World's Largest Illegal Dark Web Marketplace Taken Down
World’s Largest Illegal Dark Web Marketplace Taken Down

An international initiative involving law enforcement authorities in Australia, Denmark, Switzerland,  Germany, Moldova Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States has forced down what may be the world’s biggest criminal market on the dark web. 

At the time of its closing, DarkMarket had nearly half a million customers and more than 2,400 sellers offering a vast variety of illegal products. The products offered for sale contained stolen credit card numbers, illicit narcotics, counterfeit currency, malware, and anonymous SIM cards. 

At least 320,000 payments happened through the marketplace, including the conversion of more than 4,650 bitcoin and 12,800 monero (an amount equal to more than $170m). Owing to its position on the darknet, DarkMarket was only open to Internet users with advanced identity-cloaking technologies.

DarkMarket in figures:

  • More than 2 400 sellers; 
  • Over 320 000 transactions;
  • Almost 500 000 users;
  • Over 4 650 bitcoin and 12 800 monero transferred. 

What really happened? 

The Central Criminal Investigation Agency in Oldenburg, Germany, closed down the platform and locked down its computers on Monday. The shutdown was accompanied by weekend detention along the German-Danish border of a 34-year-old Australian citizen who is the suspected developer of the platform. 

The German authorities in the cities of Koblenz and Oldenburg said on Tuesday that they had taken down what was “typically the biggest illicit marketplace on the Darknet.” 

In a statement issued today, Europol stated: “The operation, led by the cybercrime unit of the Koblenz Public Prosecutor’s Office, enabled officers to find and close the market, shut down the databases and seize the criminal systems than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine—backed by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). 

“The preserved data will give authorities new leads to further examine users, sellers, and investors,” they said.

Europol’s involvement

  • Facilitated foreign exchange of knowledge. 
  • Specialized organizational assistance has given. 
  • Supported sophisticated analytics that helped the German authorities recognize and trace the suspected administrator. 
  • Assisted Germany in organizing cross-border joint projects involving foreign stakeholders.

A bit of the History

DarkMarket was discovered as part of a broader probe into the web hosting firm Cyberbunker, The Guardian has reported. Cyberbunker (which is currently housed in a former NATO bunker) has operated servers for both The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks in the context, and if this DarkMarket case is an indicator, it appears to be a valid starting point for potential inquiries into other illicit pages. 

Over the last few years, the aim-like grip has been tightened around dark internet venues like DarkMarket. The Wall Street Market, another dark network platform, fell to a similar end in 2020 after a European inquiry; other sites like Empire Market also gone, whether out of fear of prosecution or developers cutting their losses and taking the profits. 

Whatever benefit sites like Alphabay or The Silk Road have had years before seems to have gone; as government departments have become increasingly active in tracking down these markets and more capable of learning how they function.

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