Outlaw Market Is one of the oldest running markets, dated as far as 29-12-13 (according to gwern.net), we previously had an interview with its admins and since a lot have changed since than, we felt it might be nice to do a followup interview and see if we can learn something from the experience gathered since then. So here it is:
Who are you and what is your position on Outlaw?
(music: Dire Straits) I’m just an aged trouble-boy, in the drug-wars I used to play… I’ve called the tune, to many a wonderful experience…;-) Now they say I’m a net criminal and I’m fading away, DDW, please hear my confession: I’ve legalized drug deals and call it freedom…
I’m part of the core management.
So it been a while since we had our interview. Since then, as far as I recall, there was a change in management and former members of OUTLAW opened a rival market who later exit scammed (Area51). What is the story about that?
It is true that two admins that were in “high positions” (but not in management) wanted to become part of the core management team. This did not work out and so they started a marketplace by themselves. Unfortunately, they used their knowledge about our software and admin-procedures to try and bring more vendors and buyers to their market (as well as cause some damage to OUTLAW). They failed. This caused some downgrade in our reviews last year, yet there was a hidden benefit: it exposed weaknesses that we have fixed and helped us to become the most secure market on the darknet. Most importantly, there was NO DAMAGE to any customer or vendor!
So does it feel to run the longest (or second to that) running market?
This was our goal – instead of trying to grow extremely fast and exit-scam the users, we want to keep up the idea of freedom and self-reponsibility and create a secure marketplace for our users. We love what we do, we do not look for fast money and we want to make the world a better place. Yes, sure, we earn money but it’s in healthy relation to the time we invest!
What do you think helped you survive all the attacks (DDO’s,hacking attempts) and LE operations we saw since SR1 time?
We have an infrastructure that makes DDOS attacks more complicated. For example, we run private gateways for long term users that are unknown to the public and thus do not suffer any attacks… Most importantly, we learn from every small problem, from every minor hacking-attempt and from friendly hackers who would take some acceptable amount of money to show us unacceptable software-mistakes. OUTLAW aims to be very secure, even if that means lower surfing speed and less “usual” GUI. No open-source market-software is used – that makes it very hard for hackers to find vectors for attacking. As we are constantly improving and updating/upgrading our own software by our own software-specialits, it’s the experience that makes our code so strong. For security reasons, I won’t reveal our infrastructure, but SR1 had a ridiculous and irresponsibly easy set up (if it was the way we have been told by the media).
Concerning LE, we have just a very small team of enthusiasts and the core management cannot be “infiltrated”, the admins have limited and selective access to data (i.e. the messages of vendors and customers are PGP encryped and no admin can read the conversations). The real danger for buyers and vendors is that either could be set up by LE and have delivery-information and shipments analyzed. At OUTLAW, it’s practically impossible that LE could find the server AND collect sensitive user data like they (supposedly) did with SR1.
What features does OUTLAW currently offer that are more than other markets?
- We were the first marketplace with PGP secure login, although recently a few markets have started to use that as well.
- We have multi-lingual pages and support.
- We offer 2/2 multisig in an extremely easy-to-use way that gives full security against market-exit-scam to the vendors.
- We offer hedged currency-accounts
- We offer VMEI (VendorMarketExit Insurance) to lower the risk of loosing money when a FE-vendor decides to exit-scam or is busted by the police.
- We have a game section with a LOTTERY where users can bet with 1 Euro and within less than one week (on average) win a jackpot – typically 200 Euros or more. We give lottery-tickets for free to buyers: every day! BlackJack is running on OUTLAW and Poker as a human-players-only game is coming soon. We are thinking about setting up a betting place to let users bet on the next market to vanish… :-)
We have integrated Bitmessage into OUTLAW in the way that all messages and notifications are sent (and received) via Bitmessage. This makes communicating with OUTLAW admins, vendors and customers more convenient without compromising security. We delete data after 2 to 4 weeks and anonymize the transfer-data on the user-accounts.
Every message is just one dataset: if you delete it, or reply to it, it is gone. (Users can use bitmessage or our message-export-feature, in case that they want to store conversions -on their local computer…)
But the MOST IMPORTANT feature is our outstanding user service. OUTLAW users know, we care!
We communicate with vendors and users in case of trouble to find solutions. We do not let scammers destroy our market – we have means to identify and ban scammers. Buyers can use our VMEI to reduce the damage in the worst case. That is why OUTLAW is still online: OUTLAW users LOVE OUTLAW and they know why! We have the best service of all markets: past, present and future.
What are the plans for the future?
We are working on a new trend in the darknet markets: franchising! Also, new GUIs will be made that will make the surfing experience faster, usable on mobile devices and working like a “normal shop”: see the offers, choose and even order without registration… These GUIs will be set up by 3rd parties and integrated to our infrastructure.
Instead of setting up new markets to compete with OUTLAW, people can run “their” market that uses our security, infrastructure, database and ordering-structures – but looks completely different. We will ensure the franchizing partner’s site is 100% safe as it will run on our secret servers, the users can be sure that the “new market” will never scam, as the franchinzing partner won’t be able to interfere with the order-process and won’t have access to the escrow/funds. Our multisig will soon become a standard, then. Every user will be able to proove with a few clicks that the “new market” is indeed bound to OUTLAW.
Those software-freaks reading this and dreaming to run their “own” market: contact us, become our partner with “your” marketplace. You won’t earn millions within few months, but with good work and dedication to the customers, you can create a nice income… Once this will be set up and the first franchizing-market running, I will be happy to explain in detail the new dimension of deepnet market cooperation!
I asked this in Jan-2014 and will ask again – When will we see a change in layout? This is probably the biggest thing holding your market back in terms of wider adoption.
You won’t believe this, but MANY people like our special design; however, the new “franchizing” GUIs will be exactly the way you like it! People will be able to choose from different GUIs while the basic features, infrastructure and security will remain at OUTLAW’s high standard.
Can you share some interesting insights as a veteran market admin?
Running a market is not easy. Many think all you have to do is put together a template, install an open-source software on an onion-server and then start making money! In the beginning, you could get away with this. Ross Ulbricht managed to create lot of money at SR1 initially with this setup. We all know what eventually happened and anyway, I think he was “sent to hell” when he did not want to co-operate with the big boys and pass the market to them – if it ever was really his market… Maybe BMR was lucky at that time, as well.
New, independent markets have no chance to survive, if they do not have a special concept (like our franzising!) and are not run by the big boy vendors… There are just very few people who make money running darknet markets; many have been into high-profit criminal structures before or tied to LE and secret services…
Any tips to the users to keep them safer?
Use PGP, use Bitmessage instead of emails. Look for honeypots to avoid them. If a new market has 5000 lisings and every vendor has 20 5-star votes – all within one week, something is definitely not right. Look for multisig-vendors and buy there, even if they are somewhat more expensive to FE-vendors, who often calculate their price including their market exit scam profit. The cheapest offer might not be the best one. Buy small amounts first, check how communicative and user-friendly the vendor is. The more the buyers select their vendors, the higher the “quality” of the vendor becomes.
My advice: do not buy anywhere else but on OUTLAW market if you care for your security!
What do you think about the other markets who are currently operating, any market admins you think that are doing good work? (or bad work)
I do not want to talk about other markets’ admins’ work. I think it’s like with all people, some are dedicated, doing good work, others greedy, doing bad work, most something in between. I would be happy when the market owners would form a board to fight scammers together and to co-oerate and try to keep the idea of freedom up rather than fight each other…
Do you think we will see decentralization anytime soon?
No, the reason is simple: decentralized structures make it very difficult to sort out scammers. In the anonymous market, scamming is extremely easy. The “central power’s interest” is to keep the market running, hard enough! How could the honest vendors and buyers stay the most powerful group in a decentralized market, where not only the scammers want to scam, but LE wants it not to work as well?
With the increase of interest around the DNM’s do you feel the shift in the demographic of people who are using DNM’s?
Yes, sort of. More and more people seem not to care about security at all. Mathematicially, it’s correct thinking — the more people using those services lowers the risk to the individual. But actually, things are different, as LE and scammers place honeypots and fish for exactly those who care less about safety than a fast and fancy GUI for example.
Anyway, I have noticed that there is a steadily growing group of people who do understand about security; these are the type of people OUTLAW market attracts as users!