Europol, the multinational law enforcement agency of the European Union, recently announced that it took down DarkMarket, the biggest illegal darknet marketplace in the world. According to the announcement, the operation was a multi-agency effort.
How DarkMarket Was Taken Down
The announcement states that it was a multi-agency effort, which involved law enforcement agencies from Australia, Germany, Moldova, Denmark, UK, Ukraine, and the US. Europol was the main coordinating agency, which conducted specialist analysis and coordinated the effort.
The Operation In Numbers
At the time it was taken down, DarkMarket had over 500,000 users and over 2400 vendors. It is estimated that over 320,000 transactions worth around $170 million had been conducted. The transactions were in crypto with over 4650 BTC and over 12800 Monero used to facilitate the illicit transactions. Most sellers on the marketplace mainly sold drugs, counterfeit fiat currency, counterfeit credit card data, anonymous SIM cards, and malware.
During the operation, German authorities managed to arrest an Australian citizen who is suspected to be the operator of the darknet marketplace. The arrest was made near the German-Danish border. Germany’s cybercrime unit of the Koblenz Public Prosecutor’s Office took the lead in the investigation.
The officials were able to track down the marketplace’s servers and shut them down. Around 20 servers, which were located in Moldova and Ukraine, were shut down. The Europol announcement states that the data recovered during the operation will help them to track down the users of the marketplace.
The Dark Web Team
The announcement revealed that Europol has a dark web team dedicated to fighting crime on the dark web. To achieve their goal, they work with law enforcement agencies globally as well as other organizations. The dark web team operates under the European Cybercrime Centre (EC3). Their goal is to whittle down the size of the underground illegal economy that operates on the darknet.
How Authorities Took Down DarkMarket
According to one journalist who keeps up with the ongoings in the darknet, authorities had probably been tracking the DarkMarket marketplace for a while. The anonymous journalist revealed that they might have got to the marketplace via an IP leak.
Thriving Dark Web Economy
In early April 2020, Elliptic released a report, which showed that vendors in the darknet were using it to sell everything from fake COVID19 cures to facemasks. Their report revealed that users of the darknet mostly use it for nefarious activities.
In the recent past, the use of the darknet for illegal sales has been on the rise. For instance, a report published in May 2020 revealed that darknet transactions had grown by 65% in Q1 2020. Researchers found that the number of transaction volumes grew to $411 million in Q1 2020 from $384 million in Q1 2019.
With the continued popularity of cryptocurrencies, it is expected that many privacy coins will continue to facilitate illicit activities. As the authorities have demonstrated numerous times, it is possible to track down illegal crypto transactions. Law enforcement agencies are expected to crack down even harder in the foreseeable future, especially as digital assets push their way into mainstream adoption.
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