US Announces Largest 'Takedown' of Dark Web Market in History - Attorney General

The AlphaBay online market was shutdown earlier this month.

Officials say AlphaBay - which was created in 2014 - was considered the largest of the dark web criminal marketplaces, with hundreds of thousands listings for items such as illegal drugs, toxic chemicals, malware, firearms, and fraudulent IDs. He was followed by Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright, who claimed that this takedown was "a taste of what is to come in the future".

With Hansa also shuttered as of Thursday, the dark web looks substantially diminished from just a few short weeks ago-and its denizens shaken by law enforcement's deep intrusion into their underground economy. "We will find you", Sessions added.

AlphaBay and Hansa after the takedown.

According to documents released by the DOJ, Cazes was using his computer and logged into AlphaBay under his administrator account at the time of his arrest.

Europol says Dutch police reaped a bonanza of intelligence after monitoring Hansa for one month. "What this meant was that we could disrupt and then sweep up all those new users". As of June 20 this year, the Dutch police had secretly taken control of the site.

Hansa was the third largest criminal marketplace on the Dark Web, trading similarly high volumes in illicit drugs and other commodities, according to Europol. "They think they will get away with it because there are too many players and too many countries, they think they will get away with it because the schemes are too complex and because they operate in the shadows".

"The e-mail address of "pimp_alex_91@hotmail.com" was included in the header information of the AlphaBay welcome e-mail", the court filing continues. It was widely considered the biggest online black market for drugs, estimated to host daily transactions totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds after filling the gap left by the takedown of Silk Road in 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The move is the biggest global strike against online marketplaces that deal in illegal goods - Alphabay was the largest in the world and Hansa Market the third-largest.

But fallout of the AlphaBay and Hansa takedowns may eventually be felt there as well.

Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said Alpha Bay was 10 times the size of the Silk Road, a similar site that the government prominently seized in 2013.

Hansa Market was the most popular dark market on the "anonymous" part of the internet, or dark net, police said in a statement. "Looks like I'll be sober for a while".

He said: "We have learned a lot over the years about taking down worldwide criminal syndicates, and that same experience applies to organizations that are facilitated on the dark net". Once AlphaBay went down, their new listings tripled to approximately 15,000 a week. "LE may have won this battle, but they will NEVER win the war on drugs", noted one poster on Reddit's darknet forum. "Most of this activity was for illegal drugs, pouring fuel on the fire of the national illegal drug epidemic".

  • Eleanor Harrison