close in. Why did he used his own email address in the first place? Who knows, perhaps when he set up the site it was just for testing purpose and he never got around to changing it. Unfortunately we will never know as shortly after his arrest Cazas committed suicide in a Thai prison.
It is likely that other market places will pop up to fill the void left by Alphabay but will they ever grow as big remains to be seen. The will certainly be some apprehension by users of any new site since the service is only ever as secure as the person running it. Now the authorities have full access to the data from the Alphabay servers thanks to Cazas woeful lack of security they will be no doubt arrest of the users and dealers of that site from the transaction data.