Published: Fri, July 21, 2017
Business | By Jorge Reeves

Huge dark web drug sites shut down

Huge dark web drug sites shut down

WASHINGTON-Officials in the USA and Europe are announcing a takedown of two internet marketplaces for drugs, counterfeit goods, weapons, hacking tools and other illicit items hosted on the so-called dark web.

The investigation into AlphaBay revealed that numerous vendors sold fentanyl and heroin.

"According to Sessions, AlphaBay was the largest marketplace on the dark web", with "more than 200,000 users of the website and more than 250,000 listings for drugs".

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions officially confirmed today a coordinated global law enforcement effort to take down AlphaBay after news of raids and arrests in the US, Canada, and Thailand leaked to the press last week.

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"Europol has been supporting the investigation of criminal marketplaces on the Dark Web for a number of years", the organization noted.

The dark web, or dark net, is part of the internet only accessible using special software, servers, and authorizations.

Two of the biggest criminal dark web markets, AlphaBay and Hansa, have been shut down by a police sting. Well-known examples include Silk Road (taken down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2013) and Alpha Bay (reportedly shut down earlier this month).

A recent investigation of 18 different online marketplaces that facilitate illegal firearms sales found 60 percent of the weapons being sold originated in the US, concluded RAND Europe and University of Manchester researchers in a report released Thursday.

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With the takedown of AlphaBay and Hansa, authorities said they have frozen millions of dollars worth of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin used to settle online transactions without the buyers and sellers being identified. According to the Justice Department's press release, Silk Road (which was shut down in 2013) had around 14,000 goods and services listed when it was seized. "We will find you". They then sat back and captured the identities of "all those new users displaced from AlphaBay who were looking for a new trading platform", Europe says. Alexandre Cazes, 26, who ran the site was arrested earlier this month in Thailand and was found dead in his cell last week, taking his own life.

With Alphabay shut down, many of its users migrated to Hansa Market, making information gathering by Dutch authorities even more valuable.

Law enforcement authorities in the United States and overseas also seized millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin and other assets allegedly belonging to Cazes, including four Lamborghini cars and three properties.

"The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today after a highly sophisticated joint action in multiple countries", said Europol executive director Rob Wainright. "There are more of these operations to come", Wainright said.

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He said: "The dark net is not a place to hide". On the one hand, such forums offer partial anonymity, bolstered by the pseudo-anonymizing Tor browser and cryptocurrency, and allow people to obtain all manner of illegal merchandise - from illegal narcotics to assault rifles to malware.

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