US closes down dark web marketplace
WASHINGTON The US Justice Department said yesterday that it had shut down the dark web marketplace AlphaBay, working with international partners to knock offline the site accused of facilitating a global trade in drugs, firearms, computer hacking tools and other illicit goods.
The authorities said the law enforcement action was one of the largest ever taken against criminals on the dark web - part of the Internet that is accessible only through certain software and typically used anonymously.
AlphaBay allowed users to buy and sell opioids, including fentanyl and heroin, contributing to a rising drug epidemic in the United States, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions said at a news briefing in Washington to announce the action.
"The dark net is not a place to hide," Mr Sessions said.
"This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year - taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history."
The move struck a blow to an international drug trade that has increasingly moved online in recent years, though some experts thought its impact would be limited.
"The takedown of AlphaBay is significant, but it is a bit of a whack-a-mole," said Mr Frank Cilluffo, director of the Center for Cyber and Homeland Security at George Washington University.
Criminals, he said, "are going to flock to other places."
AlphaBay mysteriously went offline earlier this month, prompting speculation among its users that the authorities had seized the site.
It was considered the biggest online black market for drugs, estimated to host daily transactions totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Justice Department said law enforcement partners in the Netherlands had taken down Hansa Market, another dark web marketplace.
AlphaBay and Hansa Market were two of the top three criminal marketplaces on the dark web, Europol chief Rob Wainwright said at the press conference. - REUTERS