DarkMarket, the world’s largest illegal sales point for drugs and other illegal merchandise on the dark web, has been taken offline in an international operation involving Germany, Australia, Denmark, Moldova, Ukraine, the United Kingdom (the National Crime Agency), and the USA (DEA, FBI, and IRS), according to a statement by Europol released on Tuesday.
Europol supported the takedown with specialist operational analysis and coordinated the cross-border collaborative effort of the countries involved, the statement said.
The Dark web is World Wide Web content that exists on darknets: overlay networks that use the internet but which require a specific browser to enable access. Hidden from authorities and regulation, illegal commerce of all kinds takes place there.
The DarkMarket site had almost 500 000 users and more than 2 400 sellers, the Europol statement said.
The site saw over 320 000 transactions per year, mostly in bitcoin and the cryptocurrency monero.
“At the current rate, this corresponds to a sum of more than €140 million. The vendors on the marketplace mainly traded all kinds of drugs and sold counterfeit money, stolen or counterfeit credit card details, anonymous SIM cards and malware,” the statement said.
The Central Criminal Investigation Department in the German city of Oldenburg arrested an Australian citizen who is the alleged operator of DarkMarket near the German-Danish border over the weekend. The investigation, which was led by the cybercrime unit of the Koblenz Public Prosecutor’s Office, allowed officers to locate and close the marketplace, switch off the servers and seize the criminal infrastructure – more than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine supported by the German Federal Criminal Police office (BKA). The stored data will give investigators new leads to further investigate moderators, sellers, and buyers.
Authorities from the U.S., Australia, the U.K, Denmark, Switzerland, Ukraine and Moldova assisted in the months-long operation.
The Australian operator, who has not been named, is being held in custody pending charges after an order from a judge and has yet to provide information to investigators.