Empire Market Review and Tutorial
Empire Market is a darknet market with a layout reminiscent of the former AlphaBay design.
Empire Market is a darknet market with a layout reminiscent of the former AlphaBay design. It specializes in a variety of different goods, including drugs, fraud, technical guides, and jewelry. It accepts Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Monero, and also features two autoshops (which we will explain below).
Empire Market URLs
NOTE: At the time of this writing, all of these URLs were working, but they may be down in the future. In the process of doing this review, we noticed that multiple instances of the site went offline frequently. If one doesn't work, try the mirror sites or visit dark.fail for alternatives.
How to Access Empire Market
As with most other darknet markets, Empire Market is hosted on the Tor network, meaning that you'll need a special browser known as the Tor Browser to access it. We have a basic tutorial for using it here: How to Access Tor (.Onion Sites).
Essentially, if you have Tor running, just go to the onion sites and you should be all set. As mentioned above, some of the onion links may not work at times; try one of the alternative links if that's the case.
Other Things You Will Need
- Bitcoin, Monero, or Litecoin - these are the cryptocurrencies currently accepted as payment by the market.
- PGP - PGP is another method that you can use to encrypt your messages. See our tutorial How to Use PGP for Encryption for more information on this.
Things You Will Not Need
- A VPN - one piece of advice that people seem to frequently give regarding Tor is that you need to use a VPN in conjunction with it. This is not necessarily the case, as Tor by itself provides enough "protection." While VPNs do have their advantages, you can certainly use Tor without one. We will have future articles discussing this subject for more information!
Creating an Account
When you first access the registration URL on this site, you should see an interface similar to this:
Registration requires the following information:
- Username: make up a username for your account. Preferably, do not use one that you've tied to other accounts.
- Password: choosing a strong password is essential. If you aren't sure whether or not your password is strong enough, you can test it at sites like Rumkin: Strength Test.
- Six-digit PIN: this is very similar to the PIN you might use for your bank account. You can make one up, or randomly generate one with dice or some other method.
- Login Phrase: this is a phrase that will verify you're on the real Empire site and not a phishing site. It might be something like, "stuff have random exploit warrant grounds." When you log into Empire, you should see your login phrase displayed on the homepage. (Some markets will generate this phrase for you.)
- Invite User (optional): only fill this out if you received an invite code from another user.
- Currency: below the blank fields is a button with which you can choose your currency.
- Cryptocurrency: here you can select your preferred cryptocurrency (bitcoin, Litecoin, or Monero). If you're unfamiliar with these, we will have tutorials on them in the near future.
When you finish registering, go to the login page; it should look like this:
You'll have to fill out a CAPTCHA (as above) in order to complete your login; fortunately, these aren't that complicated.
Interface and Functions
As we mentioned in the intro, Empire Market has a very similar layout to the now-defunct AlphaBay. As a matter of fact, when the market first started, they described it as a tribute to AlphaBay.
Like AlphaBay used to, it has a menu across the top with the following functions (as you can see in the screenshot):
- Home - this takes you back to the homepage.
- Messages - send and receive messages between yourself and vendors, or other users. It has a similar UI to some email clients.
- Orders - keep track of items you've purchased and their status (whether or not they've been delivered yet, etc.).
- Become a Vendor - change your account from a buyer account to a vendor account.
- Balance - view your balance of Bitcoin, Monero, or Litecoin.
- Feedback - communicate with vendors on issues with products, etc.
- Forums - as on most markets, the forums are a good place to ask questions, give feedback, and get advice from other users and admins of the market.
- Support - submit tickets for technical issues or dispute incomplete transactions.
Also as on AlphaBay, the categories and listings (which we'll discuss below) are displayed on the left sidebar. This also makes it convenient to find what you're looking for. Above the categories is a link to the two autoshops as well. Additionally, there's a link that says "Lottery," but last we checked, this option was disabled.
Categories and Listings
Empire has a variety of categories and listings. The numbers given below are accurate as to the time this was written, but may change frequently as items are bought and sold.
Fraud - 3249
Drugs & Chemicals – 25804
Guides & Tutorials – 1828
Counterfeit Items - 1378
Digital Products - 5095
Jewels & Gold - 513
Carded Items - 164
Services - 521
Other Listings - 308
Software & Malware - 395
Security & Hosting – 208
Under each category are subcategories. For instance, under “Drugs and Chemicals,” you can find such items as “Steroids,” “Cannabis & Hashish,” and “Tobacco.” Under “Digital Products,” you can find such things as “Erotica,” “E-books,” and “Fraud Software.”
If you check off a particular category, then listings will be displayed to the right of the category interface, like so:
Go to a specific listing to find out more details about it, including conditions for shipping and returns, etc.
Empire Market’s autoshops are a place where you can purchase credit cards and full financial or identity details (“fullz”) using a simple search function. It also has a useful tab interface with the following options:
My Purchased Cards
My Purchased Accounts
The autoshop’s search function allows you to filter searches using these parameters:
BIN – Bank Identification Number
City – the city from which the card or account originates
State – the state from which the card or account originates
Country – the country from which the card or account originates
Is Fullz – includes full ID details or not
DOB – date of birth included
SSN – social security number included
Birth Year – select from a range (e.g. "1984-1990")
Price – default is $0.01 to $999.99
Notes – comments written by the vendor
Rating – vendor rating (70%-100%)
Vendor - name of a specific vendor
Bank - bank the card originates from
Type - brand of the card (e.g. American Express, Visa)
Credit - type of card (e.g. credit, debit)
Level - luxury level of the card (e.g. classic, gold, platinum)
Vendor Trust Level - select a range from 1-10
Once you fill in your desired search paramaters, results should show up below. Next to the results are checkboxes; check off each one that you want to purchase, and then hit the button that says "Add to Cart." All in all, this function is quite handy and makes this aspect of the shop easy to use.
Search Functions and Filters
We explained a bit about the autoshop's search function above, but the main part of the market has two search functions as well. There's a "quick search" on the main page, in which you can just type in the name of a product and find it.
The advanced search function, on the other hand, has quite a few search filters you can use to locate the product of your choice:
- Product Type - All, Digital, Physical, or Auto Dispatch
- Price Range - type in any price range to see listings corresponding to that amount.
- Category - select categories from a dropdown list.
- Origin Country - select country from a dropdown list, or choose "Worldwide."
- Ships To - select country from a dropdown list, or choose "Worldwide."
- Order By - date or price, displayed in ascending or descending order.
- In Stock - is the product in stock? (yes or no)
- Payment - payment method (Finalize Early (FE), Escrow, or Multisig).
- Coin - Bitcoin, Litecoin, or Monero.
- Verified - is the vendor verified? (Yes or No).
How to Choose a Vendor
Ah, the age-old question! If you're new to the market and haven’t figured out which vendors are reliable yet, then there are several ways that you can look for someone before you buy any products.
On each profile, as you can see above, each vendor has a “Vendor Level” (blue) and a “Trust Level” (green). These are based on the number of successful transactions that she’s made, as well as the amount of positive, neutral, and negative feedback she’s received.
It’s also good practice to read through the vendor’s About page, and understand what his policies are regarding refunds, disputes, and things of that nature. Besides this, if a vendor doesn’t sell the items you’re looking for, then it’s a moot point.
Ultimately, however, the only way to tell if a vendor is dependable is to purchase one of his items, and see if it’s high quality once you receive it (which is always a bit of a gamble). The flipside to this is that if the item is not of good quality, you can leave feedback on the site informing others as such. This is a good general rule to follow with any darknet market.
Because of the potential for scams, this is why many vendors use escrow or multisig to ensure that all parties hold up their end of the transactions. Not every vendor offers these options, though; check their profiles and find out what types of payment options they have before going through with the purchase.
How to Become a Vendor
If you select the "Become a Vendor" option from the menu, then there are several rules you need to follow; these are outlined for you if you select this option (quoted from the site):
- FE (Finalized Early) is not permitted unless you get explicit permission later. You will get banned without refund if you ask for FE without permission.
- Digital orders auto-finalize after 48 hours, and physical orders auto-finalize after 14 days.
- If you get too many scam reports, we may revoke your vendor account at any time.
- There is a USD $300 vendor bond (0.03853065 BTC / 2.56849315 LTC / 3.52278065 XMR).
- All sellers must have a PGP key in their profile before starting to sell.
- Prostitution, child porn and murder services are not permitted.
- Any dox threat will result in an immediate ban.
- Two-factor authentication (2FA) is mandatory for all vendors.
- Vendors must accurately describe their products in their listings. If we find your listings are completely inaccurate, you will be banned with no warning.
- Dealing outside of the market is not permitted. Any vendor caught dealing outside of the market, using apps like Wickr Me will be banned immediately.
- The vendor fee is not refundable. This is to protect the market from scammers.
- Weapons are not permitted to be sold. Any weapons listed will result in removal and immediate vendor ban.
After reading the rules, you must pay the vendor bond (explained in rule 4) in BTC, LTC, or XMR. Once this is paid, you will officially become a vendor.
How to Buy Products
Buying products on Empire Market is fairly simple, though it still may require a bit of explanation. If there’s a particular product that interests you, you can find it either by browsing the listings, using the search functions, or going to the autoshop.
Once you find the product in question, click on the corresponding listing and you’ll be directed to its page.
On that page, you’ll see a field that says “Qty” (quantity), where you enter the amount that you want to purchase. To the right of that are several “Buy Now” buttons. These correspond to different cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Monero. You would use the fourth button, reading “Queue,” if you do not currently have enough money to purchase the item, but would like to do so as soon as there is enough in your wallet. Once you do add money to your wallet (via a deposit or refund), the sale will automatically go through.
If you hit "Buy Now," you'll be taken to a confirmation page that looks like this:
On this page, you confirm the item, price, and quantity. On the same page, you can leave notes for the vendor if there are any special requests for the order, and encrypt the notes using the vendor’s PGP key. If you're purchasing the item immediately insteading of putting it in queue, then hit the button that says "Confirm Purchase" instead.
Like most other markets, Empire has a forum as well. However, at the time of this writing, the forum seemed to be offline (possibly because of a DDoS attack).
Empire has a support ticket system similar to that of other ecommerce sites. Click on the “Support” menu option at the top of the site, and you’ll be taken to a screen like this:
On that screen, hit the red button that says “Create Ticket” to submit one. You may notice that below this, it reads “Ticket list”; if you don’t have any tickets submitted yet, then this area should be blank. In the “Create Ticket” screen, you enter your username, subject (the issue in question), and the text of your message.
Also, you need to select a category corresponding to your issue. The options are “Withdrawal/Deposit,” “Report Scammer,” “Report Bug,” “Account Recovery,” “Free Vendor Request,” and “Other” (for any issues not listed). It should be noted that not everyone can receive a free vendor account; this is usually granted to established vendors on other well known markets. As on the sign-in page, you must also complete a CAPTCHA to submit your request (this is meant to prevent spam and other types of attacks). Generally, the market staff will respond within 24 hours.
The site also points out that they have an FAQ, which you should read through before submitting a ticket (in case your issue is answered there):
Pros and Cons
- Large variety of items, including drugs, jewelry, digital goods, and books
- Good support system
- Accepts Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Monero
- Detailed search function with many parameters
- Vendor trust system to help find quality vendors
- Site is frequently offline due to DDoS attacks; had to switch to mirror sites often
- Forum is not online (at the time of this writing) and cannot be accessed
- Requires a 0.03761472 BTC ($300) vendor bond to register as a vendor (however, on the plus side, this helps prevent scams)