AlphaBay and Hansa — two of the largest “dark web” marketplaces for illegal and illicit items such as drugs and guns — have been shut down, the US Justice Department said on Thursday.
Police in the US and Europe, including the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police, partnered to shutter the sites accused of allowing thousands of vendors to sell illegal drugs, of which Europol said there were 250,000 listings on AlphaBay alone, with 200,000 members and 40,000 vendors.
The sites operated on the Tor network, which helps users browse the internet anonymously. Visitors to the online marketplaces paid through digital currencies such as Bitcoin.
AlphaBay mysteriously went offline earlier this month fueling suspicions among users that law enforcement action had taken place. It was widely considered the biggest online black market for drugs, estimated to host daily transactions totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds after filling the gap left by the takedown of Silk Road in 2013 by the FBI. FBI acting director Andrew McCabe said AlphaBay was 10 times as large as the Silk Road.
The site allowed users to sell and buy opioids, including fentanyl and heroin. US attorney general Jeff Sessions said at a briefing in Washington DC: “We know of several Americans who were killed by drugs on AlphaBay. One victim was just 18 years old when in February she overdosed on a powerful synthetic opioid which she had bought on AlphaBay.”
“The dark net is not a place to hide. We will find you,” Sessions added.
The Dutch National Police took control of Hansa on 20 June, seizing servers in Lithuania, the Netherlands and Germany. The action permitted surveillance of criminal activities on the marketplace before it was shut down in July.