- Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced “the seizure of the largest criminal marketplace on the Internet, AlphaBay, which operated for over two years on the dark web and was used to sell deadly illegal drugs, stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world.
- The international operation to seize AlphaBay’s infrastructure was led by the United States and involved cooperation and efforts by law enforcement authorities in Thailand, the Netherlands,
Lithuania, Canada, the United Kingdom, and France, as well as the European law enforcement agency Europol.
- AlphaBay operated as a hidden service on the “Tor” network, and utilized cryptocurrencies incl
uding Bitcoin, Monero and Ethe reum in order to hide the locations of its underlying servers and the identities of its administrators, moderators, and users. Based on law enforcement’s investigation of AlphaBay, authorities believe the site was also used to launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from illegal transactions on the website.
- Separately, the Netherlands Police said “As part of an extensive international investigation, the Netherlands Police and the Public Prosecution Service have dismantled, seized control of, and shut down one of the biggest illegal market places on the internet today. It is Hansa Market, currently the most popular dark market in the ‘anonymous’ part of the internet, the so-called darknet …
- The investigation in question is being carried out in close cooperation with the police and judicial authorities in Germany, Lithuania, and the United States, and also with Europol.
- This week, a Hansa top-seller was arrested in Krimpen aan den IJssel, the Netherlands. Accounts with a total of more than 1,000 bitcoins, representing a value of some two million euros, were seized. The bitcoins were transferred to an account of the Public Prosecution Service.
- The darknet markets enable large-scale trading in chiefly illegal goods, such as drugs, weapons, child pornography, and ransom software.
- Well-known examples of such market places are Silk Road (taken down by the FBI in 2013) and Alpha Bay (shut down within the framework of an international police operation earlier this month).
- No weapons or child pornography were sold on Hansa Market."
- Note: Tor is free software used to provide anonymous on-line communication. It is based on technology developed by the United States Naval Research Laboratory and DARPA to provide secure network communications for U.S. intelligence efforts. Users include journalists corresponding with confidential sources and citizens in repressive regimes accessing content on the Internet.
- Suppliers of illegal goods (mostly drugs) will adapt to the efforts of law enforcement - and the dark web (and postal services) will remain a part of their sales and distribution process
- Effectively addressing the illegal drug problem will remain a challenge and will require a stronger focus of what drives demand.
- Uses of Tor and other encryption based technologies will continue to expand - and will support of both legal and illegal activities.
- Debates over digital privacy rights and appropriate use will continue.