Illegal marketplace "DarkMarket" taken offline - Software

Joanna Estrada
January 13, 2021

Police forces from seven countries have taken down DarkMarket, the world's largest illegal dark web marketplace, and arrested a 34-year-old Australian believed to be its mastermind. 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.

All sorts of drugs, forged money, stolen or forged credit cards, anonymous mobile phone SIM cards and malware were among the things offered for sale there, prosecutors allege.

Until this week, the site DarkMarket boasted almost 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.

"Investigators were able to shut down the marketplace and turn off the server on Monday", they added, calling it the culmination of a months-long worldwide law enforcement operation.

"The stored data will give investigators new leaders to further investigate moderators, sellers and buyers", Europol said in a statement Tuesday.

Three hundred and twenty thousand transactions using more than 4,650 bitcoin and 12,800 monero had taken place, police said, meaning €140m (£125m) worth of purchases using cryptocurrency had been made in the time the market was online.

The prime suspect was brought before a judge but declined to speak.

German investigators were assisted in their months-long probe by U.S. authorities and by Australian, British, Danish, Swiss, Ukrainian and Moldovan police.

Prosecutors said the move against DarkMarket originated in an investigation of a data processing centre installed in a former North Atlantic Treaty Organisation bunker in south-western Germany that hosted sites dealing in drugs and other illegal activities. They have been on trial since last October in the German city of Trier.

The secret "darknet" network includes websites that can be accessed only with specific software or authorisations, ensuring anonymity for users.

German police raided the CyberBunker's headquarters in September 2019 in Traben-Trarbach, a small town close to the Luxembourg border.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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