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  1. 5-HT2A
    A new global police operation against dark web marketplace users identified thousands of individuals last month, signaling unprecedented international cooperation between dozens of major law enforcement agencies across three continents. The operation was designed to spotlight law enforcement’s long arm extending into the digital underground.

    “This is to send a message,” an FBI spokesperson told CyberScoop.

    At the same time, new alternatives to Bitcoin are launching and quickly gaining steam by promising untraceable transactions that can open up both a new tier of financial privacy and novel challenges for law enforcement and intelligence agencies across borders. One glance at the major dark web markets shows that bitcoin remains king. But ascendant and powerful cryptographic technology foreshadows an imminent new chapter to this fight.

    Beginning late last month, a global law enforcement operation dubbed Operation Hyperion identified thousands of dark web market users across three continents. In the U.S., the FBI announced it made contact with over 150 U.S. residents suspected of buying illegal items on dark web markets. In New Zealand, over 160 people were identified and contacted by police “with more police visits to come,” according to the country’s authorities. Sweden claimed 3,000 identifications.

    Hyperion is an ongoing global operation, according to the FBI, with more information to come.

    Police in The Netherlands announced impending criminal prosecutions and even launched a slick website announcing police attention was focused on the markets. The website listed active, identified, and arrested individuals.

    The new sweep of international identifications, arrests, and the creation of a flashy website on the dark web was meant to grab attention and make headlines this week. The FBI in particular hoped to echo and amplify the message sent by Director James Comey in 2015 when he told Congress that criminals who use Tor to hide from the FBI are “kidding themselves.”

    Instead, repeated American election controversies involving the FBI stole the spotlight, so that almost nothing else out of the bureau has received any media attention in recent days. That’s how a press-savvy international police operation involving hundreds of investigations went largely unnoticed when it was first made public earlier this week.

    Three Operation Hyperion arrests were specifically announced this week. On man was arrested on Oct. 10 for allegedly selling illegal goods on dark web markets. Two more men were arrested during the week, accused of money laundering to aid illegal transactions on dark web markets. Canada announced at least one arrest for narcotics distribution.

    However, it remains almost completely unclear how many of the thousands of previously anonymous and now apparently identified individuals will face criminal charges.

    This appears to be the biggest ever police operation directed at dark web market customers. The usual target of such major operations are the vendors and market owners who sit throned atop the digital underground.

    It’s not clear yet exactly how many arrests took place internationally as a result of this operation nor is the full scope of the operation known. The FBI identified numerous customers who then confessed to ordering illegal substances such as heroin, cocaine, morphine and ketamine on dark net marketplaces.

    But without specifics, it’s worth treating vague claims of a vast operation with at least some skepticism. Law enforcement has a history of eye catching theatrics and exaggerating successes in dark net operations.

    There’s no information regarding exactly how law enforcement identified targets. In the past, police have employed a wide range of tactics including mail interception, hacking and tracking bitcoin transactions. It’s that last investigative method that’s fueling a privacy arms race.

    Bitcoin, the currency du jour of the dark web, is transparent by design so that every transaction shows up on the blockchain, a decentralized public ledger. That can be tricky for any kind of individual or business. For an illegal drug operation, the blockchain is even more treacherous.

    For the last several years, “tumblers” and “mixers” have been employed to launder currency and obfuscate bitcoin transactions. The goal is to make it more difficult for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to trace coins and thereby identify users and transactions.

    The tumblers often don’t work as well as advertised, according to Kathryn Haun, Assistant Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in San Francisco. The services “were not that great, did not tumble or mix as well as advertised,” she said in a recent Forbes interview, and, “some of the time” allowed agents to “unscramble” transactions.

    Monero, a two-year-old privacy-focused currency with automatic mixing features, boasts adoption by AlphaBay, the largest dark web market currently in existence, and a $63 million market cap. Monero’s price and trade volume spiked when AlphaBay adopted it in August but both metrics have precipitously declined since then.

    While Monero has the headstart in actual adoption, another rival cryptocurrency is grabbing even more attention lately. Zcash, a currency backed by a parade of high-profile scientists, engineers, and investors touted a major technical leap forward last week. Known as the zero-knowledge proof, the currency allows for the sender, receiver and details of all transactions to remain secret while maintaining trustworthiness for everyone in the network.

    “If you want private transactions, it’s so much better than any better bitcoin offering,” former Bitcoin Foundation head and security researcher Peter Vessenes told CyberScoop. “You want real cryptographic privacy, Zcash is just really excellent. Monero had slight innovations on bitcoin. Zcash is really a giant leap forward.”

    by Patrick O'Neill

    November 3, 2016



  1. 5-HT2A
    New Zealand Police and Customs have cracked down on almost 300 people involved in buying drugs through the dark web.

    Law enforcement agencies around the world took part in Operation Hyperion, a co-ordinated effort to target traders of illegal drugs over the internet.

    From October 22 to 28, agencies focused on packages coming through mail centres, and then tracked these back to buyers and sellers.

    Among the illegal drugs found were small amounts of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, alpha PVP, LSD, ecstasy and cannabis seeds.

    National high tech crime group manager Kelly Knight said the local operation had resulted in six arrests and 66 formal warnings, and had identified almost 300 people involved in the illegal drug trade.

    "The clear message for people who think they can use the internet to buy illegal drugs and get away with it is that they can't,'' she said.

    "These sites are not top secret. Police can view them, and together with Customs we can track packages down to addresses and individuals.''

    One person faces 13 charges for importing ecstasy, LSD and cannabis.

    Police have also charged a 22-year-old man in connection with the creation of site VicUnderworld, which police said was no longer operating.

    In addition to New Zealand Police and Customs, Operation Hyperion involved Europol, Australian Federal Police, United States Immigration, Customs and Homeland Security, the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies.

    The dark web is an online black market that requires specific software, configurations or authorisation to access.

    In April, an Illicit Drug Monitoring System study showed that encrypted websites were becoming increasingly popular among New Zealanders who were seeking to buy and sell drugs.

    November 2, 2016



    Dutch Police created a dark net website of their own on Monday, in an attempt to expose the names of current vendors and buyers. If its intention is to scare that community — just by revealing that the police are keeping an eye on them — it might be working.

    The site, which is accessible by regular browsers and through Tor, is written in English. “The Police and the Judicial Authorities of the Netherlands are not only active in the real world, but also in all corners of the internet,” the site reads. “Here we trace people who are active at Dark Markets and who offer illicit goods or services there. Are you one of them? Then you have our attention.” This is followed by a list of usernames police believe to be active in dark net drug markets. According to the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s office, the dark net site is part of Operation Hyperion, an international operation aimed at internet criminals on the deep web.

    “Operation Hyperion resulted in a number of law enforcement leads on cases related to the buying and selling of illicit drugs and other goods on the dark net,” the website of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement wrote. “This operation will also help law enforcement agencies continue to combat the trafficking of illicit goods and services on the dark net through the identification of new smuggling networks and trends.”

    What the Dutch authorities’ attention means varies from person to person. On the FAQ page, the Netherlands police write that if one’s username is list on the site, it’s possible that an investigation into their activities maybe initiated, but only if larger amounts of drugs are involved. Those buying smaller, recreational amounts of substances have nothing to fear. As far as how they I’ve identified people, they said: “The Dutch police and judicial authorities actively investigate criminal offenses, also at Dark Markets. We don’t make statements about how we do that.” At the present, Dutch authorities claim they have identified “hundreds” of users.

    It’s no great feat to obtain a list of usernames from a dark net drug market. Once an individual has accessed the market, the sellers’ usernames are readily available beside their wares, along with reviews of past transactions. On Alphabay, one of the largest dark net markets, there also exists a forum where buyers and sellers can discuss drug quality, upcoming sales, and generally converse. But because Tor, by design, obscures a user’s IP address, and therefore location, connecting a dark net username with a legal name requires a good deal more work, if it is possible at all. There have been cases, however, in which law enforcement have cracked Tor’s anonymity and the identities of dark net users have been discovered. The Tor Project has said that the vulnerability exploited in these cases has since been patched.

    On the subreddit r/DarkNetMarkets, some users have expressed worry over the launching of the site. “Quite an intimidating site IMO,” one user wrote. “If I seen [sic] my market username there I’d shit myself.” However, others have dismissed the Dutch police’s actions as “basic scare tactics.”

    Meanwhile, police in Sweden have also identified about 3,000 usernames on the dark net. “We are now in the initial stage of an extensive investigation,” Linda Staaf, head of the intelligence division at the Swedish police department of national operations, said. “We do not yet know how many of these suspicious transfers that will be prosecuted but it is quite clear that one should not believe that one can be anonymous and feel confident about buying drugs via dark net.”

    by Ethan Harfenist and Mor Turgeman

    November 1, 2016

    Source: http://www.vocativ.com/372640/dutch-police-open-dark-net-site-to-spook-vendors-and-buyers/
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