Justice Department announces takedown of AlphaBay, the largest dark web market

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Technology explained What is the dark web

But in a dramatic twist on Thursday, authorities also shut down Hansa Market, and announced they had been running it for the past month.

Sessions said the takedown is "the largest dark net marketplace takedown in history" and it comes at the same time as Dutch authorities announced a similar move against Hansa Market, another dark web marketplace.

Dark net sites are reached with special browsers that obscure the location and identity of the user and the server, making it hard for officials to locate and shut down sites.

Alexandre Cazes, 26, was arrested on July 5 at the request of United States law enforcement, the Washington Post reported. In the meantime, the Justice Department has released a redacted copy of the indictment against Cazes (PDF), as well as a forfeiture complaint (PDF). Police seized millions of dollars in assets, four luxury cars and three properties.

Mr. Cazes committed suicide in his jail cell shortly after he was arrested, the authorities said on Thursday.

Thai and Canadian authorities didn't return messages seeking comment Thursday. "There are more of these operations to come", Wainright said. In this duration, Hansa saw an eightfold increase in traffic helping the police to collect information of thousands of users in an undercover operation.

Dutch National Police - aided by Europol and other European agencies - are said to have taken control of Hansa on June 20th, and monitored activities until it was shut down today.

"They managed to catch the biggest fish in the sea", says Nicolas Christin, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who studies the marketplaces. Andrew Clarke, EMEA Director at One Identity, said: "With the intensity of the cyber threat ramping up and causing chaos around the world - it is reassuring to hear about the collaboration between national and global law enforcement agencies". "There have been takedowns in the past".

The site, known as AlphaBay, reportedly had 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors, hundreds of which advertised fentanyl or heroin, according to the Associated Press.

He also said a 13-year-old boy died after overdosing on a synthetic opioid bought by a high school classmate via the site.

After all, takedowns like the seizure of the Silk Road in 2013, and so-called Operation Onymous in 2014, which ended half a dozen top darknet sites, took chunks almost as large out of the darknet markets infrastructure.

Experts said Cazes appears to have been caught out by mistakes rather than a weakness in the underlying security technology AlphaBay used. "These two cases have been developed together and our joint hit on both of these dark markets is one of the most sophisticated law enforcement operations against cybercrime", Robert Mark Wainwright, head of Europol, added.

In agreement was Robert Pattinson, acting deputy administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency, who said that those who operate such dark web markets "all share one additional common characteristic, they operate on borrowed time".


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