What you need to know about the Dark Web

Justice Department announces takedown of AlphaBay, the largest dark web market

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.

Today, in coordinated press releases, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Europol announced the takedown of two Dark Web marketplaces - AlphaBay and Hansa Market.

According to the U.S. agencies involved in the operations, AlphaBay vendors sold drugs such as fentanyl and heroin, and said "there have been multiple overdose deaths across the country attributed to purchases on the site".

AlphaBay had 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors who posted over 100,000 listings for stolen identification documents, access devices, and hacking tools, along with 250,000 listings for illegal drugs.

One of the most challenging parts of the undercover operation, Egberts said, was mediating the frequent disputes between buyers and sellers.

Law enforcement officials have struggled for years to crack down on these marketplaces, which are hard to locate because their software is distributed across the Tor network, which anonymises users and makes them nearly impossible to track.

Dark net markets enable large-scale trading in chiefly illegal goods, such as drugs, weapons, child pornography, and ransom software.


AlphaBay was about 10 times the size of Silk Road, the infamous dark web marketplace that USA authorities shut down in 2013 after arresting its creator, who was later convicted and given two life sentences. Well-known examples include Silk Road (taken down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2013) and Alpha Bay (reportedly shut down earlier this month).

They then covertly monitored criminal activities on the platform before it was shutdown on 20 July. Transactions were made in bitcoin and other crypto currencies.

Alexandre Cazes, known online as Alpha02 and Admin, a Canadian citizen living in Thailand, was arrested July 5 on charges of creating the site. You can not hide. We will find you, dismantle your organization and network. Cazes was the subject of a multi-count racketeering and drug sales indictment filed by the US attorney for the eastern district of California.

As for the dark web market itself, Rosenstein confirmed that as some sites like Alpha Bay "have membership of hundreds of thousands of users across the globe", this requires collaboration to aid agents, prosecutors, analysts and support staff who located the infrastructure hosting the sites, and identified those responsible. For comparison, Silk Road, the dark web site shut down in 2013, had about 14,000 listings for illegal products and services.

The authorities have moved quickly to seize Mr. Cazes' significant assets, including properties in Antigua, Cyprus, and Thailand; 10 vehicles, including a Lamborghini and a Porsche; and financial assets of about $18 million.

United States attorney general Jeff Sessions said: "The dark net is not a place to hide".

It has emerged that a second criminal Dark Web site - Hansa - has also been taken offline by enforcement agencies clamping down on illicit trade.

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