U.S. authorities along with law enforcement agencies in Europe and Asia announced today the takedown of the dark web’s largest illicit market.
AlphaBay sold malware and hacking tools along with drugs, fraudulent documents, guns, counterfeit goods and even toxic chemicals, the Justice Department said this morning
AlphaBay’s infrastructure supported what turned out to be the largest known criminal market on the internet. It was seized by U.S. officials along with authorities in Thailand, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Canada, France and the U.K.
The takedown came on the heels of the July 5 arrest of kingpin Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian living in Thailand who committed suicide in custody a week later. Cazes’ assets and those of his wife have been seized; that includes homes, luxury cars and a Thai hotel. The DoJ said Cazes owned millions in cryptocurrency from the AlphaBay operations, which were seized as well by the FBI and DEA.
“Make no mistake, the forces of law and justice face a new challenge from the criminals and transnational criminal organizations who think they can commit their crimes with impunity using the dark net,” said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “The dark net is not a place to hide.”
AlphaWeb’s size dwarfed that of the Silk Road marketplace, which tumbled in 2013 upon the arrest of founder Ross William Ulbricht. The DoJ said AlphaBay had an estimated 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors listing illicit goods for sale on the market. More than 250,000 listings for drugs and toxic chemicals were present on AlphaBay, and another 100,000 for malware, hacking tools, fraudulent documents, guns and more. Silk Road, by comparison, had 14,000 listings at the time it was seized by authorities.
“This ranks as one of the most successful coordinated takedowns against cybercrime in recent years,” said Europol executive director Rob Wainwright. “Concerted action by law enforcement authorities in the United States and Europe, with the support of Europol, has delivered a massive blow to the underground criminal economy and sends a clear message that the dark web is not a safe area for criminals.”
AlphaBay was a Tor hidden service and its vendors and customers sold and bought goods using Bitcoin, Monero, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies. Authorities said the market was also used to launder hundreds of millions of dollars. The hidden service allowed a measure of anonymity for the marketplace.
“The so-called anonymity of the dark web is illusory,” said acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg of the DEA.
The DoJ also attributed overdose deaths in Oregon and Florida since the start of the year to drugs purchased through AlphaBay, including fentanyl, heroin and U-47700, a synthetic opioid.
The AlphaBay takedown comes on the heels of the shuttering of the Hansa dark web market in June. Dutch authorities led that takedown, which offered similar illicit services as AlphaBay.