The two largest dark web marketplaces, AlphaBay and Hansa, have been shut down as a result of an international cooperative effort involving the FBI, the DEA, Europol, and the Dutch National Police.
AlphaBay, “the largest criminal marketplace on the dark web,” according to Europol, was the leading online market for illegal drugs. It also had been used to trade weapons, stolen payment card information, malware, and other illegal goods and services. According to Europol, “over 250 000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals” appeared on AlphaBay at the time it was shut down in early July.
Many of AlphaBay’s customers moved to a competitor in the same trade, Hansa. Hansa, unbeknownst to its customers, had also been taken over by law enforcement, but it continued to operate under the control of the Dutch National Police for at least one month before it was also shuttered.
Dark web sites are accessible only through special browsers like The Onion Router (Tor). Tor conceals user locations and IP addresses, wrapping them in layers of encryption, allowing for the anonymity necessary to host the illegal activities that take place on the dark web. If the IP address of a Dream Market server was accidentally exposed, the site operators and customers may no longer be anonymous.
The anonymity of the dark web can seem to be impenetrable, but, as in all cybersecurity efforts, strong safeguards can be compromised by simple human error and a vigilant opponent searching for that one mistake.
Foreign Policy, Feds Shut Down World’s Largest Online Drug Marketplace
The Hacker News, Feds Seize AlphaBay and Hansa Markets in Major Dark-Web Bust