The US Department of Justice has shut down AlphaBay and Hansa, two of the biggest criminal marketplaces in the world.
AlphaBay, the largest marketplace of its kind on the internet, has been linked to several deaths.
It was known as “the new Silk Road” when it was operating, and went offline in mysterious circumstances earlier this month.
Many of its users initially thought its admins had pulled an exit scam, but it turns out its closure was the result of a massive international operation.
What is AlphaBay?
AlphaBay was a major underground marketplace, used to trade a range of illegal goods, including drugs, firearms, stolen documents and malware.
The Department of Justice says it was a “major source” of fentanyl and heroin, and “multiple overdose deaths across the country [have been] attributed to purchases on the site”, including two in February.
Users were able to pay for products with cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Monero and Ethereum.
How big was it?
At the time it was taken down, AlphaBay had more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals, and more than 100,000 listings for stolen and fraudulent identification documents and access devices, counterfeit goods, malware and other computer hacking tools, firearms and fraudulent services.
That makes it far, far bigger than Silk Road, which it was frequently compared to. When Silk Road was shut down in 2013, it reportedly had around 14,000 listings for illegal goods and services.
Before it wet down, AlphaBay sold drugs to more than 40,000 vendors that supplied more than 200,000 clients, law enforcement officials said.
According to Europol, a “conservative estimation” of $1 billion was transacted through AlphaBay since its creation in 2014.
How did you access it?
The Dark Web isn’t accessible through regular web browsers like Google Chrome and Firefox.
You instead had to visit AlphaBay through Tor, a technology that grants users anonymity, so their online activities can’t be tracked by authorities.
While it was created by privacy activists and is also used by them for private communications, it has also become popular with serious criminals, such as paedophiles and drug dealers.
Who was behind it?
25-year-old Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian citizen, was arrested in Thailand on 5 July, at around the same time AlphaBay went offline.
He was found dead in his cell on 12 July, with the Department of Justice saying he “apparently took his own life while in custody”.
Fans and users of the marketplace are currently discussing its closure on Reddit.
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