Some 150 people have been arrested as part of a global police operation against illegal trade on the dark Web – the clandestine version of the Internet – announced Tuesday (October 26th) the European police agency Europol, based in The Hague.
Several million euros in cash and bitcoins as well as drugs and weapons were seized in this operation called “DarkHunTOR” which followed the dismantling in January, under the leadership of the German police, of the platform DarkMarket, presented by the investigators as the ” wider “ point of sale of the black cybermarket.
The operation “Consisted of a series of separate but complementary actions in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States”, Europol said.
26.7 million euros and 25,000 ecstasy tablets seized
In the United States, 65 people were arrested in this operation which also led to, among other things, 47 arrests in Germany, 24 in the United Kingdom, four in Italy and four in the Netherlands. Several of those arrested “Were important targets” for Europol. The police also seized 26.7 million euros in cash and electronic currencies as well as drugs, including 25,000 ecstasy tablets, and 45 firearms.
In Italy, the police also closed illegal marketplaces called “DeepSea” and “Berlusconi” which between them presented “More than 100,000 advertisements of illegal products”, according to Europol, whose operation was coordinated with Eurojust, the European agency for judicial cooperation.
The arrest in January of the alleged operator of DarkMarket, a 34-year-old Australian arrested at the German-Danish border, has “Provided investigators around the world with a treasure trove of evidence”, according to Europol. The dismantling of the platform, which sold drugs of all kinds such as counterfeit money, stolen or falsified credit card data, anonymous SIM cards or even computer viruses, was linked to a crackdown given in September 2019 in Germany against a major host of illegal dark Net services called Cyberbunker, the prosecution said at the time.
Turning in police action against the dark web
This data center illegal, installed in a former NATO bunker in southwestern Germany, is suspected of having hosted several drug sales platforms, but also servers used for trafficking child pornography images or cyber attacks. Europol’s European Cybercrime Center, EC3, has since accumulated information to identify key targets, the agency said.
The dark Net, a parallel version of the Web where the anonymity of users is guaranteed, has been under increasing assault in recent months from international police. “The object of operations like this is to tell criminals operating on the dark web [que] the law enforcement community has the means and international partnerships to expose them and hold them to account for their illegal activities, even in areas of the dark web ”, said deputy director of operations at Europol, Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, on Tuesday.
For Rolf van Wegberg, a cybercrime researcher at Delft University of Technology, the operation marks a change in police action against suspected criminals operating on the Internet. “In the past, this type of operation aimed to stop the operators of this type of marketplace and we now see police services targeting the main sellers”, he told Dutch public broadcaster KRO-NCRV.