Darknet markets have a short shelf life. They have a certain innate tendency to implode, leaving behind a whole host of angry sellers and buyers in their wake.
Darknet markets that go offline for good either fall prey to:
- The site administrators, via an “exit scam” when they run off with users’ bitcoins that they’ve been holding in escrow.
- Hackers, by hacking in and stealing the bitcoins in escrow – often a claim of site administrators, but who can tell if they’re telling the truth or simply committing an exit scam themselves?
- Law enforcement, if they track down the site administrators, seized funds, and shut the site down.
Of course, there are some markets that go offline of their own volition; however, it’s generally due to low numbers of users.
The Russian Anonymous Marketplace, or RAMP, is a darknet market that bucks that trend.
The RAMP site has been open since September 2012, so is fast coming up for their four-year anniversary.
They now have the prestigious title of the longest lasting darknet market.
A site created for buyers and sellers to trade in psychoactive substances, RAMP remains popular and continues to operate in a space where many have failed.
The second oldest marketplace that still open is Valhalla, which was created in October 2013, a year after RAMP.
RAMP and resilience
So just what makes RAMP so resilient? That cockroach that survived the nuclear war survived the blasts of Operation Onymous when law enforcement raided big names like Silk Road 2.0, Pandora, Cloud Nine, and Hydra, survived the lures of untold riches, and remained out of reach of hackers, how did it do that?
The answer lies in RAMP site setup. Three things, in fact.
- RAMP is in Russian, based in Russia, and owned by Russians
Law enforcement in the US, the country that leads the majority of attacks against deep web enterprises has no say in law enforcement matters in Russia.
- RAMP follows strict laws of operation
To stay out of the crosshairs of police action, the site actively operates under strict rules including no political talk, no violence, or arms, and more.
- RAMP holds no funds in escrow
Because the site allows buyers and sellers to do deals without acting as an intermediary, there are no funds in escrow to steal. The market makes money just on seller fees.
These three design elements may not have been included with resilience in the administrators’ minds.
However, it appears that these three elements have been the key to the market’s ongoing success, and avoidance of the pitfalls other markets have succumbed to.
Operation in other countries
While RAMP is mainly Russia-based, the site also has sub-forums dedicated to other regions in Eastern Europe, which include Belarus and even Ukraine.
Ukraine has been at war for over 2 years, and yet it’s still relatively easy to find yourself a good score on the deep web there.
There are dealers in Ukraine offering everything from MDMA to weed, heroin, cocaine, 2CB and LSD.
Although Ukraine has its very own darknet market, PsyCo, RAMP remains popular due to being one of the largest non-English speaking markets.
In a world where war chugs along slowly, there needs to be an escape, and drugs can offer just that.
RAMP is not available for doing business outside these countries. For example, if you were in North America, you’d have to try your luck elsewhere.
Distribution networks for the site mainly work over a system of dead drops, where a seller leaves a package in a hidden place for a buyer to then pick up later.
As you can imagine, both buyer and seller (or an associate) need to be in a similar geographical location for this system to work.
Accessing RAMP (Russian Anonymous Marketplace)
Why not browse RAMP yourself to have a look at how it operates? With some clever use of the Tor browser, a translation app, and a little bit of Google-fu, you’ll be able to access the site yourself. Grab yourself a login and password and browse the forums.
You can check in on conversations on shop boards about the quality of their goods, perhaps ask some questions in Russian, and get to know something just a little bit different from the regular.
If you’re in Russia or Eastern Europe, then you might just be able to go ahead and set up the deal too, if you so desire.
Make sure to check customer reviews for shops before making any purchases.