Worries relating to the security of the Tor network have prompted Agora to shut down temporarily.
Launched in 2013, Agora is a marketplace only accessible through the Tor network which can be used to anonymously purchase products through the virtual currency Bitcoin. The market is one of the largest currently online, and as a hidden service, is used to purchase all manner of items including weaponry, drugs, stolen credit card details and electronics.
However, recent security concerns have prompted Agora controllers to temporarily suspend operations.
According to a message sent to Agora users by administrators, posted on Reddit, taking the market offline is only a temporary consequence of the security issue. The message states:
"Recently research had come that shed some light on vulnerabilities in Tor Hidden Services protocol which could help to deanonymize server locations.
Most of the new and previously known methods do require substantial resources to be executed, but the new research shows that the amount of resources could be much lower than expected, and in our case we do believe we have interested parties who possess such resources."
See also: Tor connection vulnerability uncloaks hidden web services
The Agora team says they have a solution ready to be rolled out which will plug the security hole, but this will take massive changes to their software stack as well as a fair amount of time to implement.
In addition, "suspicious activity" has been detected around Agora servers, prompting a move to a fresh location -- which is only a temporary solution to the overall problem of keeping users anonymous and safe.
"At this point, while we don't have a solution ready it would be unsafe to keep our users using the service, since they would be in jeopardy. Thus, and to our great sadness we have to take the market offline for a while, until we can develop a better solution. This is the best course of action for everyone involved," the team says.
Agora plans to clear as many outstanding orders as possible and has asked users to withdraw their funds, make sure they do not send any Bitcoin to Agora deposit addresses and to expect a delay due to the vast amount of payouts which will need to be processed in rapid time.
However, no definitive date has been issued regarding when Agora will go offline.
A market of similar size and reputation, Silk Road, was closed down by the FBI in 2013.
Agora to pause operations-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Recently research had come that shed some light on vulnerabilities in Tor Hidden Services protocol which could help to deanonymize server locations. Most of the new and previously known methods do require substantial resources to be executed, but the new research shows that the amount of resources could be much lower than expected, and in our case we do believe we have interested parties who possess such resources.
We have a solution in the works which will require big changes into our software stack which we believe will mitigate such problems, but unfortunately it will take time to implement. Additionally, we have recently been discovering suspicious activity around our servers which led us to believe that some of the attacks described in the research could be going on and we decided to move servers once again, however this is only a temporary solution.
At this point, while we don't have a solution ready it would be unsafe to keep our users using the service, since they would be in jeopardy. Thus, and to our great sadness we have to take the market offline for a while, until we can develop a better solution. This is the best course of action for everyone involved.
In the mean time we shall do our best to clear all outstanding orders and we ask all of you users who have money on their accounts, withdraw them as soon as possible, because we don't want to be responsible for it during the time when the market will be offline.
During this time, there might be some delays in payouts, since many people are expected to withdraw money at the same time, but we intend to resolve any such issues in the end. But we advice you to use only destination bitcoin addresses that do not expire when you send money out from Agora, as the payments to them might get delayed.
While the market is offline, do not send any bitcoin to any of your deposit addresses on Agora. We do not gurantee the safety of any funds sent there.
Vendors, we strongly advice you to abort any orders that haven't been sent out or processed yet, as we cannot gurantee what will happen with the orders in resolution. We shall try to resolve it on a case-by-case basis, but there might not be time to wait for orders that require long shipping times.
We are going to handle the situation with the vendor bonds soon, we need some time to make sure that noone uses this as an opportunity to start scamming wildly.
All of the market data will be kept intact and be available upon return, including all of the user history and profile data.
Since our PGP key is nearing expiration date, here is a new PGP key which could be used to check authenticity of our messages in the future.
Once again, agora admins are doing the right things and proving that the users best interest is a top priority for them, and this should not be taken for granted, and we can be sure that IF (yes, if) they come back (Remember BMR V5?) they will reutrn to their position as the number 1 market.
Agora, the Dark Web’s Biggest Drug Market, Is Going OfflineThe Dark Web’s biggest marketplace for drugs seems to have learned a lesson from the downfall of the Silk Road: When cracks start to appear in your anonymity’s armor, it’s time to quit while you’re ahead—or, at least, retreat and regroup.
Agora, the reigning marketplace in the Dark Web’s bustling, bitcoin-based narcotics economy, announced Tuesday evening that it will go offline at least temporarily to shore up defenses against potential attacks that it believes might be used to identify the site’s servers and operators. In a message posted both to the market site and to the “darknetmarkets” Reddit forum, Agora’s anonymous admins say they’ve recently moved their servers after detecting “suspicious activity” they believe was intended to break the protections offered by the anonymity software Tor—activity that would reveal their servers’ IP addresses, possibly allowing law enforcement to track down the site’s owners, as well as its buyers and sellers.
The Agora admins say they plan to implement a software update to protect the site, but need to take a hiatus to make those changes. The admins don’t say when the market could be coming back online. “At this point, while we don’t have a solution ready it would be unsafe to keep our users using the service, since they would be in jeopardy,” reads the message. “Thus, and to our great sadness we have to take the market offline for a while, until we can develop a better solution. This is the best course of action for everyone involved.”
The Agora admins don’t spell out exactly what Tor vulnerability they’re referring to. But it’s likely they’re responding to a paper published last month ahead of the Usenix security conference by a group of researchers from Qatar University and MIT. The paper proposed a new method of “fingerprinting” that it said would allow Tor hidden services—the cloaked servers that run dark Web sites—to be identified with as much as 88-percent accuracy.
The Tor Project responded to that research by pointing out that it requires controlling large numbers of Tor nodes, the volunteer computers that bounce traffic around the Tor network. In a blog post, Tor director Roger Dingledine suggested methods that could be used to foil the attack, and pointed out that researchers have long over-estimated the ease of such fingerprinting methods.
In the meantime, Agora’s admins say they’re not entirely comforted by the attack’s high-resource limitations. “Most of the new and previously known methods do require substantial resources to be executed,” they write. “But the new research shows that the amount of resources could be much lower than expected, and in our case we do believe we have interested parties who possess such resources.”
Agora’s disappearance, even if it is temporary, represents a major blow to the Dark Web’s drug world. It had become the online underground drug trade’s largest site by far, with more than 17,000 listings of drugs for sale and well over 20,000 total listings, including counterfeits, drug paraphernalia and other contraband. (The site had only recently decided to no longer sell guns.) In a recent study, Carnegie Mellon researchers estimated that the site was doing $150,000 a day in sales last February. At that time, it was only the second largest market behind the competing marketplace Evolution. After Evolution went offline in March, stealing all buyers’ and sellers’ bitcoins, Agora took over much of that marketshare.
On Reddit’s darknetmarkets forum, most people applauded Agora’s decision to go offline rather than risk arrest, endanger customers or abscond with their funds as Evolution did. “Props to Agora and their iron testicles,” one redditor wrote. “Yes its a major inconvenience for vendors and users alike, but hey, who knows, maybe some people will even get clean during this period!”
During Agora’s downtime, competing market sites like Abraxas, Alphabay and Nucleus will no doubt absorb its customers, says Nicolas Christin, one of the authors of the Carnegie Mellon study. “I don’t know who will be the new crowned king, but people will pick up the pieces,” he says.
“The demand is here and people aren’t going anywhere. They want their drugs and people will find ways of selling to them.”
But Christin also says the Tor vulnerability, while it’s by no means the end of the Dark Web, should give the administrators of anonymous sites pause. “The world isn’t coming down. It’s not like there’s an attack that immediately de-anonymizes everything,” says Christin. “But it may be a reality check for some of these site operators. Tor is not a magic box that provides you a cloak of invisibility, Harry Potter style.”
If AGORA is offline create an account of one of the following three markets !!
AGORA will come back after they fixed their security problems (↑↑ read article above ↑↑)
So Where do we go now?
Well here’s what we have next in line:
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