What just happened? The dark web has a deserved reputation for being home to criminal activities, but what is reported to have been its largest illegal marketplace has now been taken offline following an operation involving several countries and Europol.
The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) writes that DarkMarket had almost 500,000 users, more than 2,400 sellers, and over 320,000 transactions. It had also seen over 4,65 Bitcoin and 12,800 Monero transferred, equal to around $170 million.
As with the infamous Silk Road, DarkMarket users mainly traded drugs, counterfeit money, credit card details, SIM cards, and malware.
German authorities headed the investigation that led to the arrest of a 34-year Australian citizen alleged to be the market operator near the German-Danish border. The suspect was brought before a judge but refused to speak, reports The Guardian. He is now in pre-trial detention.
Officers have closed the marketplace and plan to use the 20 servers in Moldova and the Ukraine to investigate moderators, buyers, and sellers.
DarkMarket came to German authorities' attention during an investigation against the web-hosting service Cyberbunker—located in former NATO bunkers in Germany and Holland—which hosted sites including The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks.
"A shared commitment across the law enforcement community worldwide and a coordinated approach by law enforcement agencies have once again proved their effectiveness," Europol said. "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."
The dark web isn't the safe haven for criminals that it once was. Another international law enforcement operation last September that targeted opioid traffickers led to over 170 arrests across the US and Europe. Weapons, drugs, and over $6.5 million in both cash and virtual currencies were seized.
In 2019, the Wall Street Market takedown saw the site's administrators charged with running an illegal market that served 1.15 million customers and stealing all of the money held in its escrow and user accounts.