A coalition of law enforcement agencies across the world announced the results of a coordinated operation known as DisrupTor which was a sting operation that targeted vendors and buyers of illicit goods on the Dark Web.

The operation was the result of a collaborative effort between the law enforcement and judicial authorities of Austria, Cyprus, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and  some law enforcement officers are saying that the “golden age” of anonymous Internet crime is over.

A sting operation is a deceptive operation designed to catch a person committing a crime.  Sting operations are common in many countries, such as the United States, but they are not permitted in some countries. This operation follows the takedown in May of last year of Wall Street Market, the world’s then second largest illegal online market in the Dark Web. 

This was led by the German Federal Criminal Police with the support of the Dutch National Police Europol, Eurojust and various US government agencies and the arrests have provided investigators with quantitative data and materials to identify suspects behind Dark Web accounts used for illegal activity. “Law enforcement is most effective when working together, and today’s announcement sends a strong message to criminals selling or buying illicit goods on the dark web: the hidden internet is no longer hidden, and your anonymous activity is not anonymous….Law enforcement is committed to tracking down criminals, no matter where they operate, be it on the streets or behind a computer screen,” Europol said.

As a result, 179 vendors who engaged in tens of thousands of sales of illicit good were arrested across Europe and the United States.  Over $6.5 million were seized in both cash and virtual currencies, alongside some 500 kilograms of drugs, including fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, and medicine containing addictive substances; and 64 firearms. The arrests were carried out in the United States (121), Germany (42), the Netherlands (8), United Kingdom (4), Austria (3), and Sweden (1). A number of investigations are still ongoing to identify the individuals behind Dark Web accounts. 

Operation DisrupTor was composed of a series of separate but complementary joint operations coordinated by Europol and Eurojust, aimed at making a global impact on the sale of illicit goods on the dark web.

Operations such as these highlight the capability of law enforcement to counter encryption and anonymity of Dark Web market places. Police no longer only takes down such illegal marketplaces, they also chase down the criminals buying and selling illegal goods through such sites. 

If your were thinking of buying illegal goods anonymously on the Dark Web you should consider the dangers you are exposed to:

  • Putting your life in danger: dangerous illegal drugs such as fentanyl or counterfeit substances could kill you. 
  • Becoming a victim of cyber scammers who are only after your money.
  • Exposing your device to damaging malware.

Law enforcement can also trace back illicit transactions to both the buyer and seller. An individual who purchased illicit goods from hidden sites is at risk of prosecution in a number of countries.  

US Drug Enforcement Administration (USDEA) Acting Administrator Timothy Shea said, “Operation DisrupTor demonstrates the ability of DEA and our partners to outpace these digital criminals in this ever-changing domain, by implementing innovative ways to identify traffickers attempting to operate anonymously and disrupt these criminal enterprises.” 

Source:  Cyber Security Intelligence