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AlphaBay, world's largest Dark Web market, officially shut down by DOJ

21 July 2017

Instead of browsing categories like clothes or household goods like they would on a traditional shopping site, however, AlphaBay users could scroll through items in categories like "fraud, drugs and chemicals, counterfeit items, weapons" and others, according to the indictment.

According to Europol, AlphaBay was the largest criminal marketplace on the darknet, with more than 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors. Indeed, police in the Netherlands were able to secretly take control of Hansa and then track what its users were doing.

The full month that Dutch police spent monitoring the activity on Hansa meant that worldwide police agencies had some 10,000 addresses for Hansa buyers outside of Holland.

The move is the biggest worldwide strike against online marketplaces that deal in illegal goods - Alphabay was the largest in the world and Hansa Market the third-largest. The site saw an eight-fold increase in new members, indeed.

An worldwide police investigation into the trade of illicit items on the dark web has culminated in two of the biggest dark web marketplaces - AlphaBay and Hansa - being shut down. Now Dream Market will no doubt take more refugees from Hansa, to become the dark web's reigning bazaar of the moment. "Some 10 000 foreign addresses of Hansa market buyers were passed on to Europol", Europol said in a statement.

A Canadian living in Thailand, he was arrested on July 5, 2017, and the site was pushed offline. Police also reported seizing four Lamborghinis and three houses worth almost $12 million.

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.

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Wainwright said the investigation had resulted in the identification of numerous organized crime figures and that intelligence leads have been distributed to law enforcement in 37 countries around the world. "We're talking about multiple servers in different countries, hundreds of millions of dollars in cryptocurrency and a darknet drug trade that spanned the globe".

The volume of illegal business has been staggering.

According to Europol, the site has processed more than $1 billion in transactions since its creation in 2014.

Both markets are accessible via the Tor browser, used to access the dark web. The influx was so large, in fact, that Hansa put up a notice just last week that it was no longer accepting new registrations, a mysterious development given it Dutch police controlled it at the time.

Europol said the coordinated law enforcement action in Europe and the United States makes it "one of the most sophisticated takedown operations ever seen in the fight against criminal activities online". 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.

The operation was similar to a controversial case in the USA where authorities seized a child porn darknet site and continued to run it for two weeks at an increased capacity to ensnare more users.

AlphaBay, world's largest Dark Web market, officially shut down by DOJ