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  1. 5-HT2A
    U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference announcing the takedown of the dark web marketplace AlphaBay, at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, on July 20, 2017.

    WHEN ALPHABAY, THE world’s largest dark web bazaar, went offline two weeks ago, it threw the darknet into chaos as its buyers and sellers scrambled to find new venues. What those dark web users didn't—and couldn't—know: That chaos was planned. Dutch authorities had already seized Hansa, another another major dark web market, the previous month. For weeks, they operated it as usual, quietly logging the user names, passwords, and activities of its visitors–including a massive influx of Alphabay refugees.

    On Thursday, Europol and the US Department of Justice jointly announced the fruits of the largest-ever sting operation against the dark web's black markets, including the seizure of AlphaBay, a market Europol estimates generated more than a billion dollars in sales of drugs, stolen data, and other illegal goods over its three years online. While Alpabay’s closure had previously been reported as an FBI operation, the agency has now confirmed that takedown, while Europol also revealed details of its tightly coordinated Hansa takeover.

    With Hansa also shuttered as of Thursday, the dark web looks substantially diminished from just a few short weeks ago—and its denizens shaken by law enforcement's deep intrusion into their underground economy.

    "This is likely one of the most important criminal cases of the year," attorney general Jeff Sessions said in a press conference Thursday morning. "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 by ‘going dark.’ This case, pursued by dedicated agents and prosecutors, says you are not safe. You cannot hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network. And we will prosecute you."

    The Sting

    So far, neither Europol nor the Department of Justice has named any of the administrators, sellers, or customers from either Hansa or AlphaBay that they plan to indict. The FBI and DEA had sought the extradition from Thailand of one AlphaBay administrator, Canadian Alexandre Cazes after identifying him in an operation they called Bayonet. But Cazes was found hanged in a Bangkok jail cell last week in an apparent suicide.

    Still, expect plenty of prosecutions to emerge from the double-takedown of Hansa and AlphaBay, given the amount of information Dutch police could have swept up in the period after Alphabay's closure.

    "They flocked to Hansa in their droves," said Interpol director Rob Wainwright. "We recorded an eight-times increase in the number of new users on Hansa immediately following the takedown of Alphabay." 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 that Dutch police controlled it at the time.

    That surveillance means that law enforcement likely now has identifying details on an untold number of dark web sellers—and particularly buyers. Europol claims that it gathered 10,000 postal addresses of Hansa customers, and tens of thousands of their messages, from the operation, at least some of which were likely AlphaBay customers who had migrated to the site in recent weeks. Though customers on dark web sites are advised to encrypt their addresses so that only the seller of the purchased contraband can read it, many don't, creating a short trail of breadcrumbs to their homes for law enforcement when they seize the sites' servers.

    In a strange and dramatic move, the Dutch national police have created a dark web site themselves that lists darknet vendors by pseudonym, including those under investigation, those who are "identified," and 15 who have already been arrested in current and past investigations. "We trace people who are active at Dark Markets and offer illicit goods or services," the site reads. "Are you one of them? Then you have our attention."


    It's still unclear how global law enforcement penetrated Hansa, given that it hid the location of their servers, administrators, and users with anonymity software like Tor and I2P. The FBI didn't respond to WIRED's request for more information, and Europol declined to comment beyond its press statement. But an indictment against AlphaBay's Cazes filed Wednesday includes the detail that in 2014, Cazes's personal email, "Pimp_alex_91@hotmail.com" was inexplicably included in welcome message to new users. That led them to his Paypal account and a front company, EBX Technologies. On July 5, Thai police along with FBI and DEA agents searched Cazes' home in Bangkok and found his laptop unencrypted and logged into the AlphaBay site. (They also found a document on the laptop tracking Cazes' net worth, which it estimated at $23 million.)
    An FAQ on the Dutch national police's own dark web site includes the question,"Have you de-anonymized TOR?" The agency's answer: "No. But if we would have, we wouldn't tell you ;)"

    Despite the size of the sites, the takedowns should by no means end the dark web's vibrant trade in drugs, which researchers at Carnegie Mellon estimated in 2015 to cumulatively generate revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars, annually. After AlphaBay's shutdown, many of its users also flocked to another site known as Dream Market, which is likely the second-largest marketplace, ahead of Hansa. Now Dream Market will no doubt take more refugees from Hansa, to become the dark web's reigning bazaar of the moment.

    But fallout of the AlphaBay and Hansa takedowns may eventually be felt there as well. Vendors who flee those sites for Dream Market may still be compromised by law enforcement, and if arrested, could potentially give up the addresses of any new Dream Market's customers, too.
    “We know that removing top criminals from the infrastructure is not a long-term fix. There’s always a new player waiting in the wings, ready to fill those shoes," acting FBI director Andrew McCabe said in Thursday's press conference. "It’s like demolishing a building. Hacking away at individual walls and beams only does so much. But using federal statutes to prosecute these individuals is akin to blowing up the foundation with dynamite...With the weight of this kind of operation, the organization crumbles.”

    Bounce Back

    Dark web users, meanwhile, were rattled by the sting, advising each other to change their passwords as soon as possible, and spreading paranoid warnings of a possible "backdoor" into dark net markets. "Looks like I'll be sober for a while. Not trusting any markets ATM," wrote one user on Reddit's dark web market forum.

    But don't expect even this law enforcement victory to permanently damage the dark web's black market business. After all, takedowns like the seizure of the Silk Road in 2013, and so-called Operation Onymous in 2014, which ended half a dozen top darknet sites, took chunks nearly as large out of the darknet markets infrastructure. Each time business rebounded, as users again went in search of anonymous, online contraband sales. "LE may have won this battle, but they will NEVER win the war on drugs," noted one poster on Reddit's darknet market forum. "For as long as drugs are illegal the DNMs will thrive."

    Original Source

    Written by: Andy Greenberg, Jul 20, 2017, GLOBAL POLICE SPRING A TRAP ON THOUSANDS OF DARK WEB USERS, Wired
    the1and0nly likes this.

Recent User Reviews

  1. the1and0nly
    "Waiting to see what happens next"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Dec 23, 2017
    The dark web will of course rebound, but I am curious to see just how many we're caught up in this before they were caught. I wonder who's going to take over things now, and where that will leave AlphaBay.
  2. LoveEveryone
    "Make All Drugs Legal"
    5/5, 5 out of 5, reviewed Aug 18, 2017
    It is proven beyond further discussion that the war on drugs and the prosecution of all involved in the Drug world is strictly Government (DEA, etc) departments protecting their turf, carrears and building their EVER EXPANDING Organizations. These people grew up "in the system" - they don't question the system, they ARE the system - they believe whatever they were told in the Big Pharma - Lobbyist manipulated US Education System. Anywhere drugs are decriminalized, that country, state, city town or village has a HUGE improvement in all currently NEGATIVE statistics. The people behind keeping drugs illegal DONT WANT YOU LOVING EVERYONE - their would be no or fewer wars, no or less hatred and no need for ever increasing military -- and of course HUGE reduction in BIG Pharma.
  3. Daniel Brads
    "Double edged sword"
    3/5, 3 out of 5, reviewed Jul 30, 2017
    While I'm relieved to hear the darknet isn't impregnable (when it comes to the real sickos who murder & molest) I'm also a bit worried about certain rights/freedoms that may now be somewhat threatened


  1. Cid Lysergic
    Apparent eh? Fuck, I don't blame him. The feds on one doorstep, the op on the other, large quantities of illegal things, and to top it off a poor nations prison. I'd gave considered the same thing.
  2. ladywolf2012
    P.S. The article speculates on how the FBI uncovered the people on the Dark Web, given that they were using "Tor and I2P." Come on, folks, this is the frigging FBI we are talking about here. Just how many computer tricks do we think there are that the Fibbies don't know better than we know them ourselves? If the Fibbies want information, they will get it!
    1. aemetha
      I don't think it's the computer tricks that lets the FBI do that, in terms of computer tricks the FBI is quite an ignorant organisation, look at the cracking the Apple encryption saga. What the FBI does very well though is track financial transactions. If they can find the money they can track that to the dealers very easily. TOR and I2P only protect you if they can't identify your device, once your device is identified a whole bunch of other tricks can be employed that are much, much easier to do. So yeah, they will almost inevitably find you. There's not much value in dealing drugs or other illegal goods if you can't ever spend the profits.
  3. PussnBoots
    So what's the url of the Dutch Police's "naming names" site? I guess there's no "innocent until proven guilty" rule in their progressive world. The main tourist destination in their country is Amsterdam for the same drugs they're saving the rest of us from.

    I wonder if drug sales increased in Amsterdam as a result. Taking down these websites and discouraging their use. What a great way to kill the competition!

    What hippocrites!
  4. Name goes here
    I don't buy the facts they claim led to Alexandre Cazes bust. He managed to run the biggest dnm to date but not enough opsec to hide funds, lock his computer and used his personal email as a greeting? That doesn't seem a little fishy to anyone else?

    I can't wait for drug prohibition to end. Safer, regulated drugs available to adults. No worrying about arrests, getting bad product, gangs, etc. The darknet allows vendor reviews, price competition and better selection. If the govt would allow adults to make adult adult decisions, the darknet wouldn't sell drugs.
      perro-salchicha614 likes this.
    1. FalcoHere
      It does strike me as odd that his personal email was just given out to certain new users and also that his computer was found unlocked and unencrypted...
    2. hookedonhelping
      Sadly I think you won't see such a thing in your lifetime. At least if you're an American. Too much money for the government and privatized prisons to lose.
  5. Addydawn
    Don’t people realize that those sites are monitored by law enforcement? You don’t think the authorities don’t know about the dark web and its sites? What needs to happen is for our enforcement agencies to go after China for its clandestine labs sending fentanyl and synthetic marijuana to Mexican drug cartels for distribution to USA and Canada. That’s where the rat lies. Go after China.
  6. Shane Carlson
    What a cluster fuck. I know of several folks that because of Obama care/socialized medicine they went from getting decent care to not getting squat! Millions of folks that are on medications from there doctors were completely cut off. Cutting off millions of opiated dependent drugs, Benzodiazepines,. To cut folks off of those kinds of medication cold turkey is criminal on a mass scale. Folks die of withdrawal. So yes I've seen plenty of good hard working tax paying folks with no criminal history turn to the DN to obtain the medicine they can't function or work without. And the "Law" see,s fit to go after and imprison good folks for simply trying to get by with there medication. This is all about the Big Pharma industry. They want complete control over everyone and everything. Jeff Sessions is the biggest sack of sorry shit there is. Focused on throwing pot smokers in prison while Other politicians are getting away with murder and global scams that make the Italian mafia look like saints. Sad.
  7. claimranger
    When ever they do something like this it makes the country worse off. By making vicadin etc., so hard to get people went to street drugs like heroin. Much worse and now laced with Fyntenol. I think buying from the web is the safest for everyone including the public. No guns, means no innocent people getting shot. Helps keep people off the street looking for party favors. The government is so fucked up. I could go on and on. They are more corrupt, and more of a criminal organization than the mafia ever was.
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