A new book by cybersecurity reporter Andy Greenberg, based on the comments of law enforcement analysts and agents assigned to the probe, provides a brand-new account of the original AlphaBay takedown. Tracers in the Dark is Greenberg’s third book-length publication, and the first to focus on darknet markets and the dark web. Greenberg is a senior writer at Wired.
An excerpt from the book, “The Hunt for the Dark Web’s Biggest Kingpin, Part 5: Takedown,” was published on Wired on November 22nd. It provides a detailed account of the events that led to the arrest of Alexandre Cazes, the infamous AlphaBay administrator, in July 2017, based on information provided by investigators and agents on the scene.
The section also includes a previously unseen description of US law enforcement’s attempts to negotiate with Cazes in the days after his detention, implying that the government intended to turn him into an informant and that he was ready to be extradited back to the US. Finally, it presents a thorough account of the circumstances leading up to Cazes’ death, mentioning a half-hour gap in the video footage released by the Thai authorities responsible for his confinement.
Hokyoung Kim illustrated the arrest of Alexandre Cazes for the book.
Other extracts from AlphaBay-related chapters in Tracers in the Dark were released in a six-part series on Wired to correspond with the paperback edition’s release date of November 22nd.
Greenberg outlines the history of blockchain analysis by law enforcement alongside cryptocurrency in a recent NPR interview, identifying the different types of crypto users and noting the current rise in popularity of privacy-based coins like Monero and Zcash. According to Greenberg, a small percentage of darknet market customers continue to use Bitcoin because they believe it is completely anonymous.
“There was this slow-motion enlightenment among technology researchers, then a few technology entrepreneurs, and finally law enforcement that, in reality, bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies are anything from untraceable.” Andy Greenberg’s
Tracers in the Dark also examines the demise of Silk Road and MtGOX, the preeminent Bitcoin exchange from 2011 to 2014, with previously unpublished interviews with law enforcement agents assigned to the surrounding cases providing additional insight. It describes the evolving cat-and-mouse game between governments and darknet market consumers from the investigators’ point of view.
Greenberg has also published Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin’s Most Dangerous Hackers (2020) and This Machine Kills Secrets: How Wikileaks, Hacktivists, and Cypherpunks Are Freeing the World’s Information (2012).