Global Law Enforcement Action Shuts Down AlphaBay & Hansa Dark Web Markets

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Two major law enforcement operations, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police, with the support of Europol, have taken down of two of the largest criminal Dark Web markets, AlphaBay and Hansa.

Confirmed in a press conference hosted by the Unites Stated Department of Justice in Washington today, the coordinated law enforcement action ranks as one of the most sophisticated takedown operations ever seen in the fight against criminal activities online, shutting down an infrastructure of an underground criminal economy responsible for the trading of over 350 000 illicit commodities including drugs, firearms and cybercrime malware.

“This is an outstanding success by authorities in Europe and the US,” Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol today, said today.

"The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today after a highly sophisticated joint action in multiple countries. 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. There are more of these operations to come,” he added.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, said: "The Dark Web is growing into a haven of rampant criminality. This is a threat to our societies and our economies that we can only face together, on a global scale.

“The take-down of the two largest criminal dark web markets in the world by European and American law enforcement authorities shows the important and necessary result of international cooperation to fight this criminality. I congratulate the American and Dutch authorities for their successful work, as well as Europol for centrally supporting this endeavor. Our fight against criminal activities online and offline will continue and intensify.”

Following the Silk Road takedown in 2013, Alpha Bay was the largest criminal marketplace on the dark web, utilizing Tor services to effectively mask user identities and server locations. It had over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors and included 250,000 listings, including over 100,000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and fraudulent services.

However Alpha Bay disappeared at the start of July, and associated Bitcoin accounts were subject to huge withdrawals of funds, leading some to believe that the owners had committed an "exit scam".

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said: “Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity using the dark net. The dark net is not a place to hide. The Department will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers wherever they are.

“We will use every tool we have to stop criminals from exploiting vulnerable people and sending so many Americans to an early grave. I believe that because of this operation, the American people are safer – safer from the threat of identity fraud and malware, and safer from deadly drugs.”

The takedown was enabled by a takedown of the Hansa market by Dutch law enforcement a month ago, and over the past month the users and administrators of Hansa migrated to Alpha Bay while Dutch police watched.

An FBI and DEA-led operation ‘Bayonet’ was able to identify the creator and administrator of Alpha Bay as a Canadian citizen living a luxurious life in Thailand. He was arrested on 5 July 2017 in Thailand and millions of dollars worth of crypto-currencies were frozen and seized. Servers were also seized in Canada and the Netherlands.

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