Authorities Take Down Dark Web's Biggest Criminal Marketplace

Justice Department announces takedown of AlphaBay, the largest dark web market

On Thursday, Europol and the US Department of Justice jointly announced the fruits of a largest-ever sting operation against the dark web's black markets, including the seizure of AlphaBay, a market Europol estimates generated more than a billion dollars in sales of drugs, stolen data, and other illegal goods over its three years online.

"There are more of these operations to come", Rob Wainwright, the executive director of Europol, said today at a joint press conference with the U.S. Attorney General, the acting Federal Bureau of Investigation director and the deputy director of the DEA in Washington, D.C.

The investigation into AlphaBay revealed that numerous vendors sold fentanyl and heroin. Prior to its takedown, AlphaBay reached over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors, according to a Europol statement on the takedown.

"Dark websites like Alpha Bay and others run on what is called the Tor network; hidden services created to hide information that could reveal the location of a website and its customers", he said.

"With the help of Bitdefender, an internet security company advising Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), Europol provided Dutch authorities with an investigation lead into Hansa in 2016".

USA and European police on Thursday announced the shutdown of two huge "dark web" marketplaces that allowed the anonymous online trade of drugs, hacking software and guns.

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The marketplaces use online currency Bitcoin to trade the goods, an anonymous currency that is virtually untraceable. Dutch police arrested Hansa's two administrators in Germany, then seized servers in the Netherlands, Germany, and Lithuania.

The next day, the founder of Alphabay, Alexandre Cazes, a 25-year-old Canadian living an extravagant lifestyle in Thailand, was arrested and imprisoned by Thai authorities. "We will find you, dismantle your organization and network, and we will prosecute you", Sessions said in a warning to dark web entrepreneurs. Cazes, who allegedly went by the nicknames "Alpha02" and "Admin", reportedly committed suicide while still in custody in Thailand.

Europol executive director Rob Wainwright said: "This is an outstanding success by authorities in Europe and the US".

In this instance, users of AlphaBay took to online forums like 4chan to discuss potential alternative dark web marketplaces, when Hansa's name was mentioned. Though it's very hard to trace users on the dark web, on the markets buyers regularly use their own addresses when making a purchase. "There are more of these operations to come", he warned.

In a press conference in Washington, US attorney-general Jeff Sessions spoke about the "new challenge" that law enforcement faces from "transnational criminal organisations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity using the dark net".

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