Markets

How the Biggest Online Black Market, AlphaBay, Was Shut Down

How the Biggest Online Black Market, AlphaBay, Was Shut Down

Department of Justice officials announced Thursday in Washington, DC that they had shut down notorious online Dark Web marketplace AlphaBay in conjunction with law enforcement across several countries.Deputy Attorney General Rob Rosenstein said that Dutch authorities also shut down Hansa Market, another Tor-hidden underground drug market.

Alphabay sold drugs to more than 40,000 anonymous dealers who had more than 200,000 customers, authorities said.

The U.S. Department of Justice said it has succeeded along with worldwide law enforcement agencies in taking down the AlphaBay dark web site and touted the effort as a sign of global cooperation.

The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been associated with the trade of illicit items such as drugs, weapons, malware and stolen data. "Subsequent enquiries located the Hansa market infrastructure in the Netherlands, with follow-up investigations by the Dutch police leading to the arrest of its two administrators in Germany and the seizure of servers in the Netherlands, Germany and Lithuania".

The founder of Alpha-Bay, Alexandre Cazes, reportedly committed suicide while in custody in Thailand after being arrested on behalf of the United States.

The Cazes indictments lists 11 transactions in which undercover agents purchased marijuana, heroin, fentanyl, methamphetamine, fake driver licenses, and an ATM skimming machine from vendors on AlphaBay.

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Andrew McCabe, acting director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hailed the worldwide law enforcement co-operation that led to the takedown of the two marketplaces.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said AlphaBay was "10 times the size of Silk Road", one of the original dark web markets to gain public attention. In addition to illegal drugs, the online marketplace also offered stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms and toxic chemicals.

According to Europol's "conservative estimation", around £1 billion (£770 million) worth of transactions have been process through the marketplace since its creation in 2014, all paid in crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin.

AlphaWeb operated much like any legitimate e-commerce site, including having a public relations manager, security administrator and "scam watchers", according to court documents.

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. Cazes was found dead last week in his cell and apparently took his own life. "This is the moment to show the world that you can't trust dark markets anymore, because you never know who is the admin", he said. Thai police seized millions of dollars of assets and arrested the young man on July 5.

"The dark web is growing into a haven of rampant criminality", warned Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship.


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