07 November 2014
On 6 November, judicial authorities and law enforcement agencies from the USA and more than a dozen European countries undertook a joint action against darknet marketplaces. On these marketplaces, which run as hidden services accessed through the Tor network, illegal items - including weapons and drugs - and even contract killers are advertised.
Users, vendors and those hosting these hidden services were – until now – believed to be relatively safe from prosecution. This action will shake that belief. Darknet markets such as Silk Road 2.0, launched just one month after the original Silk Road was shut down by the US authorities, Hydra and Cannabis Road, have been taken down and servers hosting the illegal marketplaces seized. Several vendors and administrators have been arrested.
Key figures at a glance
- 17 arrests
- 13 search warrants issued
- 414 hidden services seized (splash page posted)
- Hardware and digital media seized
- Bitcoins worth approximately USD 1 000 000 and EUR 180 000 in cash, drugs, gold and silver seized
Countries involved in the operation, codenamed ‘Onymous’, include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the USA.
The judicial part of the investigation in Europe was coordinated throughout the action day by Eurojust. Europol supported law enforcement authorities through their cybercrime unit, EC3. The action day took place in close cooperation with the US Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Department of Homeland Security (ICE). The operation fits the objectives of Project ITOM (Illegal Trade in Online Marketplaces), an official Dutch initiative, supported by the European Union, to enhance cooperation between law enforcement and judicial authorities in an effort to hinder the development of online marketplaces.
‘This case is a landmark in the continuing battle against cybercrime; it marks the beginning, not the end, of the pursuit of those who abuse the Internet for illegal profit,’ stated Koen Hermans, Assistant to the National Member for the Netherlands at Eurojust and leader of the coordination centre. Mr Hermans said that this case was important in showing that ‘criminals can no longer hide from the authorities. They will be tracked down and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.’
* Operation Onymous: Action Day Impact: hidden services taken down
Tor, an acronym for the Onion Router, is a free network designed to anonymise your real IP address by routing your traffic through many servers of the Tor network. Tor is used by a variety of people for both illicit and licit purposes, a fact that has also been acknowledged in the original Silk Road case.