Police around the globe shut down dozens of underground cyber marketplaces that dealt in drugs, weapons and other illegal goods in a massive operation this week to disrupt criminals operating on the “Dark Web.”
Police in 17 countries arrested at least 17 website administrators, vendors and cybercriminals as part of the operation that targeted cyber storefronts where vendors put illegal goods on display much like Amazon or eBay sell legal goods.
The sites hide from law enforcement on the “Dark Web” by using The Onion Router, or TOR, an underground computer network that relays cyber communications through at least three separate computers to disguise the Internet addresses of its users. Domain names for websites on the TOR network end with .onion.
Law enforcement agencies from Europe, the U.S. and Canada, working from Europol’s coordination center in the Netherlands, seized the servers that hosted the illegal marketplaces and took control of more than 400 .onion domains. The marketplaces knocked offline include SR2, Hydra, RepAAA, Hidden Empire, Cloud Nine, Black Market and Cannabis Road, Pandora, Blue Sky and Golden Nugget, Europol said. Police dubbed the operation “Onymous,” the antonym of anonymous.
Police also seized cash, bitcoin, drugs, gold and silver.
In Ireland, the international investigation lead to the arrest of two men and the seizure of illegal drugs, including Ecstasy and LSD, worth $224,000, Ireland’s Garda National said. The police also seized computers from which they are able to access bitcoin accounts related to the drug sales and customer lists that they will share with law enforcement agencies around the world, police said. Information found during the arrests also lead to offshore bank accounts in Switzerland, Belize, Poland and other countries, the police said.