US Announces Largest 'Takedown' of Dark Web Market in History - Attorney General

Justice Department announces takedown of AlphaBay, the largest dark web market
Dark web Hansa Market shut down after being run for a month by law enforcement

21 July, 2017

The suspected creator and administrator of the AlphaBay marketplace was identified because he had left a personal email address connected to AlphaBay, which users could see in the header metadata of emails sent from the site. "Since the undercover operation to take over Hansa market by the Dutch police, usernames and passwords of thousands of buyers and sellers of illicit commodities have been identified and are the subject of follow-up investigations by Europol and our partner agencies".

The investigations were a global affair that resulted in the 5 July arrest of an alleged adminstrator of AlphaBay, Canadian Alexandre Cazes, who was arested in Thailand.

Law enforcement authorities in the U.S. and overseas also seized millions of dollars worth of Bitcoin and other assets allegedly belonging to Cazes, including four Lamborghini cars and three properties. "Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a challenge from criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity by going dark".

This allowed Dutch police to monitor the activity of users without their knowledge.

AlphaBay Shutdown Drove Users to Hansa, Where Police Were Already in ControlMathew J. Schwartz (euroinfosec) • July 20, 2017 Takedown notices displayed on the Hansa and AlphaBay darknet marketplace homepages. In comparison, Silk Road - one of the most popular dark web markets - had only 14,000 listings when it was shut down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. "We will find and prosecute drug traffickers who set up shop there".

The website allegedly trafficked in illegal drugs, stolen documents, counterfeit goods and "other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world", according to the Justice Department.

Prior to its takedown, AlphaBay reached over 200 000 users and 40 000 vendors.

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During the press conference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein echoed these sentiments and warned prospective dark net customers and traders that Tor would not necessarily shield their identities. He was awaiting extradition to the USA when, on July 12, he was found hanged in his jail cell, reported the Bangkok Post.

The agency said it believed the bust would lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe.

The way that the police operation was rolled out appeared created to give police as many new leads as possible.

On Thursday officials from multiple countries revealed their role in the strike, and permanently shut down Hansa Market. While the United States is working with worldwide authorities to freeze the assets of AlphaBay, the Justice Department is also specifically interested in Cazes' and his wife's personal assets amassed through illegal AlphaBay activities.

But don't expect even this law enforcement victory to permanently damage the dark web's black market business. The FBI didn't respond to WIRED's request for more information, and Europol declined to comment beyond its press statement. "Some 10 000 foreign addresses of Hansa market buyers were passed on to Europol".

Darknet drug websites have thrived following the appearance - and subsequent takedown - of illegal goods bazaar Silk Road.

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