Published: Fri, July 21, 2017
Finance | By Laverne Griffith

World's Authorities Shut Down Internet's Largest 'Dark Market'

World's Authorities Shut Down Internet's Largest 'Dark Market'

Yet while the majority of firearms being sold shipped from inside the US, the report's authors said Europe represents the largest market for dark web gun deals, "generating revenues that are around five times higher than the U.S".

AlphaBay was taken down through the efforts of law enforcement authorities in the US, Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, France and the United Kingdom, according to the government. Some 10,000 addresses of European Hansa customers were collected over the course of the investigation, according to Europol.

McCabe also praised the "coordination and a shared purpose" required to carry out an operation like this, and he acknowledged that taking down major dark sites at once is considerable, and issued a warning to those involved in such websites as while "there are some criminals that think of cybercrime as a freebie", blending traditional investigative techniques and new tools will bring these individuals to light.

The FBI, DEA and Dutch National Police led the investigation.

The suspected administrators of the Hansa marketplace were arrested in Germany and are now in custody.

The website was hosted on servers in Lithuania. Because sellers fled en masse from AlphaBay to Hansa when the latter website went down, police were able to monitor them in real time as they set up fresh accounts and began to do business.

AlphaBay's shutdown sent traffic flooding into the smaller Hansa marketplace.

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AlphaBay was first reported to have gone offline last month, sparking reports in some quarters that it had been the target of law enforcement action.

This allowed for "the covert monitoring of criminal activities on the platform" until it was eventually shut down a month later. Transactions were conducted using digital currency, and the marketplace took a cut of the proceeds when the deals were completed. "There are more of these operations to come", he added. Since AlphaBay's demise, that has jumped to 700 to 800 new listings - a five-fold increase. Once AlphaBay went down, their new listings tripled to approximately 15,000 a week. At the time, many users suspected it was an exit scam.

The investigations were a global affair that resulted in the 5 July arrest of an alleged adminstrator of AlphaBay, Canadian Alexandre Cazes, who was arested in Thailand. He confirmed that the site's administrators were arrested as part of the takedown, who attempted to use "anonymizing techniques" to try and hide their identities and locations, and revealing that required additional assistance from other law enforcement agencies.

Darknet marketplaces have generated massive police heat after risky synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl - the substance at the heart of drug epidemics in multiple countries, including Canada and the United States - were constantly offered for sale on the websites.

"Unfortunately, the demand for these kinds of goods and services is large enough that we will always see other dark markets rise in place of those recently busted", said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a civil-liberties group in Washington. One American now dies of a drug overdose every 11 minutes and more than 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription painkillers. Officials say hundreds of vendors advertised either fentanyl or heroin.

Sessions asserted that his department's work is not yet finished and issued a warning to people still ready to engage in illegal activity on the dark web. "We will find you, dismantle your organization and network, and we will prosecute you", Sessions said in a warning to darknet entrepreneurs.

Dark net sites are reached with special browsers that obscure the location and identity of the user and the server, making it hard for officials to locate and shut down sites.

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