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Massive Bitcoin theft rattles Dark Net’s biggest black market

Trust is hard on the Dark Net.


Patrick Howell O'Neill

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 18, 2015   Updated on May 29, 2021, 7:01 am CDT

The biggest black market on the Dark Net has suddenly disappeared in what appears to be a massive heist of up to $12 million.

The owners of the massively successful Evolution marketplace appear to have stolen the equivalent of over 42,000 Bitcoins. Individual users are reporting losing up to tens of thousands of dollars each.

Late Tuesday night, an employee of Evolution—the largest and fastest growing black market on the Dark Net for the last four months—appeared on Reddit to publicly warn that the robbery was imminent. Within minutes, the site shut down the money was gone.

Evolution, Silk Road‘s successor as the most prominent black market using the Tor anonymity network, hosted more than 26,000 listings of drugs, weapons, stolen credit cards, and hacking tools among other products.

The employee, known only as NSWGreat, said that “not a single withdrawal has gone through in almost a week” and “automatic withdrawals has been disabled which is only doing on rare occasions.”

NSWGreat was blunt regarding the two famous but notoriously quiet owners of the black market: “I am so sorry, but Verto and Kimble have fucked us all. I have over $20,000 in escrow myself from sales. I can’t fucking believe it, absolute scum.”

According to NSWGreat, Kimble and Verto, as the two owners are known, confirmed their plan when confronted and then carried it out.

While Evolution was extremely popular, it has always been uniquely susceptible to a scam exactly like this. Other markets use multi-signature transactions, meaning that no one—not even the markets’ owners, can take money without permission. The goal of multi-signature transactions is to avoid exactly this situation.

Evolution, on the other hand, was built so that a single “signature” from the market’s owners could take full control of the money. Verto and Kimble took advantage of that fact. 

“It was only a matter of time,” a moderator of Reddit’s popular Dark Net Markets community wrote. “I’m surprised it took them this long to do it honestly. Maybe this will open more people’s eyes to the benefits of multisig. Nah, who am I kidding? When has an event like this ever changed anything?”

One Reddit user is threatening to expose Verto and Kimble’s identities, giving them a 24 hour deadline before carrying out the threat.

The alleged thieves are currently trying to hide their stolen money. That will not be an easy task, given that every Bitcoin transaction, authorized or not, is recorded on a public ledger. Observers are closely following the money as it moves through the blockchain.

Photo via Kevin Dooley/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Mar 18, 2015, 7:58 am CDT