Security Experts:

Flaw Exposed Private Messages of AlphaBay Users

The popular darknet marketplace AlphaBay was until recently affected by a flaw that exposed hundreds of thousands of private messages and other user information.

A Reddit user with the moniker Cipher0007 issued a warning about the flaw after AlphaBay administrators allegedly ignored the tickets he had opened on the website. Cipher0007 demonstrated to DarkNetMarkets moderators on Reddit that he could read any private message, and he claimed to have created a bot that had helped him collect more than 200,000 messages.

AlphaBay quickly patched the vulnerability and paid Cipher0007 for his findings. The administrators of the marketplace claim the security hole only exposed PMs that were not older than 30 days. An attacker could have also gained access to user IDs and usernames, but order information, bitcoin addresses and other data were not at risk, AlphaBay said in a statement.

However, the screenshots posted by Cipher0007 on Reddit show that the exposed private messages did contain potentially sensitive information, including names, addresses and package tracking numbers.

AlphaBay administrators said they have tried to make the website as secure as possible, but its popularity attracts a lot of hackers and penetration testers. The marketplace might introduce a dedicated channel for reporting security holes.

Launched in late 2014, AlphaBay has become one of the largest darknet marketplaces in the world. The Tor-based service allows users to buy and sell various types of fraud-related items, including personal information and payment card data.

The marketplace’s customers have been targeted by law enforcement and a vulnerability such as the one found by Cipher0007 could have been highly useful for identifying users. In December, authorities announced that an AlphaBay vendor known as IcyEagle had been sentenced to four years and two months in prison for selling stolen information.

This was not the first time someone found a bug that exposed the private messages of AlphaBay users. A similar vulnerability was found in April, but only 13,000 messages were obtained at the time.

Cipher0007 also claims to have found a vulnerability in the Hansa marketplace, which has allegedly allowed him to obtain 240,000 Hansa usernames.

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Eduard Kovacs is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek. He worked as a high school IT teacher for two years before starting a career in journalism as Softpedia’s security news reporter. Eduard holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial informatics and a master’s degree in computer techniques applied in electrical engineering.