Dark Web marketplaces worth billions crushed in secret takeover

Jul 21, 2017, 00:41
Dark Web marketplaces worth billions crushed in secret takeover

The take-down of the two largest criminal dark web markets in the world by European and American law enforcement authorities shows the important and necessary result of global cooperation to fight this criminality.

The suspected creator and administrator of the AlphaBay marketplace was identified because he had left a personal email address connected to AlphaBay, which users could see in the header metadata of emails sent from the site.

According to Europol, the marketplaces, considered the successors to the infamous Silk Road, facilitated the criminal economy in trading over 350,000 illicit goods including drugs, firearms, toxic chemicals and cybercrime malware.

The website made $1 billion in sales before it was shut down in a joint operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Dutch police and Europol.

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On July 5, Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian citizen living in Thailand was arrested for creating and running the AlphaBay marketplace. Authorities had filed suit against Cazes and his wife to recover assets alleged to have been obtained via the site, including millions of dollars in cryptocurrency. On July 12, Cazes "apparently took his own life while in custody in Thailand", the Justice Department says. In this duration, Hansa saw an eightfold increase in traffic helping the police to collect information of thousands of users in an undercover operation.

AlphaBay Shutdown Drove Users to Hansa, Where Police Were Already in ControlMathew J. Schwartz (euroinfosec) • July 20, 2017 Takedown notices displayed on the Hansa and AlphaBay darknet marketplace homepages. Because of the anonymous nature of the dark web, this was likely essential in connecting Cazes to the crimes he allegedly committed using that account.

"This case, pursued by dedicated agents and prosecutors, says you are not safe, you can not hide".

USA and European investigators collaborated for months on the takedown, which saw AlphaBay and Hansa - together responsible for more than 350,000 "illicit commodities" - first infiltrated and then taken offline.

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Both Sessions and U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein ducked those questions, instead focusing on the bust.

A second dark net site, Hansa, was also shut down as part of the operation.

The 26-year-old was arrested the day after the site disappeared and was reportedly later found hanged in his jail cell in Bangkok. "There are more of these operations to come", Wainright said. Vendors who flee those sites for Dream Market may still be compromised by law enforcement, and if arrested, could potentially give up the addresses of any new Dream Market's customers, too.

As users are starting to congregate on Reddit to discover what is happening, Europol has released a confirmation of the market's downfall.

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Two of the drug traffickers on the website have also been identified and charged after heroin and a synthetic opiate purchased on AlphaBay were linked to overdose deaths in OR and Florida.

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