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Authorities Take Down Dark Web’s Biggest Criminal Marketplace

Sam Pudwell joined Silicon UK as a reporter in December 2016. As well as being the resident Cloud aficionado, he covers areas such as cyber security, government IT and sports technology, with the aim of going to as many events as possible.

AlphaBay and Hansa were together responsible for the trading of hundreds of thousands of illegal commodities

A coordinated operation involving multiple law enforcement agencies has resulted in the closure of two criminal economies responsible for the trading of drugs, firearms and malware.

AlphaBay and Hansa, two of the biggest criminal marketplaces on the Dark Web, are now no more following a global investigation led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police, with the support of Europol.

The double takedown marks a huge success in the battle against criminal activities online, as the targeted infrastructure had been responsible for the trading of over 350,000 illegal commodities.

Dark web, Hansa

Long arm of the law

AlphaBay was the largest criminal marketplace on the Dark Web, reaching over 200,000 users and 400,000 vendors, and used a hidden service on the Tor network to mask user identities and server locations.

It featured over 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals, along with over 100,000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and illegal services.

According to Europol’s “conservative estimation”, around £1 billion (£770 million) worth of transactions have been process through the marketplace since its creation in 2014, all paid in crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin.

Combined with Hansa, the two marketplaces were created to expand a major underground digital economy while remaining hidden from law enforcement but, Europol has now confirmed their closure after the key players associated with the two marketplaces were uncovered following months of investigation.

The creator and administrator of AlphaBay was arrested in Thailand on 5th July, while  Hansa was officially taken over on 20 July following a series of arrests and the seizures of servers in Germany, the Netherlands and Lithuania.

“This is an outstanding success by authorities in Europe and the US,” said Rob Wainwright, the Executive Director of Europol at a press conference in Washington DC. “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.

“By acting together on a global basis the law enforcement community has sent a clear message that we have the means to identify criminality and strike back, even in areas of the Dark Web. There are more of these operations to come.”

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