On Thursday, American and European authorities announced they had taken down AlphaBay and Hansa, two of the leading dark net markets currently operating. Officials involved in the investigation said they had also arrested administrators, seized, and frozen assets worth millions.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions emphasized the importance of the operation by saying dark net vendors using these markets were largely responsible for deaths due to synthetic drugs sold through these portals.
The joint efforts that shut down AlphaBay resulted in thousands of users unknowingly migrating to Hansa as a result, another dark net marketplace that was under Dutch police control for over a month.
No dark net market is too big to fail
AlphaBay is the largest dark net market to go down in history, hosting over 40,000 sellers and a potential market surpassing 200,000 consumers. In illegal drugs alone, there were over 250,000 listings up in the portal at the time of its shutdown in early July.
Drugs, chemicals, weapons, jewelry, credit card data, personal information, malware, and even criminal jobs on demand were up for sale at AlphaBay regularly. The Department of Justice makes the case that the dark market was one of the largest international synthetic drug suppliers in the world.
Fentanyl and heroin were among the top products sold over at the dark web portal, and Attorney General Sessions said that synthetic opioids bought through the site have killed several teenagers in recent months.
“You cannot hide” and “we will find you” was Sessions’ message to the people who run large-scale schemes such as AlphaBay. Many industry experts suggest the demise of the popular platform will just lead to a new one taking over, but things might not go down that simply this time over.
Dark net buyers are wary and vendors have gone undercover
Europol officials said they took over Hansa Market exactly one month ago on June 20, and that the AlphaBay blackout was a concerted effort with the FBI to lure sellers and buyers right into the compromised marketplace.
U.S., Canadian, and Thai authorities arrested Alexandre Cazes in Bangkok the same day they took down the site. Cazes was allegedly the top administrator of the site, and law enforcement was able to access the backend of the platform and all his digital wallets because he was logged in on his laptop at the time of his arrest.
Police took over his assets in the Pacific country, including four Lamborghini cars and three estates to his name. His bank accounts on three countries were also frozen, and he killed himself in his jail cell roughly a week after being detained.
The news spread fast and people started to speculate, leading them to Hansa Market as a backup platform to continue doing illegal business. What they did not know was that Dutch police had stung the site and was tracking users and vendors with data collected from the AlphaBay takeover.
Upon learning the news of the double takedown, codenamed Operation Bayonet by intelligence agencies, the dark net community has started to lay low because authorities might have their credentials.
Specialists believe this will have big consequences in dark commerce since vendors typically build their reputation online and use the same name across different sites. The massive sweep of AlphaBay and Hansa might have some people start from scratch or desist from illegal activities altogether.
Source: Department of Justice