DarkMarket, the world's largest illegal marketplace on the dark web, was taken down this week as a result of coordinated action by law enforcement authorities from the UK, the United States, Germany, Australia, Denmark, Moldova, and Ukraine.
Before it was taken down, DarkMarket was arguably the world's largest Dark Web marketplace, boasting around half a million users, including more than 2,400 sellers and enabling the illegal trade of drugs, counterfeit money, stolen or counterfeit credit card details, anonymous SIM cards, and malware.
Transactions on DarkMarket, like in all other Dark Web marketplaces, involved the use of various cryptocurrencies that afford a high level of anonymity to their users. According to Europol, DarkMarket facilitated the transfer of more than 4,650 Bitcoin and 12,800 Monero.
At their present value, the total amount of money used for the sale and purchase of drugs, stolen credit cards, malware, and anonymous SIM cards on DarkMarket amounts to more than £117.5 million in Bitcoin transfers and a little over £1.5 million in Monero transfers.
The takedown of DarkMarket began over the weekend with the arrest of the main operator of the marketplace, who is an Australian citizen, by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) near the German-Danish border. Subsequently, the servers associated with the marketplace were switched off, and more than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine were seized by authorities for further investigation.
"A shared commitment across the law enforcement community worldwide and a coordinated approach by law enforcement agencies have once again proved their effectiveness. The scale of the operation at Europol demonstrates the global commitment to tackling the use of the dark web as a means to commit crime," Europol said.
Commenting on the massive popularity of DarkMarket among cyber criminals, Paul Prudhomme, Cyber Threat Intelligence Advisor at IntSights, said that dark web marketplaces serve as key enablers for cyber criminals and provide these criminals with places to buy and sell malware, malicious infrastructure, and compromised data, accounts, and devices.
"Such exchanges are critical to cyber criminal operations because few criminals rely exclusively on their own resources, and many do not actually use the data that they steal. Most cyber criminals rely to varying degrees on tools and infrastructure that they acquire from other criminals, and many earn their money by selling the results of their attacks to other criminals, rather than using it themselves," he said.
"It is unclear to what extent the shutdown of this dark market will impact cyber criminal operations, beyond the near-term disruption to its current users. New dark web marketplaces eventually emerge to replace those that have closed, and users simply migrate to those new websites and to existing competitors.
"The arrest of one of the website's operators and the seizure of its infrastructure may nonetheless yield useful investigative leads for law enforcement with which to act against its individual users, which may have a more enduring impact. The website's use of infrastructure in Ukraine and Moldova is not surprising, as many criminals prefer to host infrastructure in those two countries that they perceive to be relatively safe from law enforcement," he added.
Image Source: Europol