DarkMarket, the world’s largest Dark Web marketplace, facilitated the sale and purchase of drugs, counterfeit money, stolen credit cards and malware before it was taken down in a multinational law enforcement operation coordinated by Europol.
Law enforcement agencies from Germany, Australia, Denmark, Moldova, Ukraine, the United Kingdom (the National Crime Agency), and the U.S. (DEA, FBI, and IRS) orchestrated the takedown of DarkMarket.
According to Europol, which provided operational analysis and coordinated the international operation, DarkMarket was the world’s largest illegal marketplace on the dark web which hosted over 2,400 sellers.
Much like the Silk Road marketplace which the FBI shut down in October 2013Opens a new window , DarkMarket was also a haven for selling â€œall kinds of drugsâ€ as well as counterfeit money and stolen or counterfeit credit card details. Sellers were also involved in the sale of anonymous SIM cards and malware, a red flag indicating malicious users’ involvement abetting fraudulent cyber activity.
The illicit dark web marketplace boasted over 500,000 users and, according to Europol, facilitated over 320,000 transactions of more than 4,650 bitcoin and 12,800 monero, which amounts to â‚¬140 million in the current exchange rate. For comparison, once deemed the world’s fastest growing dark web marketplace, Silk Road was used to â€œlaunder hundreds of millions of dollarsâ€ earned from transactions between thousands of dealers selling to over 100,000 buyers, the Drug Enforcement AdministrationOpens a new window said.
DarkMarket was discovered by German authorities in 2019 when they were investigating Cyberbunker, a web hosting company housed in an actual cold war-era Traben-Trarbach bunker. The bunker was found hosting The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks on its servers as well as servers associated with the Dark Web marketplace.
See Also: Dark Web, Deep Web and How is it Used
Following its discovery, it took law enforcement authorities another fifteen months to seize the DarkMarket infrastructure, composed of over twenty servers, in Moldova and Ukraine and arrest its operator, a 34-year-old Australian national,Â near the border between Germany and Denmark.
â€œThe investigation, which was led by the cybercrime unit of the Koblenz Public Prosecutor’s Office, allowed officers to locate and close the marketplace, switch off the servers and seize the criminal infrastructure â€“ more than 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine supported by the German Federal Criminal Police office (BKA),â€ Europol saidOpens a new window .
The takedown of DarkMarket not only reminds us of previous takedowns of popular Dark Web marketplaces, such as the takedown of Hansa MarketOpens a new window and AlphaBayOpens a new window in 2017, and Wall Street MarketOpens a new window in 2019, but also serves a sobering reminder that cyber criminals will always set up new shops in the digital underworld once existing marketplaces are seized or destroyed.
For instance, after Silk Road went offline in 2013, Silk Road 2.0, AlphaBay, Hansa Market, Silk Road 3.0, Wall Street Market, and others sprung up in that order, to take its place as the favoured dark web marketplace for drugs, malware, counterfeit money & documents, and even weapons.