Silk Road. Atlantis. Utopia. Evolution. Agora. Nucleus. Darknet markets have a rich history of burning brightly before disappearing – either seized by authorities or coming offline without warning, never to return again. But what about RAMP?
RAMP (Russian Anonymous Marketplace)
Do you know about RAMP? RAMP, short for the Russian Anonymous Marketplace is the world’s oldest deep web marketplace. You might not know it by name, but that’s because the site is Russian.
You know Russia, right? That far north mystical place where the temperature chills right down, and they’re known for vodka and hitmen?
Well, maybe you’ve been watching too many movies, but the idea of Russia being a goldmine for certain underground activities really does shine through in RAMP.
RAMP was established in September 2012 and has been online ever since.
The site itself is less like the traditional escrow markets that you’ve probably encountered while browsing around the deep web and operates instead like a forum.
How RAMP works
Sellers put up ads for their items for sale under various categories, which buyers can then contact them through.
The payment is handled entirely between the buyer and the seller, so RAMP itself only generates income through seller account fees and advertising.
Because RAMP doesn’t hold funds in escrow for transactions, it means there is no point to the administrators doing an “exit scam” as they wouldn’t be able to make off with users’ funds.
The site is mainly drugs based – you won’t see weapons or the like for sale on it, and there are strict rules about what can and can’t be posted.
Most of the time the handover of the package will happen by something called a “dead drop.”
A dead drop is when the seller puts the package somewhere hidden in a public place which a buyer will then pick up after they’ve paid the seller via Bitcoin.
Is RAMP only for Russians?
Because the RAMP site is in Russian, you’ll either need to be able to read Russian, know someone that does, or be very clever with Google Translate if you want to use it! Because the majority of sales are dead drops, you’ll also need to be in the country if you want to do business on the site.
Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, you might be able to do business via mail, but it’s not standard procedure.
RAMP is also available in a few other regions in Eastern Europe. They are listed on the site in their own categories, one for each country. There are a lot less listings available for these countries, however.
Why it works
So just how did a forum-based Russian language darknet market outlive all the rest of its competitors? Well, that’s because it’s all Russian, and it’s a forum.
Because it’s a forum there’s no reason for the administrators to shut it down to exit scam, and because it’s Russian it avoids the far reach of the US justice system.
Russia is known for giving a big middle finger to any attempts from US authorities to try and gain information from the country.
You’ll remember that Edward Snowden can live freely in Russia because there is no extradition treaty with the US, and the FBI has no clout in the country.
Russia and the US are hardly what could be described as comrades, more like neighbors who are just tolerating each other barely!
There has always been a strong underground criminal element in Russia, and they also lead the way in underground activity online.
An organized system where everyone knows their place and anonymity is guaranteed means that the darknet markets such as RAMP can continue to flourish.
With anonymity a given and no definitive taskforce to tackle online darknet markets, RAMP is sitting pretty. The site can continue to operate without much fear of retribution.
Because the market doesn’t allow items like weapons, talk of violence, particular drugs like heroin, or talk of politics, it operates within the confines of what is reasonably allowed by law in Russia.
It avoids contentious items and topics and so is not going to be a target for lawmakers.
With this in mind, other people who would be considering starting their own darknet market could take RAMP as an example of how to do it right.
Owned and operated in a country where police aren’t interested in bringing it down, and hands off with money, it’s simple, and it’s effective, too.
While the administrators aren’t going to get suddenly rich overnight, it’s a reliable system.