Even though the latest cooperative research by the US and Europe law enforcement groups was concluded with multiple online black markets getting shut down and their operators arrested, one particular illegal website is still running. The Russian Anonymous Marketplace, also known as RAMP has already been active as long as the original Silk Road.
The longest active black market website that has been closed during the latest investigation was the Silk Road 2.0 and offered the trading platform for a year before was shut down. Meanwhile RAMP, similarly to the original Silk Road, has already been active for two and a half years. It is more than twice as long as other new generation online black markets.
Unofficial sources state that RAMP has over 14,000 Russian speaking customers who use system that just like other similar websites run on the anonymity software Tor. However, the real number may be even higher, since the site is not an eBay style store. Instead it works more like a forum where customers are able to find sellers or buyers. Once seller and buyer get in contact with each other, they do not tend to use the website to complete the exchange. They will often decide on the final deal over the encrypted-instant messaging system. This system also called of Off-The Road messaging and payments done with Bitcoins or local payment service QIWI provide an opportunity to complete the exchanges anonymously without leaving significant evidences.
Some of the users comeback to the forum to leave a review on the quality of the bought drug so other people that are interested in it can choose the source they will buy the drug from depending on other people’s reviews.
Regardless, that most of money for the drugs is paid not using the site, it is still highly profitable. The revenue comes from the dealers that have to pay $300 each month if they want to have their own forum sections. Furthermore, there are options to buy a banner to advertise your goods for an additional $700 monthly price. However, it is not all. The website actually limits the trades of some of the drugs. In order to sell most popular drugs (coke, hashish, amphetamines) a dealer has to pay another $1,000 each month for each of the 3 mentioned drugs.
It is not clear how RAMP managed to live that long despite being known about. It might be due to it targeting smaller market and thus avoiding potential traitors. Furthermore, Russia is not famous to paying much attention to crime online thus RAMP manages not to attract too much attention from law enforcement groups.
RAMP is not the only one drug site that left operating after FBI and Europol completed their investigation. Their biggest western competitors Agora and Evolution also avoided being shut down and continue providing drug trading platform for their customers. Both of these websites also are running on Tor network to have the best security option for such sites. One of the speculations to why these darknet markets survived up until now is that they are hosted in countries like Russia and China where western authorities have no legal powers.
The RAMP’s operator known as Darkside does not give in to the temptation to expand their service. Unlike Silk Road that was used to sell drugs, firearms, stolen credit cards or even hire hitmans, RAMP does not allow any of these service besides drugs. Not only that, it is not allowed to speak about politics in the RAMP forums.
These online drug markets are a great example of the FBI and Europol ability to collect evidence. It also shows that there are limits to what they can do. There are countries that are not willing to cooperate with the investigation and make it impossible for the authorities to gather evidence. A VPN helps you stay anonymous and secure from third party eyes that might be interested in you. NordVPN aims to give an ability to protect their identity to anyone who wants that.