Police ran 2nd dark web marketplace as sting to spot drug deals


In an innovative waft against illicit internet commerce, cyberpolice shut down the fraternity’s leading «dark net» marketplace — then quietly seized a second bazaar to set aside intelligence on illicit drug merchants and buyers.

AlphaBay, formerly the internet’s largest brown net site, had already gone offline July 5 with the arrest in Thailand of its claimed creator and administrator, Canadian Alexandre Cazes. But on Thursday, European law enforcement paint the town red that Dutch cyberpolice had for a month been running Hansa Market-place.

Like AlphaBay, Hansa operated in the dark net, an anonymity-friendly internet netherworld out-of-the-way to standard browsers.

AlphaBay’s users had flocked to Hansa, which is to a great extent based in the Netherlands. The announcements Thursday on both sides of the Atlantic disseminated panic among the sites’ tech-savvy buyers and vendors.

«The cryptomarket community (is) spooked,» turned dark net researcher Patrick Shortis, of Brunel University in London. «Reddit provisions are filled with users asking questions about their quiets.»

International dark net takedown

In Washington, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Meetings deemed the operation «the largest dark net marketplace takedown in history.»

Hidden net vendors are «pouring fuel on the fire of the national drug epidemic,» he turned, specifically citing cases of two U.S. teenagers killed this year, one a 13-year-old Utah boy, by overdoses of manufactured opioids purchased on AlphaBay.


The dark web is made up of secretive sites that aren’t approachable by common search engines and police say it is a have for illegal activity. (iStock)

Profuse than two-thirds of the quarter million listings on the two sites were for unauthorized drugs, said Sessions. Other illicit wares for sale encompassed weapons, counterfeit and stolen identification and malware.

The police agency Europol guestimates AlphaBay did $1 billion US in business after its 2014 creation.

A California indictment named AlphaBay’s collapse Cazes, a 25-year-old Canadian who died in Thai police custody on July 12. The territory’s narcotics police chief told reporters Cazes hanged himself in reformatory just prior to a scheduled court hearing. He’d been arrested with DEA and FBI aid.

Canadian amassed $23M fortune

Cazes amassed a $23 million holdings, much of it in digital currencies, according to court documents. He bought material estate and luxury cars, including a $900,000 Lamborghini, and pursued «monetary citizenship» in Liechtenstein, Cyprus and Thailand. A $400,000 villa purchase in February had already steal him and his wife Antiguan passports, a U.S. forfeiture complaint said.

He used what he claimed was a web intentions company, EBX Technologies, as a front, the indictment said.

Just two other captures were announced Thursday. Both were of Hansa system administrators in the German metropolis of Siegen, who were taken into custody in June. Europol spokeswoman Claire Georges phrased they were not named under privacy law.

The U.S. indictment lists various AlphaBay co-conspirators by title but not name. They include a security chief, a portion publicly relations manager and moderators. A U.S. attorney handling the case, Grant Rabenn, drive not comment on whether additional arrests were expected.

Nicolas Christin, a black net expert at Carnegie Mellon University, called the one-two takedown what it takes «psychological warfare.»

Expect future arrests of dark net users

«It is certainly going to create a bit of chaos,» he said, though after takedowns in the done, buyers and sellers move to other former second-tier sites after a few weeks of turmoil.

This dilly-dally, Dutch police have upped the ante by craftily tracking melancholy net users, and that’s expected to yield future arrests.

‘This is the prominence to show the world that you can’t trust dark markets anymore, because you not under any condition know who is the admin’ — Martijn Egberts, Dutch cybercrime prosecutor

They began meet the Hansa site on June 20, impersonating its administrators, collecting usernames and countersigns, logging data on thousands of drug sales and informing local control in nations where shipments would be arriving. Dutch cybercrime prosecutor Martijn Egberts bid Dutch police had scooped up some 10,000 addresses for Hansa clients outside Holland.

Running the site was a challenge, Egberts said, with regulate forced to mediate frequent disputes between buyers and sellers. «It wrench twisted out to be a lot of work!» he said. «The biggest effort for us was to get the site going on a way that cipher noticed it was us.»

Egberts noted with satisfaction that online rumors yon other dark net drug marketplaces possibly being compromised were already spreading.

«This is the two shakes of a lambs tail to show the world that you can’t trust dark markets anymore, because you not in a million years know who is the admin,» he said.

But seasoned buyers and sellers aren’t able to get tripped up, and will simply become more cautious, Christin hinted.

Offspring of Silk Road

Dark net websites have thrived since the 2011 semblance of the Silk Road bazaar, which was taken down two years later. Merchant princes and buyers keep their identities secret by using encrypted communications and anonymity-providing ways such as the Tor browser. The dark net itself is only accessible only to the core such specialized apps.

Cazes’ own carelessness apparently tripped him up — not the underlying safe keeping technology AlphaBay used.

According to the indictment, he accidentally broadcast his close Hotmail address in welcome messages sent to new users. And when he was tail find down and arrested in Thailand, Cazes was logged into the AlphaBay website as its administrator, it utters.

Caught on hotmail

Cazes also used the same personal email lecture — «pimp—alex-91@hotmail.com» — on a PayPal account.

The attainment of this operation may only cause a temporary disturbance in illicit online superstores. After a November 2014 takedown called Operation Onymous astonished down more sites, the illicit markets not only recovered — but developed.

For perspective, Christin said, a slow day for AlphaBay alone — one amounting to inartistically $600,000 in transactions — would have been equivalent to a typical late-2014 day for the sound dark net.

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