It’s panic on the western front as users scramble to figure out whether the recent downtime of the Nucleus Market means that the site was hacked or the admins have performed an exit scam. While it’s still too early to tell whether the market will actually be coming back or not, speculation is running rife on the web, and vendors are scattering to other marketplaces in an effort to keep all of their customers in the loop still.
Nucleus Market, which has been around since 2014, has recently grown to be one of the biggest darknet markets on the dark web. The marketplace is home to vendors selling a wide assortment of goods online: from drugs, to counterfeit documents, to electronics, and jewelry. The site has been very well regarded by customers and vendors alike.
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A long downtime – and what it means
The recent downtime started on 13thof April. This means that the Nucleus Market has been offline so far for about a week. The dark web site has been down before, and was offline for an extended period of about a week in 2015 which, at the time, users also speculated was an exit scam; however, that was then determined to be false. The site administrators did not warn users back then about the downtime, much as there was no warning this time either.
Presently the wallet explorer shows that the Nucleus Market wallet still has over 5000BTC (or $2million USD) sitting in it, hinting at the likelihood that Nucleus hasn’t exited scammed, and are rather just under attack and beefing up security to try and get back online again as soon as possible. This, however, is unverified, as there has been no word as yet from the administrators of the site on any forums. Other marketplaces who have exit scammed have left the BTC for a time following the site going offline, before withdrawing it from the site a while afterwards.
The second option is that the site has been specifically attacked or hacked by persons either known or unknown. The Nucleus Market vendor theDmaster was recently banned from the marketplace after performing scams on multiple customers, as well as providing phishing links. He then was arguing with Nucleus admins – shortly after which the site went down. This has led to speculation that he is perhaps the source behind the site going down.
Nucleus Market may also be under a sustained DDoS attack, or have been compromised in some other way by hackers. This may be the work of other competitor sites, law enforcement, or even just hackers who are bored and looking for a challenge.
Another, perhaps more interesting, possibility is that the administrators of the Nucleus Market have been arrested by law enforcement or gone into hiding. In the past, when darknet markets’ administrators have been arrested, the site itself has been seized by the authorities and a sign placeholder informing site visitors of what has happened is put up. There is no such sign apparent when browsing to the Nucleus Market’s .onion address – yet, at least.
It could also be that law enforcement are in the process of taking over the site from administrators, and when it returns online again they will go after the big sellers of illegal goods and services.
What else is happening?
Over on Reddit, there is a lot of chatter about the site being down, including vendors advertising to customers which alternative markets they can find them on and people spruiking for other markets for users to migrate to. One clever scammer has linked to phishing addresses purporting to be Dream Market, when, in actual fact, the site is simply a clone. The user reports making over 18BTC (a cool $7800USD) in just two days with throwaway Reddit usernames and a fake site. This is why you should never get your .onion links from anywhere other than trusted sources.
Regardless of whether Nucleus Market comes back online or not, this current downtime should serve as a timely reminder that you should never keep too many BTC in a darknet market account at any one time, and practice due diligence and correct security procedures so that you don’t lose too much money in the event of an exit scam.
We hope that Nucleus Market will make its return, and come back stronger than ever, however, only time (or the admins) will tell.