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German Police Shut Down Largest Dark Web Marketplace

The “world’s largest” dark web marketplace has been shut down by a German police sting. According to prosecutors, said marketplace’s Australian suspected operator utilized it to enable drug, stolen credit card information, counterfeit money, anonymous SIM card, and malware sales. At least partially due to the pandemic resulting in more online street trade of narcotics, DarkMarket had almost 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors once closed.

Oldenburg police arrested the 34-year-old aforementioned operator near the German-Danish border. He refused to speak before a judge prior to being put in pre-trial detention.

Investigators added that they took down the marketplace and turned off the server after a months-long global law enforcement operation. The FBI, DEA, IRS, and police from numerous countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, and Australia) worked together on this probe. Of course, Europe’s police authority, Europol, played a role, too. Furthermore, over 20 related servers employed in Ukraine and Moldova were seized.

Interestingly, over 4,650 bitcoin and 12,800 monero (two popular cryptocurrencies) “changed hands” through 320,000+ dark web transactions. Overall, the total revenue was valued at $170 million based on current exchange rates.

Evidently, the above-mentioned law enforcement professionals plan to use the saved data to launch new investigations against the marketplace’s sellers, buyers, and moderators. German prosecutors stated DarkMarket was discovered during investigation against Cyberbunker, the web-hosting service situated in a previous NATO bunker.

Three arrests each in the Netherlands and Germany as well as one in Bulgaria occurred in September 2019 in connection with illegal provision of the infrastructure for DarkMarket. All arrestees have been on trial since October 2019 in Trier, Germany.

The EU narcotics agency noted a rise in illegal drug activity online in September 2020 during the pandemic. Dealers and consumers alike even looked to social media and home delivery as a result of street trade being reduced by pandemic restrictions.

Another international police sting, Operation DisrupTor, in September 2020 caught 179 vendors selling methamphetamine, opioids, and other illegal items on the dark web. Europol officials called this event the end of the “golden age” of dark web markets. Suspects were arrested in Sweden, Austria, Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States. The operation proceeded after a law enforcement agency’s shut down of the Wall Street Market, the second biggest dark web exchange with over 1.1 million users and 5,400 vendors, in May 2019.