What you need to know about the Dark Web

Two of the largest dark net marketplaces - AlphaBay and Hansa - have been shut down following an global police operation.

Rather than similarly infiltrate the other Dark Web marketplace, AlphaBay, once the investigators had control of Hansa they merely shut it down.

Jeff Sessions, U.S. Attorney General, said the AlphaBay network was among the most prolific drug suppliers.

The FBI, DEA, the Dutch National Police, and Europol worked to take down AlphaBay and Hansa, the largest and third-largest dark web markets, respectively.

Authorities investigated the address and found it belonged to a man called Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian citizen who was arrested on behalf of the United States in Thailand.

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

Silk Road, formerly the biggest illegal online marketplace, operated from 2011 to 2013.

The takedown of Alpha Bay was enabled by the collaborative takeover of the Hansa market under Dutch judicial authority a month ago, which allowed activities to be monitored and the main Alpha Bay operators to be identified. Because of the anonymous nature of the dark web, this was likely essential in connecting Cazes to the crimes he allegedly committed using that account. "We will find and prosecute drug traffickers who set up shop there".

Enforcement agency monitoring uncovered more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals, and over 100,000 listings for stolen and falsified IDs, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms, and fraudulent services.

No.1 darknet drug site AlphaBay, which went offline on July 5, was already widely assumed to have been taken out by authorities. The Justice Department says it appears Cazes "took his own life". While Alpabay's closure had previously been reported as an Federal Bureau of Investigation operation, the agency has now confirmed that takedown, while Europol also revealed details of its tightly coordinated Hansa takeover.

"Dark websites like Alpha Bay and others run on what is called the Tor network; hidden services created to hide information that could reveal the location of a website and its customers", he said.

The operation was similar to a controversial case in the U.S. where authorities seized a child porn darknet site and continued to run it for two weeks at an increased capacity to ensnare more users.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.

The agency said it believed the bust would lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe. Europol stated that the Dutch National Police "could identify and disrupt the regular criminal activity on Hansa but then also sweep up all those new users displaced from AlphaBay who were looking for a new trading platform".

But don't expect even this law enforcement victory to permanently damage the dark web's black market business.

But when one marketplace goes offline, that doesn't stop the trade of illegal items - instead those users migrate to a different site.

  • Joe Gonzales