Recently, the US Justice Department reported on the new achievement of law enforcement officers – they, together with their colleagues from Europol, managed to close the two largest markets from darknet. It's about AlphaBay and Hansa Market. Now there are new details about the operation itself, which turned out to be multi-purpose.
Initially, law enforcement officers eliminated only AlphaBay, buyers and sellers of which began to search for new sites for the purchase / sale of illegal goods and services. And the "quiet harbor" was found – it was another market, Hansa. But those users who started working with this site did not know one thing. Namely – that law enforcement officers of the Netherlands about a month ago intercepted the management of Hansa. So all the user's operations, their logins, passwords and so on were recorded by the police.
But since after the closure of AlphaBay Hansa has thousands of new users, then all their data very quickly found themselves in the hands of law enforcement. This operation was conceived quite a long time, but only this year the police had a chance to realize their project. According to Europol representatives, through AlphaBay passed huge amounts of money. Analysts estimate the amount of black Internet market in billions of US dollars. This money goes to purchase drugs, weapons, plastic cards and data on bank accounts of people who have become victims of hackers.
By the way, earlier it was said that the closure of AlphaBay is the work of the FBI. But, as it turned out, both operations were joint, the FBI actively cooperated with Europol. The work of the police has shaken the stability of the black Internet market. Two liquidated markets, with certain consequences for their organizers and users, have caused other darknet actors to be afraid to act, for where is the guarantee that the new site they have decided to cooperate with is not under police control?
Law enforcers are satisfied with the effectiveness of their actions. "This, as far as we can judge, is one of the most important criminal cases of the year," the US Attorney General said at a press conference. "Undoubtedly, law enforcement officers received a complex problem in the form of criminals who believe they can act with impunity in a darknet. This case shows that no one is safe. You can not hide. We will find you and deanonimize your organization or network. And then we will punish you. "
So far, the names of criminals who have been taken into account by the police are not called. The only thing that became known is the arrest of the organizer AlphaBay, who was trying to extradite from Thailand. True, he could not be brought to trial, he committed suicide while in a prison cell in Bangkok.
In addition to information about this man, the police received data from thousands and thousands of other users. According to law enforcers, after the closure of AlphaBay, Hansa's attendance grew 8-fold. The influx was so great that the creators of this market even had to close the possibility of new registrations. According to representatives of Europol, the result of the operation is 10 000 mail addresses of Hansa users and tens of thousands of their messages, plus detailed information about purchases and sales.
Unfortunately, the remaining details of the operation remain unknown. How exactly did the police succeed in intercepting Hansa's management? After all, the location of the servers of the market, and all the rest of the information is encrypted and uncovered is not so easy.
But it became known how the creator of AlphaBay was caught. As it turned out, the police received information about him for a long time. The matter is that as a result of a technical malfunction or error of the operator of the market, new users of the site began to receive a message with a greeting from the administrator of AlphaBay. All would be fine, but this greeting contained an e-mail address, "Pimp_alex_91@hotmail.com". It was easy to calculate the PayPal account for the attacker. Well, after a time when it was possible to confirm the involvement of the address owner in operations on AlphaBay, he was arrested in his own house in Bangkok.
During the arrest, the police found a laptop, devoid of any protection (no encryption, no passwords, nothing). The display was adorned with an open AlphaBay, and the owner of the laptop just entered the system and did not have time to log out. According to Thai policemen, the size of the market operator's condition at the time of his arrest was $ 23 million.
When asked whether the Dutch police could deanonimize Tor, law enforcement officials stated the following: "No. But if it were so, we would not have told you anyway. "
Of course, this operation can be called very successful. But all this does not mean that the police won an unconditional and final victory. In Tor there are other markets, they are not so few. And users who have lost access to just two familiar sites, without any doubt, will go in search of new places in darknet. Yes, and the fight against drugs and arms trade is similar to the fight against the hydra – instead of one liquidated organization, there are several more. The battle with the police is won, but there are still many battles ahead. And we will certainly hear about the results of some of them.