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Investigators shut down major darknet marketplace in Germany

(Image credit: Archive)

German authorities announced that they took down what they believe to be the biggest illegal marketplace on the darknet on Tuesday, January 12.

DarkMarket, which is the name of the site, was home to all sorts of illegal activity and drugs, forged money, stolen or forged credit cards, anonymous SIM cards and malware were some of the wares on offer on the site. It was shut down on Monday and its suspected operator has also been taken into custody.

Approximately 500 000 users and 2400 vendors made use of DarkMarket, according to prosecutors, and processed more than 320 000 transactions – more than $170-million (about R2.5-billion) in cryptocurrency changed hands via the platform.

The suspected operator, a 34-year-old Australian man was apprehended near the German-Danish border, according to AP. The investigation was an international operation that took months to complete and German authorities were assisted by their counterparts from the United States, Australia, Denmark, Ukraine and Moldova.

The suspect has kept mum and not shared any information with the investigators, according to prosecutors. A judge ordered that he be held in custody pending possible formal charges.

The operation to take down DarkMarket was sparked by a previous investigation into a data processing centre that was installed in a former NATO bunker situated in the southwest of Germany, which hosted several sites that facilitated illegal activities and also hosted DarkMarket at one point.

As you know, the darknet, or dark web, is the part of the internet that is only accessible with special software or authorisations to access. 

The darknet has a bad reputation because of the long list of sordid activity that takes place on it but it isn't illegal to use, provided your activities aren't illegal. That being said, cybercrime units take a keen interest in people who use the darknet for whatever reason.