Police in nine countries from Austria to Australia yesterday took part in a coordinated action against those who sell illegal materials including drugs and weapons on the Dark Web.
The action led to 179 arrests, mainly in the US, as national investigations continue.
The Dark Web is part of the Deep Web – a part of the World Wide Web not accessible using conventional browsers. To access those parts of the web requires special software or authorisations.
The fact that Deep Web content is difficult to access makes it attractive to criminals, operating in that sector known as the Dark Web. Buyers can reputedly find sellers of anything and everything, and transactions promise to be anonymous and untraceable.
But the dangers are many: drugs of uncertain quality, scammers who have nothing to sell but only want to steal your money, and even risk to your computer from malware planted by hackers.
Despite the reputed anonymity, however, police and legal authorities from Austria, Cyprus, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States yesterday carried out a coordinated operation called DisrupTor (Tor is the name of one of the tools used to access the Deep Web).
The operation, coordinated by Europol and Eurojust, the agencies for law enforcement and criminal law, was carried out based on intelligence gathered in May, when an operation led by the German federal police and Dutch national police took down Wall Street Market, at that time the second-largest marketplace for illegal goods on the Dark Web. The operation provided the authorities with data and evidence to trace those behind the illegal sales.
The result was 179 arrests, including 121 in the US, 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in the UK, three in Austria and one in Sweden.
In addition, police seized $6.5 million (€5.58 million) in currency including virtual currency, 500kg of drugs and 64 firearms.
“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” said Edvardas Šileris, head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre.
“Law enforcement is committed to tracking down criminals, no matter where they operate – be it on the streets or behind a computer screen,” he said.