DOJ announces takedown of Dark Web market AlphaBay

Marcus Newton
July 21, 2017

The website allegedly trafficked in illegal drugs, stolen documents, counterfeit goods and "other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world", according to the Justice Department.

According to Europol, AlphaBay was the largest criminal marketplace on the darknet, with more than 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors.

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. Along with AlphaBay, Dutch authorities also shuttered Hansa, another dark web site.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal goods were sold through AlphaBay, with the website taking a commission of 2 to 4 per cent, according to the government. United States and European investigators collaborated for months on the takedown, which saw AlphaBay and Hansa - together responsible for more than 350,000 "illicit commodities" - first infiltrated and then taken offline.

The website made $1 billion in sales before it was shut down in a joint operation of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Agency, Dutch police and Europol.

The Department of Justice announced Thursday the takedown of the largest online drug marketplace and the indictment of the site's alleged founder who has since taken his life.

The investigation into AlphaBay revealed that numerous vendors sold fentanyl and heroin. "These two cases have been developed together and our joint hit on both of these dark markets is one of the most sophisticated law enforcement operations against cybercrime", Robert Mark Wainwright, head of Europol, added.

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AlphaBay, the largest criminal marketplace on the dark web, and Hansa, the third largest, could have generated more than £1bn in revenue while they were open, according to a "conservative estimate" by police.

Dark web users, meanwhile, were rattled by the sting, advising each other to change their passwords as soon as possible, and spreading paranoid warnings of a possible "backdoor" into dark net markets. During this time, they shut down AlphaBay to push its users to Hansa, who happily flocked to the second biggest dark net market. Sites such as AlphaBay, Sessions said, are "pouring fuel on the fire of the national drug epidemic".

AlphaBay's suspected founder, Alexandre Caze, was arrested earlier this month in Thailand at the request of US officials.

Marketplaces on the dark web are not accessible through a typical web browser.

Two of the world's most notorious "darknet" marketplaces have been knocked out in a one-two punch that officials say yielded a trove of new intelligence about criminal merchants that operate out of the hidden corners of the internet.

Police in Thailand also seized millions of dollars in assets, three properties and four Lamborghini cars.

That surveillance means that law enforcement likely now has identifying details on an untold number of dark web sellers-and particularly buyers.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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