US Shuts Down Huge Online Dark Web Market, AlphaBay

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On Thursday, Europol and the US Department of Justice jointly announced the fruits of a 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.

"Most of this activity was in illegal drugs, pouring fuel on the fire of the national drug epidemic", Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a press conference in Washington on Thursday.

There were as many as 250,000 listings for the sale of illegal drugs and chemicals on AlphaBay alone according to Europol.

US authorities said they worked with law enforcement in several other countries - including Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, the United Kingdom and France - to bring down AlphaBay.

Like all cryptomarkets reachable on the Tor browser, AlphaBay used PGP encryption to protect messages between users, and a process called "tumbling" to disguise ownership of various cryptocurrencies.

"Since the undercover operation to take over Hansa Market by the Dutch police, usernames and passwords of thousands of buyers and sellers of illicit commodities have been identified and are the subject of follow-up investigations by Europol and our partner agencies", Pattison said.

On the now defunct AlphaBay, for instance, researchers found 414 arms-related advertisements among the website's almost 37,000 listings during a one-week span last September, making it the most popular dark web marketplace in terms of gun ads before it abruptly shuttered July 4. Transactions were conducted using digital currency, and the marketplace took a cut of the proceeds when the deals were completed. "You can not hide. We will find you". "What this meant was that we could disrupt and then sweep up all those new users." said Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, who was on hand for the press conference.

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The founder of Alpha-Bay, Alexandre Cazes, reportedly committed suicide while in custody in Thailand after being arrested on behalf of the United States. Cazes was arrested in Thailand on July 5, a day after the website was taken down at the request of the US.

On average, 1,000 orders per day were placed in response to nearly 40,000 advertisement sand more than 50,000 transactions have been monitored since the authorities took control of the website.

"This is an outstanding success by authorities in Europe and the U.S. 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".

Sessions cautioned criminals from thinking that they could evade prosecution by using the dark web: "You cannot hide", he said, "We will find you".

"The so-called anonymity of the dark web is illusory", said Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the DEA.

The way that the police operation was rolled out appeared created to give police as many new leads as possible.

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