Published: Fri, July 21, 2017
Markets | By Lucia Cruz

Justice Department Takes Down AlphaBay 'Dark Web' Marketplace

Justice Department Takes Down AlphaBay 'Dark Web' Marketplace

The Justice Department announced Thursday that together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and worldwide law enforcement agencies, officials had shut down "the largest darknet marketplace in history".

Before the shutdown, Alphabay had more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and chemicals and more than 100,000 listings for stolen ID and credit card data, according to Europol.

The operation was led by the United States but involved cooperation among global law enforcement in Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France, as well as the European police agency.

One of the most challenging parts of the undercover operation, Egberts said, was mediating the frequent disputes between buyers and sellers.

Identifying dark nets sites is notoriously hard as they often operate as hidden services, using the free anonymity software Tor to protect their operators' identities from law enforcement.

"This operation is an example of the improving concerted ability of law enforcement to strike against criminals, even on the dark net", he said.

The Dutch National Police took control of Hansa on 20 June, seizing servers in Lithuania, the Netherlands and Germany.

Two of the world's most notorious darknet marketplaces have been knocked out in a one-two punch that officials say yielded a trove of new intelligence about the drug merchants that operate out of the hidden corners of the internet.

Hansa was frequently mentioned, meaning that the authorities were likely able to uncover new criminal activity on Hansa as users migrated to it from AlphaBay. Visitors to the online marketplaces paid through digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

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Visitors first noticed AlphaBay was down on July 5, when Alexandre Cazes, better known as Alpha02, the website's creator and admin, was arrested in Thailand.

He reportedly committed suicide while in custody, according to the Department of Justice.

"The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today", said Europol's executive director Rob Wainwright.

AlphaBay went offline around the same time as the arrest.

Police also seized millions of dollars in assets.

The former was the biggest online criminal marketplace and reached over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors. With two out of the three largest marketplaces in the hands of law enforcement, anyone using The Dream Market will find it hard to dismiss the possibility that it is also compromised.

He said: "The dark net is not a place to hide".

Researchers based their report on investigations into 18 websites that operate on the dark web, the portion of the web not indexed by search engines and meant to be accessed with specialized software that makes it hard to identify their operators and visitors. Day-to-day operations were run with the help of as many as ten anonymous employees who went by names that included "Disc0", "Trappy", "BigMuscles", "Botah", "Onionhood" and "MountainHigh9".

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