Two major criminal Dark Web markets seized

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The message that appeared on Dark Web marketplaces after being shut down by authorities.

The message that appeared on Dark Web marketplaces after being shut down by authorities.

US, European, Thailand and Canadian governments were among those to seize and control two major Dark Web marketplaces this month.

AlphaBay and Hansa were known ‘underground’ Web sites that sold illegal drugs, stolen identification documents, counterfeit goods, malware, firearms and toxic chemicals. Users accessed the sites via ‘anonymising’ software Tor and purchased goods using anonymous currencies such as Bitcoin.

Earlier this week, ITWeb reported the takedown of AlphaBay.

European intelligence agency Europol said in a press statement that as a consequence of the takedown, Hansa saw an eight-fold increase in the number of new members immediately following the shutdown of AlphaBay.

This was part of the authorities’ plans, as Europol says Dutch police had covertly taken control of the Hansa marketplace a month earlier and monitored its traffic.

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“It meant the Dutch police could identify and disrupt the regular criminal activity on Hansa but then also sweep up all those new users displaced from AlphaBay who were looking for a new trading platform.

“In the past few weeks, the Dutch police collected valuable information on high value targets and delivery addresses for a large number of orders. Some 10 000 foreign addresses of Hansa market buyers were passed on to Europol,” says Europol.

Massive scale

The agency says the takedowns will lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe.

The US Department of Justice said in a statement: “According to publicly available information on AlphaBay prior to its takedown, one AlphaBay staff member claimed it serviced over 200 000 users and 40 000 vendors. 

“Around the time of takedown, there were over 250 000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay, and over 100 000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms and fraudulent services.”

In comparison, the Silk Road marketplace, which was seized in 2013, reportedly had 14 000 listings.

“This ranks as one of the most successful coordinated takedowns against cyber crime in recent years,” says Europol executive director Rob Wainwright.

“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year – taking down the largest Dark Net marketplace in history,” says US attorney general Jeff Sessions.

“Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organisations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity using the Dark Net. The Dark Net is not a place to hide.”

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