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Police from the Tel Aviv Police Cybercrime Unit have arrested two Israeli citizens accused of running a Dark Net media site called “Deepdotweb.”
Several other French, German, Dutch and Brazilian nationals have also been arrested in an operation coordinated between local authorities and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The undercover operation has reportedly been underway for two months, but was only announced upon the arrest of the suspects.
Israeli media site the Jerusalem Post characterizes the Deepdotweb site as, “…a gateway link to other sites hawking illegal goods and services.”
Deepdotweb allegedly provided referral services to and processed sales on behalf of numerous Dark Net Marketplaces (DNMs), where weapons, stolen credit card details, drugs, prostitution, and other illicit products and services can be procured.
Deepdotweb administrators allegedly “made millions” providing sales and referrals to DNMs, and money transfers were executed using Bitcoin, that can be used internationally with relative anonymity and speed.
“On May 7, both (Deepdotweb’s) clearnet and darknet domains were seized, and the operators arrested and slapped with money laundering charges…and Deepdotweb
The outlet says the takedown, “…generated shockwaves that have resonated way beyond the darknet community, marking the first time that feds have targeted the press in this manner. Deepdotweb (DDW) was by far the most popular clearnet resource for accessing links to DNMs, following the closure of subreddit r/darknetmarkets
The publication writes that Deepdotweb not only provided referrals and sales to DNMs, but also employed ‘numerous’ freelance reporters, “…covering a wide range of topics including the Tor network, cryptocurrency markets, opsec and privacy. The site’s closure is a major loss, not only to its staff, but to its sizeable readership, many of whom had no interest in darknet markets. With DDW gone and its ringleaders behind bars, operators of other darknet new sites will be looking over their shoulders nervously.”
The Deepdotweb take down the fourth major Dark Net bust or conviction involving American law enforcement in the past six weeks.
In March, 61 people were arrested and 50 Darknet accounts shut down following a joint operation against Dark Net opioid markets executed by J-CODE, the Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team. The busts came as a result of Operation SaboTor, “a coordinated international effort targeting drug trafficking organizations operating on the Darknet.”
In April, two men who ran a Dark Net website called NextDayGear were convicted in New York for allegedly manufacturing and distributing thousands of packages of injectable and oral steroids as well as drugs to counter the effects of steroid use.
The government says the men “laundered and converted to cash” at least $2.8 million in cryptocurrencies they received during the course of operations.
Two other men accused of running a drug market on the Dark Net were indicted in New York in April for allegedly selling, “…hundreds of thousands of counterfeit Xanax tablets and other controlled substances to buyers in 43 states.”
The ‘darknet community’ was also dealt a massive blow last week when the second largest Dark Net Market, Wall Street Market, was shut down following the arrest of three men in the UK and two in Los Angeles.
Those arrests reportedly
came as a result of a joint investigation by German, Dutch, and US authorities assisted by Europol.
Bitcoin.com provides commentary on the Deepdotweb (DDW) take down from a user of Dread, a Reddit-like Darknet forum.
In the commentary, the individual posits that the chaos resulting from the Deepdotweb bust will be exploited by anti-cybercrime investigative units:
“I feel TPTB [the powers that be] are working on a big operation for this summer…It all adds up to that. They have been testing the waters with DDoS attacks and seizures. Now that they know the DDoS attacks can cripple the markets without much done to prevent it, they’ll start shutting down the sources of information to keep people from being able to alert the community once the real OP starts…The Hub, DNA, Dread will be attacked even more. DDW was seized because the Tor based DDoS attack wouldn’t have taken down their clearnet site. Now with the DNMs in chaos and everyone scrambling to various sites, they’ll start the OP in earnest and will prevent the spread of information in the meantime.”
Dark Net denizens often espouse values of “freedom of information and choice” with regards to the use of drugs and other lifestyle features.
Some Dark Net markets, however, also host portals for the accessing of clearly harmful “products,” including some involving human trafficking and child exploitation as well as “murder for hire” services.
In February of this year, The Los Angeles Times reported
that a man in Oakland was arrested for trying to buy a toxic chemical on the Dark Net he allegedly intended to use to poison his estranged spouse, the mother of his two children. The man allegedly used a pseudonym, “altcoins” converted to Bitcoins, and a third-party address to procure, “a highly toxic chemical, in amounts capable of killing many people.”