Europol confirms shut down of the world's largest dark web marketplace

The largest illegal dark web marketplace in the world has been taken offline this week in an international police operation that involved Europol, officials from the US and the UK's National Crime Agency. The dark web marketplace, also known as DarkMarket, had almost 500,000 users, it had more than 2,400 sellers and they had facilitated over 320,000 transactions.

Altogether, DarkMarket users have been connected and involved in cryptocurrency transfers, usually in monero or bitcoin, which is now worth more than $170m at current exchange rates. The types of goods that are being sold included counterfeit money, drugs, stolen credit card details, and malware.

The investigation that led to the closure of the dark web marketplace escalated last week after the Criminal Investigation Department in Oldenburg, Germany, arrested an Australian citizen believed to be the operator of the dark web marketplace. Investigators were also able to locate the location of the servers that were running the whole operation and they were able to shut them down.

Even though the DarkMarket may no longer be operating, the investigation into illicit dark web transactions is still happening. More than 20 servers were seized in Ukraine and Moldova in connection to the DarkMarket case and it can help give prosecutors a lot of evidence to pursue criminal cases against other black market operators.

The involvement of Europol in the DarkMarket investigation included the provision of specialist operational support and advanced analytics that aided German authorities in tracking down the operator of the marketplace, The organization also helped with cross-border collaboration and information exchange.

Although authorities are becoming more effective at closing illegal dark web outlets, it is still not over. Following the closure of DarkMarket, it is likely that the previous buyers and the previous sellers will just move on to another illegal marketplace.

Back in 2014, Wired reported about the contents of the DarkMarket and the server that assisted in the transactions. The said server, The Silk Road, has security protections such as Tor and Bitcoin in order to cover the site's drug trade.

Despite being careful, the FBI was still able to seize the server that hosted the market and arrested its owner Ross Ulbricht. Because of this, a drug trade that is said to be around billions of dollars in amount, came crashing down.

After the said hiccup, DarkMarket got new developers that year and did an experimental demonstration. Through the years they were able to integrate anonymity protections like Tor into the software and now they have every user's IP address listed for other users to see.

Black market enthusiasts waited for the DarkMarket creators to finish the open-source project, and eventually, they were able to create their own community. A Bitcoin software projected called Dark Wallet was even launched afterwards, with creators Damian Cutillo and William Swanson finishing it all up and moving on their own Bitcoin startup called Airbitz.

The FBI and other international agencies still has a long way to go before they can fully shut down the dark web because it seems that as one server gets removed, another one opens up.

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