The coordinated international action, dubbed Operation Onymous, against the Deep Net marketplaces infamous for being run on the rails of Bitcoin and other digital currencies is still being unveiled. So far, three men have been arrested in the last few days in conjunction with the cases. Currently, Cloud 9, Hydra, and Silk Road 2.0 display the increasingly-visible “This Hidden Site Has Been Seized” notice that online law enforcement has become famous for making.
Beyond the three confirmed downed sites, several other Deep Net marketplaces are offline at the moment. Dark net marketplace frequenters are rushing to withdraw their funds from sites that are still up as many are reconsidering their security procedures.
Operation “Onymous” Is Just Getting Started?
An FBI spokesperson told WIRED’s Andy Greenberg that “there will be more than three market seizures in total with the full extent of the operation set to be revealed by Friday.” It is possible that some of the other dark net markets never return from their hiatus. The FBI has been publicizing their victories in a hope that future users will be deterred. As /u/dabork explained:
…That’s what a lot of people don’t realize. This is all a publicity stunt. The FBI knows it’s never going to actually stop DNMs. But that doesn’t mean they can’t keep picking a couple off here and there so they can say they stopped a multimillion dollar drug operation. Add to that the mystique of the “Deep Web” that these markets carry and there’s plenty of room for them to flex when they take one. These operations are probably a big hit at the FBI because they’re so low effort and low risk. When you’re trying to take down a cartel, you run the legitimate risk of dying. When you’re hunting some kid in San Francisco, and the whole “operation” consists of you planting a mole and the whole thing takes place online, you don’t. These are cushy desk operations that pay off in millions of dollars; the FBI isn’t going to kill the golden goose. What’s worrying is that they managed to take three markets when they only arrested one staff member and a few vendors. Where did they gain control of the other two? Maybe SR2 wasn’t the only one that was compromised. I know if I was an admin right now I’d be taking a really close look at my staff.
Cloud 9 and Hydra Used MultiSig
The two other sites taken down by the FBI today were nowhere near as large or popular as Silk Road 2.0, or other large markets such as Agora or Evolution (both of which are still online). However, both Cloud 9 and Hydra used a powerful feature of Bitcoin known as multisig. Whenever users deposited bitcoins into their account, they really sent it to an account with three keys, one given to the buyer, the seller, and the site admins. Obviously, the site admins’ keys are compromised; however, buyers and sellers on these sites will be able to withdraw their bitcoins, or even finish their transactions, without the site admins’ keys. Since the FBI only controls the site admins’ keys, they can’t seize the bitcoins and auction them.
What do you think about Operation Onymous? Comment below!
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