Dark net markets AlphaBay and Hansa shut after huge global police sting

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Technology explained What is the dark web
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Technology explained What is the dark web
Author

21 July, 2017

The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been connected to the trade of illicit products such as weapons, drugs and stolen data.

During the press conference, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions focused on the illegal drugs that were exchanged on AlphaBay, noting the recent opioid crisis in the United States. The Dutch police and Europol first gained control of Hansa on June 20, but didn't immediately shut it down.

The site AlphaBay went dark in early July after an alleged administrator of the site, 26-year-old Canadian Alexandre Cazes, was arrested in Thailand. Thai police seized millions of dollars of assets and arrested the young man on July 5.

The Justice Department said Thursday the internet's largest "dark market" has been shut down. But on Thursday, European law enforcement revealed that a second darknet site known as Hansa had also been in police hands for the past month, an announcement deliberately created to sow panic among tech-savvy dealers and buyers.

The takedown follows the shutdown of the original Silk Road marketplace in 2013, and its 2015 successor.

In taking down AlphaBay, federal authorities sought to leverage that dynamic to increase the impact of their operation taking down Hamsa, the world's third-largest dark web market.

"This case, pursued by dedicated agents and prosecutors, says you are not safe, you can not hide".

AlphaBay launched in December 2014 and boasted more than 200,000 members 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.

On Thursday officials from multiple countries revealed their role in the strike, and permanently shut down Hansa Market.

The takedown of AlphaBay coincided with efforts by Dutch law enforcement to dismantle another prominent dark web market called Hansa Market, which was also used to sell illegal drugs, malware, and counterfeit ID documents. He was followed by Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright, who claimed that this takedown was "a taste of what is to come in the future". Cazes was found dead last week in his cell and apparently took his own life. "For more information about this operation, please consult our hidden service at http://politiepcvh42eav.onion", Dutch authorities wrote on the seized Hansa website.

The law enforcement operation was aimed at gathering as many new leads as possible and maximizing confusion within the darknet drug-buying community, according to Dutch cybercrime prosecutor Martijn Egberts.

He said: "We have learned a lot over the years about taking down global criminal syndicates, and that same experience applies to organizations that are facilitated on the dark net".

The online activity has spawned further investigations in the real world, as police forces track down the sources of the drugs and other illegal goods that were being sold.

This story will be updated throughout the day.


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