In a major crackdown, the US Department of Justice (DoJ), along with the Europol, have shut down Hansa and AlphaBay, two of the three largest dark web markets. It is estimated that both these marketplaces collectively catered to hundreds of thousands of users who were keen on buying or selling illegal goods including drugs and weapons.
The US DoJ confirmed that the crackdown led to both these marketplaces going offline permanently. At the time, AlphaBay alone had hundreds of thousands of listing, according to officials linked to the crackdown. “Around the time of the takedown of the site, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay,” said Jeff Sessions, US Attorney General.
In total, AlphaBay had 40,000 vendors and 200,000 members. The listings on the site included stolen identification documents, hacking tools, illegal drugs, as well as access devices. Compared to that, Silk Road, one of dark web’s most popular marketplace, had only 14,000 listings when it was shut down by the FBI.
Cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin was used for carrying out transactions in both now-defunct websites. Alexandre Cazes, 26, who operated AlphaBay was arrested in Thailand earlier this month and was later found dead in his cell in what appeared to be a case of suicide.
Law enforcement agencies claim that Cazes was not cautious enough to hide his illegal activities which made the task a lot easier for them. For example, not just did he use his personal Hotmail email account to the PayPal account for AlphaBay, but he also left his laptop unencrypted and unlocked at the time of the arrest.
Meanwhile, shortly after the shutdown of AlphaBay, the Dutch police covertly took over Hansa dark web market and operated it for a month starting June 20. They did so to trace back the buyers and vendors on the site. The shutdown of AlphaBay helped as it pushed more users to Hansa and the site’s traffic increased by as much as 800%.