DarkMarket, considered the world’s biggest illicit dark web platform, was seized by authorities following a well-coordinated law enforcement operation.
The milestone was the result of a collaborative effort between law enforcement entities from various countries, including the US, the UK, Germany, Australia, Denmark, Moldova, and Ukraine.
A Thriving Illicit Marketplace
According to dark web analysts, DarkMarket had grown to become the world’s biggest platform specializing in the sale of illicit goods and services. The half a million users to the site were treated to a broad assortment of products – more than 2,400 vendors enabled the illicit trade of drugs, fake currency, stolen personal data, anonymous SIM cards, and malicious software.
Like any other dark web platform, DarkMarket specialized in cryptocurrency transactions – digital currencies were used for their illicit edge against traditional mediums of exchange. The anonymity of transactions was a major selling point to users seeking to obscure the pattern and nature of their spending on the marketplace.
Europol reported that DarkMarket facilitated more than 320,000 transactions amounting to an excess of 4,650 Bitcoin and 12,800 Monero, which translates to €140 million by current exchange rates.
The website’s shutdown started off with the arrest of DarkMarket’s Australian mastermind by the German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) close to the German-Danish border.
Thereafter, a host of servers linked to the illicit platform were closed, and about 20 servers in Moldova and Ukraine were captured by law enforcement pending investigations.
According to Europol, the scale operation went a long way to affirm the international commitment to crack the whip on illicit marketplaces that have wreaked havoc across the continents.
While commenting on the widespread application of DarkMarket to commit crimes, Paul Prudhomme (Cyber Threat Intelligence Advisor at IntSights) intimated that dark web marketplaces have been enabling cybercrime for a long time.
According to the expert, dark web services have been serving criminal interests in that cyber thieves do not rely exclusively on their own resource – they plug into other methodologies for spread risks.
Essentially, a cybercriminal will harness the tools and infrastructure belonging to other threat actors in earning money through the sale of stolen data that would be put into criminal use.
Brief Analysis - the Rise and Fall of Darknet Markets
It may come as a surprise to many people that darknet markets are probably more organized than legitimate sites. Although dealing in all things illicit substances and services, the custodians of these platforms have maintained a firm grip on the standards of operation between vendors and buyers.
According to research findings by the threat intelligence company Digital Shadows, the resilience of dark web markets can be attributed to perceptions of honest activity that compare to the standards defined by legitimate retail platforms.
Of course, the background of these sites is controlled by career criminals looking to achieve maximum profit from the entire darknet situation. Such a reality has begotten constant tension between sustaining a “clean reputation” while simultaneously looking to scam oblivious users.
Thus, dark web markets exhibit life cycle tendencies that mostly end up in law enforcement seizures and arrests. Although a dark web market may last only a few months from date of creation to eventual shutdown, new players almost always take over the mantle from failed sites.
Looking back, the past few years have seen a tight law enforcement grip on darknet affairs, if the numerous dark web shutdowns are anything to go by. Apart from the latest DarkMarket seizure, Wall Street Market met a similar fate in the year 2019 following a European law enforcement operation.
In addition, once-major sites like Empire Market disappeared from the face of the internet underworld even before the authorities caught up with them.