The world’s largest illegal dark web marketplace has been taken offline in an international police operation involving Europol, the UK’s National Crime Agency, and officials from the US. The marketplace, known as DarkMarket, had almost 500,000 users, more than 2,400 sellers and had facilitated over 320,000 transactions.
Altogether, DarkMarket users have been involved in cryptocurrency transfers, usually in bitcoin or monero, worth more than $170 million at current exchange rates. The types of goods being sold included drugs, counterfeit money, stolen credit card details, and malware.
The investigation that led to the closure of DarkMarket escalated last weekend after the Criminal Investigation Department in Oldenburg, Germany, arrested an Australian citizen believed to be the operator of the dark web marketplace. Investigators were subsequently able to locate the physical location of the servers running the operation and shut them down.
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Closed for now
Although DarkMarket may no longer be operating, the investigation into illicit dark web transactions continues. More than 20 servers seized in Moldova and Ukraine in connection to the DarkMarket case will provide prosecutors with plenty more evidence to pursue criminal cases against other black market operators.
Europol’s involvement in the DarkMarket investigation included the provision of specialist operational support and advanced analytics that aided German authorities in tracking down the alleged marketplace operator. The organization also helped with cross-border collaboration and information exchange.
Although authorities are becoming more effective at closing illegal dark web outlets, the battle is never truly won. Following the closure of DarkMarket, it is likely that previous buyers and sellers will simply move on to another illegal marketplace.
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