The U.S. government has cracked down on two of the biggest markets of the Dark Web — AlphaBay and Hansa — following a “landmark” investigation involving law enforcement from around the world.
The marketplaces were a haven for all the illegal material you could think of, from drugs and jewellery to malware and unlicensed weapons. According to the Department of Justice, people who bought the drugs from the Dark Web ended up dead or in the hospitals.
Both AlphaBay and Hansa were designed to be like eBay of the Dark Web. Hacked information, malware, Trojans, hacking software and services, cocaine, and weed were common products on sale. AlphaBay alone had more than 30,000 merchants selling about 200,000 illegal items.
Jeff Sessions, the U.S. attorney general, warned criminals using the Dark Web to trade in illegal goods that they “cannot hide”:
“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history. The dark net is not a place to hide. We will find you.
“We know of several Americans who were killed by drugs on AlphaBay. One victim was just 18 years old when in February she overdosed on a powerful synthetic opioid which she had bought on AlphaBay.”
The investigation was headed by the FBI, US Drug Enforcement Agency and the Dutch police, with assistance from the UK, France, Canada, Thailand and Lithuania. According to Rob Wainwright, the executive director of Europol, law enforcement officials purposefully left Hansa up, even after they shut AlphaBay down:
“The ploy worked. They flocked to Hansa in their droves. We reported eight times increase in the number of new users on Hansa immediately following the takedown of AlphaBay. The usernames and passwords of thousands of buyers and sellers of illicit commodities have been identified and are subject to more follow-up investigation by Europol and our partner agencies.”
AlphaBay went dark following the arrest of 26-year-old Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian man suspected of running AlphaBay. Cazes was due to meet prosecutors pushing to extradite him to the United States just an hour before he was found dead in a Bangkok jail cell. The Dutch police seized control of Hansa in June and closed it this month.
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