The takedown of online drug bazaar Silk Road 2.0 and the arrest of its alleged operator was only the first overt evidence of the success of a bigger law enforcement action.
“On 6 November, law enforcement and judicial agencies around the globe undertook a joint action against dark markets running as hidden services on Tor network. 16 European countries, alongside counterparts from the United States, brought down several marketplaces as part of a unified international action from Europol’s operational coordination centre in The Hague,” the European Union’s law enforcement agency has announced on Friday.
“Operation Onymous, coordinated by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), the FBI, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Eurojust, resulted in 17 arrests of vendors and administrators running these online marketplaces and more than 410 hidden services being taken down. In addition, bitcoins worth approximately USD 1 million, EUR 180 000 euro in cash, drugs, gold and silver were seized. The dark market Silk Road 2.0 was taken down by the FBI and the U.S. ICE HIS, and the operator was arrested.”
Andy Greenberg reports that among the online markets that were taken down are drug markets Cloud 9 and Hydra; contraband markets like Pandora, Blue Sky, Topix, Flugsvamp, Cannabis Road, and Black Market; and money laundering sites like Cash Machine, Cash Flow, Golden Nugget and Fast Cash. A total of 414 “.onion” domains were seized.
Troels Oerting, head of the European Cybercrime Center, declined to offer more details about how they managed to locate where all the sites were hosted. “This is something we want to keep for ourselves. The way we do this, we can’t share with the whole world, because we want to do it again and again and again,” he said.
Some popular online markets haven’t been touched by this action, but no doubt its operators and users don’t feel so safe any more. Huge and high-profile law enforcement actions like this one are sure to put a damper on online sales and trading of illegal products and services, especially when all the heads of agencies involved in the crackdown are so vocal about their intention to continue the hunt.