Two significant Dark Web marketplaces, AlphaBay and Hansa, have been taken offline following an extensive operation carried out by the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and the Dutch National Police. Law enforcement services in other countries, including the UK, Germany, and Lithuania, were also involved.
AlphaBay and Hansa had been associated with the trade of illicit goods including drugs, weapons, malware, and stolen data. According to Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union who assisted in the investigation, there were over 250,000 listings for drugs and toxic chemicals advertised on AlphaBay before its takedown.
Rob Wainwright, the Executive Director of Europol, lauded the “outstanding success” of authorities in Europe and the US while appearing alongside the US Attorney General, Acting FBI Director and Deputy Director of the DEA, at a special 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,” he said.
Julian King, EU Commissioner for the Security Union, said: “This latest success demonstrates not just the growing threat posed by increasingly sophisticated criminal enterprises exploiting the largely unregulated space occupied by the internet but also the vital role of international cooperation among law enforcers, the private sector, national authorities and international organisations in making all of us safer from global, borderless menaces.”
Prior to its takedown AlphaBay was the largest criminal marketplace on the Dark Web, utilising a hidden service on the Tor network to effectively mask user identities and server locations. Transactions were paid in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Hansa was the third largest criminal marketplace on the Dark Web, trading similarly high volumes in illicit drugs and other commodities. The two markets were created to facilitate the expansion of a major underground criminal economy, which, according to Europol, “affected the lives of thousands of people around the world and was expressly designed to frustrate the ability of law enforcement to bring offenders to justice.”