Ever since the arrest of Ross Ulbricht in San Francisco, online darknet marketplaces have remained a formidable means by which individuals can procure illegal goods. Authorities, well-aware, have investigated and made arrests in the time since Ulbricht’s trial.
During that time, discussion has increased regarding the actual anonymity provided by the darknet. As has been proven more than once, just being on the darknet does not guarantee a user’s anonymity, and this is the message law enforcement is trying to spread. There are investigatory methods being used – and successfully – which have led to the downfall of darknet website after website.
A recent international investigation has led to the arrests of suspected operators and users of five dark web marketplaces – referred to by European authorities as “Underground Economy forums”.
The investigations targeted suspected operators and users of different Underground Economy websites, where illegal goods like weapons, drugs (heroin, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine, ecstasy), counterfeit currency, fake identifications (German, Netherlandish, Italian) and stolen data (credit cards, online banking data and other hacked documents) were found. Other services available on the websites include malware, DDoS attacks, illegal streaming and cybercrime tutorials.
The darknet websites used Bitcoins. Frankfurt Prosecutor General’s Office, the Center for Cybercrime Control and Bundeskriminalamt, in concert with various international law enforcement arms, searched the houses and apartments of five UE operators and users.
A 27-year-old Bosnian national is the suspected main person behind three of the websites, and alleged to have been at the head of the websites since October 2012. Two Germans, aged 27 and 22 years old, were also arrested. One of them, authorities claim, has been in the underground marketplace business for three years. Authorities also arrested a Syrian national for synthesizing amphetamines. 250,000 euros in drugs were seized during the searches.
Other searches resulted in the arrest of a 21-year-old German citizen and a 29-year-old German. The 21-year-old is charged with running an illegal streaming platform since 2012. A 22 year-old German was arrested in the Netherlands, charged with selling cocaine, cannabis, amphetamine and ecstasy online.
Darknet marketplaces have caught the attention of the public. A recent film, Dope, represented a feature film with the darknet at the heart of its plot. It turns out, the shut down of the Silk Road only quickened the evolution of the darknet. As CCN.LA’s Giulio Prisco wrote:
It should be obvious that if enough people want to buy something, there will be providers. Crackdowns and seizures don’t eliminate online drug markets, but only push them deeper underground under the control of criminals. If the more “principled” providers are eliminated, the field will be left wide open to the less principled ones. The surviving crypto markets will be run not by idealists, but by real criminals who know how to run watertight operations, and sell not only drugs but all sorts of really dangerous things.
Authorities have sent the message to young internet users, via this action and others, that they are able to track down darknet users and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
Image from Shutterstock.
Last modified: March 2, 2016 12:56 UTC