One of the internet’s largest forums for criminal activity, has been seized and the man believed to be its operator has been arrested, European authorities announced Tuesday.
Until this week, the site DarkMarket boasted nearly half a million users, over 200,000 re-sellers, and was considered to be one of the most popular havens for criminals looking to digitally swap drugs, malware, stolen credit card data, and SIM cards, among other things. Authorities, led by German law enforcement, successfully co-opted the market’s infrastructure, confiscating over 20 servers in Ukraine and Moldova, where the operation was apparently located.
Officials have been mum on just who was arrested in connection with the darknet — referring to the man only as a 34-year-old “Australian national” who was apparently taken into custody by police somewhere near the German-Danish border, Barron’s reports. Prosecutors say a judge ordered him held pending formal charges, though further information hasn’t yet been given out.
The take-down was apparently part of a larger law enforcement initiative targeting darknet activity that began in 2019 with the takedown of the CyberBunker hosting service, Cyberscoop reports. CyberBunker, a web hosting provider based out of former NATO military bunkers in Germany and Holland, served as a subterranean home for servers hosting illicit or controversial sites like The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks. At the time, the takedown led to arrests and a trial for a handful of defendants charged with peddling drugs, illicit information, and child sex abuse imagery.
Officials said Tuesday that the information gathered from the DarkMarket seizures would hopefully lead to further investigations.
“A shared commitment across the law enforcement community worldwide and a coordinated approach by law enforcement agencies have once again proved their effectiveness,” Europol said in a statement about this week’s operation. “The scale of the operation at Europol demonstrates the global commitment to tackling the use of the dark web as a means to commit crime.”