Agora Takes Top Spot in Online Black Market Trade

Darknet site surpasses rival Silk Road's sales

Agora is quickly gaining steam as the web's biggest black market, as reported by Wired.

Since its launch in late 2013, the hidden site has become popular among those looking to buy illegal drugs and contraband. Buyers and sellers are able to transact anonymously, using the virtual currency Bitcoin.

Agora can't be accessed via a regular search engine. The site runs only on the Tor browser (The Onion Router), which uses a private network to protect users’ identities. Buyers and sellers get to the site via a special referral link provided by a current member.

The site's increasing popularity is largely due to the 2013 downfall of the original Silk Road, its predecessor in the darknet market. When the FBI shut down the site and arrested operator Ross Ulbricht—known as Dread Pirate Roberts—more than 13,000 illegal drugs were listed for sale. By the time a new version of Silk Road emerged, Agora had already absorbed a significant portion of its customers.

According to a recent report by U.S.-based web crime group Digital Citizens Alliance, Agora currently has more than 16,100 product listings, which exceeds the number on the new Silk Road 2.0 site. Silk Road's growth has also been impeded by continuous DDoS attacks and Bitcoin hacking in recent months. "Agora appears primed to overtake Silk Road 2.0 as the largest Darknet Marketplace based on total number of drugs listed," noted the report.

Adam Benson, communications director at Digital Citizens Alliance, offered his theory on why darknet users are gravitating to Agora: "Just as on the rest of the Internet, users on the dark net are very quick to move on to new things and move away from those products and websites that seem stale and old. Maybe that time has come for Silk Road."

According to Adam Winstock of the Global Drugs Survey, buying drugs online using Bitcoin is becoming a more widespread practice. In a 2014 survey that polled 80,000 people, he found that 22 percent had purchased drugs online, and nearly half of those had made their first purchase during 2013.