Dark web dragnet delivers destruction to AlphaBay and Hansa

The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been associated with the trade in illicit items such as drugs, weapons, malware and stolen data.

At the time it was shut down, it had more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals, according to the US Justice Department. Now it has been confirmed by Europol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the USA and the Netherlands police that Hansa has also been deactivated.

On July 5, the same day that AlphaBay went offline, authorities in Thailand arrested Alexandre Cazes - a 25-year-old Canadian citizen living in Thailand - on suspicion of being the creator and administrator of AlphaBay. On July 12, Cazes "apparently took his own life while in custody in Thailand", the Justice Department says.

Europol says Dutch police reaped a bonanza of intelligence after monitoring Hansa for one month. AlphaBay was even larger than Silk Road, which was seized by law enforcement in November 2013.

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The US Attorney-General Jeff Sessions had a press conference detailing AlphaBay, Hansa and the requested arrest and extradition of Cazes.

Dark web users, meanwhile, were rattled by the sting, advising each other to change their passwords as soon as possible, and spreading paranoid warnings of a possible "backdoor" into dark net markets. "We will find you, dismantle your organization and network, and we will prosecute you", Sessions said in a warning to darknet entrepreneurs.

According to a press release from Europol, AlphaBay was home to "over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors" with a "conservative" estimate of $1 billion in transactions.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein confirmed that Alpha Bay was part of a larger global effort targeted at dark web market bases.

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Law enforcement officials have struggled for years to crack down on these marketplaces, which are hard to locate because their software is distributed across the Tor network, which anonymises users and makes them nearly impossible to track. "There are more of these operations to come", Wainright said. In comparison, Silk Road, one of the most notorious dark web markets, had 14,000 listings when the Federal Bureau of Investigation shut down the site four years ago.

Yakir Bechler, chief operating officer of Kela, says it's not clear what the future holds for the surviving black-market sites. Vendors who flee those sites for Dream Market may still be compromised by law enforcement, and if arrested, could potentially give up the addresses of any new Dream Market's customers, too.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.

He said: "We have learned a lot over the years about taking down worldwide criminal syndicates, and that same experience applies to organizations that are facilitated on the dark net". It meant the Dutch police could identify and disrupt the regular criminal activity on Hansa but then also sweep up all those new users displaced from AlphaBay who were looking for a new trading platform.

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Darknet drug websites have thrived following the appearance - and subsequent takedown - of illegal goods bazaar Silk Road.


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