Europol this week has announced the arrest of 179 vendors of illicit goods on the dark web, in a coordinated operation known as DisrupTor.
According to the press release, operation DisrupTor follows the takedown of Wall Street Market, the world’s then second largest illegal online market in the dark web, which provided investigators with the data and materials required to identify suspects behind dark web accounts used for illegal activity.
“As a result, 179 vendors who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit good were arrested across Europe and the United States,” the Europol states. “Over $6.5 million were seized in both cash and virtual currencies, alongside some 500 kilograms of drugs, including fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, and medicine containing addictive substances; and 64 firearms.”
Most of the vendors arrested were located in the United States (121), followed by Germany (42), the Netherlands (8), the United Kingdom (4), Austria (3), and Sweden (1). Investigators are still working to identify the individuals behind various dark web accounts associated with these activities.
Operation DisrupTor was a massive a collaborative effort between the law enforcement and judicial authorities of Austria, Cyprus, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, Europol said.
“Law enforcement is most effective when working together, and today’s announcement sends a strong message to criminals selling or buying illicit goods on the dark web: the hidden internet is no longer hidden, and your anonymous activity is not anonymous. Law enforcement is committed to tracking down criminals, no matter where they operate – be it on the streets or behind a computer screen,” the Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), Edvardas Šileris, said.
The bust will undoubtedly send shockwaves across dark web vendors, with the Europol confidently boasting that “the golden age of dark web marketplace is over.”
Previously police would typically take down illegal marketplaces only to see them mushroom back into existence months, or even weeks later. More recently, these concentrated efforts have enabled local and international law enforcement to actually pinpoint the individuals behind the illicit trade and detain them.
Europol also issues a cautionary note to individuals tempted by the offers on the dark web:
“Law enforcement can also trace back illicit transactions to both the buyer and seller. An individual who purchased illicit goods from hidden sites is at risk of prosecution in a number of countries. The dark web is not a fairy tale – vendors and buyers are no longer hidden in the shadow,” the agency warns.