DarkMarket, reportedly the world’s largest dark web marketplace, has been taken offline by a Europol-coordinated international operation, according to authorities (via Gizmodo). German law enforcement arrested the Australian man believed to be the operator of the illegal site, and seized 20 servers that hosted it, bringing an end to what had become a hotbed of illegal activity.
Before its closure, DarkMarket hosted close to 500,000 users and had facilitated over 320,000 transactions, according to Europol. The dark web marketplace traded everything from drugs and counterfeit money to stolen credit card details and malware. Per Europol’s estimate, the site traded the equivalent of €140 million in today’s money, in a mix of bitcoin and monero. European authorities plan to use seized DarkMarket servers from Ukraine and Moldova to investigate the buyers and sellers who used the site for criminal transactions.
DarkMarket was uncovered as part of a larger investigation into web-hosting company Cyberbunker, The Guardian reports. Cyberbunker (which is actually located in a former NATO bunker) housed servers for both The Pirate Bay and WikiLeaks in the past, and if this DarkMarket case is any example, seems to be a valuable starting point for future investigations into other illegal sites.
The last several years have seen a vise-like grip tighten around dark internet venues like DarkMarket. Wall Street Market, another dark web marketplace, met a similar end in 2020 during a European investigation and other sites like Empire Market have disappeared entirely, whether out of fear of prosecution or the operators cutting their losses and taking the money. Whatever advantage sites like Alphabay or The Silk Road had years ago seems to have disappeared as government agencies have gotten more aggressive in hunting down these marketplaces and more capable of understanding how they work.