Law enforcement authorities in the United States and Europe have succeeded in taking down AlphaBay and Hansa darkweb, the two most popular Dark Web marketplaces for cyber criminals.
AlphaBay and Hansa darkweb were the two most favoured marketplaces for cyber criminals looking to buy and sell cyber crime malware on the Dark Web.
In a joint and sustained operation that lasted several months, the United States' FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Dutch National Police have managed to bust two of the most popular malware-trading marketplaces on the Dark Web. The operation has cost cyber criminals millions of dollars and a number of them are now facing criminal prosecution.
Hansa darkweb was taken down after security firm Bitdefender supplied helpful information to Europol who then forwarded it to Dutch authorities. Hansa has been known for hosting a number of powerful cybercrime malware including the source code for CyrptoLocker, an infamous ransomware that helped hackers earn $27 million in December of 2013 alone.
AlphaBay is definitely a trophy scalp for authorities, for it enabled criminals to buy and sell a number of powerful malware including Philadelphia Ransomware, CTBlocker, Stampado and Blackmail Bitcoin Ransomware.
'The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today after a highly sophisticated joint action in multiple countries. By acting together on a global basis the law enforcement community has sent a clear message that we have the means to identify criminality and strike back, even in areas of the Dark Web,' said Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol.
'There are more of these operations to come,' he added.
"The Department will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers wherever they are," said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The Dutch National Police arrested two Hansa darkweb administrators, seized its servers in the Netherlands, Germany, and Lithuania and forwarded addresses of 10,000 buyers on the Dark Web to Europol.
AlphaBay also saw its servers seized in Canada and the Netherlands by the FBI and the DEA and two of its administrators Alpha02 and Admin were arrested in Canada and Thailand. Alpha02 turned out to be a 25-year old Canadian national named Alexandre Cazes and Admin was a Thai national who later committed suicide in prison.
'If confirmed, the AlphaBay takedown is a hugely positive step. Digital Shadows monitors hundreds of criminal forums on a day to day basis and AlphaBay had established itself as a prominent ‘go to' platform for the trade in illegal goods. Substantial sums of money were held in escrow on the platform which means many thousands of cyber criminals are out of pocket,' said Rick Holland, vice president of strategy at Digital Shadows to SC Magazine.
Even though the two most popular marketplaces on the dark web are no more, cyber criminals will quickly move to other marketplaces or open new platforms to buy and sell their wares. Aside from trading malware, criminals use the Dark Web to exchange stolen credentials of millions of people which they then use to commit identity theft or subjecting people to blackmail.
'So whilst this action is a step in the right direction, this is an ongoing battle and law enforcement will seek to stay one step ahead of the cybercriminals,' Holland added.