The Administrator of the Dark Web's Infamous Hacking Market Has Vanished

The admin of The Real Deal has been quiet since June.

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Aug 3 2016, 10:50am

Image: Shutterstock

The Real Deal market, a dark web site that specialises in stolen data and computer exploits, shot to infamy this year thanks to its role in the sale of information from several massive data breaches, including Myspace and LinkedIn. But a few weeks ago, the market's main administrator vanished, and has not logged into their chat accounts for over 40 days.

"This [is] very strange by just leaving the market like this without any management or any notice for leaving," the hacker known as Peace, who has sold many large-scale data dumps on The Real Deal, told Motherboard in an online chat.

The Real Deal has been around since early 2015, when it filled an apparent gap in the dark web economy: While most marketplaces were focused on drugs, weapons, or perhaps stolen credit cards, The Real Deal claimed to sell computer exploits and became a go-to location for stolen login credentials and other hacked data.

The admin was last heard from around June 23.

"[I'm] not sure how long the market will last like this"

The site has previously faced setbacks and mysterious ongoings. In July of last year, the market went offline, only to reappear two weeks later with the owner telling Motherboard at the time that he was "the only free admin right now." He said the site had three administrators in all, and that they had all been arrested during raids around another cybercrime hub called Darkode.

Then this summer, The Real Deal received widespread attention when Peace used it to sell data from several so-called "mega breaches." This week, Yahoo said it was investigating after the hacker advertised details for 200 million of the company's customers.

Peace said he had been working with The Real Deal's main administrator—who he called "S.P"—on other projects. A week after S.P vanished, Peace said he contacted the support staff of the marketplace concerning an issue with this account. The staff initially responded, but soon stopped replying to messages.

"After that there has been no other activity from anyone managing trd [The Real Deal]," Peace told Motherboard. The last time Motherboard spoke to the administrator was approximately two months ago.

Peace doesn't think the staff are planning to pull an exit scam, in which a marketplace runs off with its customers' coins. A common tactic for scammers is to lock dealer accounts so they can steal as much money as possible, but Peace said plenty of vendors are still able to withdraw their funds (for his part, Peace said he has an issue with his PIN, meaning that he can't withdraw funds). Other possibilities are that the administrator has been arrested, or perhaps suffered an accident—but all of these are pure speculation at this point.

"However with no support and a lot of bugs on the market not sure how long the market will last like this," Peace added.