Black markets have existed for as long as there has been law and order. People use these hidden marketplaces to traffic the most illegal and sinister of things. Black markets exist in the physical space, but they do in the digital as well. It is known as the dark web. For a long time, elusive dark web utilizers were able to evade authorities. However, the tides are beginning to turn. In the covert operation known as Dark HunTor the US Department of Justice and Europol worked to uncover key players in the dark net marketplace known as Dark Market, which had been shut down earlier in the year. According to The Verge, the DoJ and Europol investigation has led to 150 arrests.
Before it was shut down, Dark Market had approximately half of a million users on its platform where 320,000 purchases were transacted. Those transactions consisted of a wide range of unlawful products like drugs, malware, stolen credit card information, and illegal weaponry. Tech Times noted that when Dark Market was shut down in January that authorities were able to extrapolate key evidence from all of the transactions and determine who the most frequent offenders were.
The individual arrests led to a collective seizure of $31.6 million in cash and cryptocurrency as well as 234 kilograms of dangerous opioids like fentanyl and methamphetamine. The arrests happened in 8 different countries with the majority concentrated in the United States (65), Germany (47), and the United Kingdom (24). In reference to the confiscated drugs, the Associate Deputy FBI Director Paul Abate said “Those purchasing drugs through the dark net often don’t know what they’re getting,” he continued, “Today we’re taking some of the most dangerous, unregulated drugs off the streets of America.”
The Department of Justice has also stated that there are still a number of investigations relating to this matter that are ongoing. In addition to successfully shutting down Dark Market, authorities in Italy were able to take down two other marketplaces, DeepSea and Berlusconi, on the dark net. The takedown resulted in 4 arrests and a fiscal recovery of over $4 million in cryptocurrency.
Europol Deputy Executive Director Jean-Philippe Lecouffe has emphasized that “No one is beyond the reach of law, even on the dark web.” While the dark web was once thought to be able to fly beneath the radar of the law, that has not been the case in recent years. In fact, the opposite is now true. Not only have a whole of host of major dark web marketplaces like Dream, WallStreet, and White House, been shut down, but podcasts like Dark Net Diaries have put more of a bullseye on their existence.
Navigating the nuances of the internet and understanding parts of it that are run by sinister people is becoming more and more important as time goes on. Not only because of the crimes that are happening on the dark web but because of recurrent instances of hackers infiltrating big companies and exploiting them for money. There is still a long way to go before the law can catch up with how fast the digital world has evolved, but small steps are being made that could very well lead to a much safer and more regulated digital space in the future.