Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Attacks/Breaches

Major Online Criminal Marketplaces AlphaBay and Hansa Shut Down

International law enforcement operations result in AlphaBay, the largest online marketplace for selling illegal goods from malware to herion, and Hansa, going dark.

In a one-two punch, international law enforcement authorities shut down AlphaBay and Hansa Market, which both sold illegal goods online including stolen identification documents, malware, counterfeit goods, computer hacking tools, firearms, toxic chemicals, fentanyl, and heroin, US and European law enforcement agencies announced today.

AlphaBay, the largest online marketplace for illegal goods on the Darknet, was shut down by a coordinated effort of international law enforcement agencies led by the US. The FBI and US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), seized AlphaBay's infrastructure earlier this month, following the arrest of AlphaBay's alleged mastermind.

Thai authorities arrested 25-year-old Canadian national Alexandre Cazes, who also goes by the alias Alpha02 and Admin, on July 5. But Cazes, who was living in Thailand at the time of his arrest, committed suicide while in Thai custody on July 12.

Prior to AlphaBay's shutdown, one of its staff members had posted to the site that it had 40,000 vendors and more than 200,000 users. And when the site was shutting down, it had over 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals, as well as more than 100,000 listings for stolen ID documents, counterfeit goods, firearms, fraudulent services, malware, and computer hacking tools, according to the DOJ.

Federal authorities on Wednesday filed a civil complaint against the late Cazes and his wife, seeking forfeiture of the couple's assets located across the globe, including Cyprus, Lichenstein, Antigua, Barbuda, and Thailand. The assets range from luxury vehicles to homes, as well as a hotel in Thailand. The FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration previously seized millions of dollars in cryptocurrency that Cazes allegedly possessed.

Prior to his death, Cazes faced a federal criminal indictment that was handed down in June, charging him with one count each of conspiracy to engage in racketeering and conspiracy to distribute narcotics, six counts of distribution of narcotics, one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, four counts of unlawful transfer of false identification documents, one count of conspiracy to commit access device fraud, one count of trafficking in device making equipment, and one count of money laundering conspiracy, according to the DOJ.

"This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year – taking down the largest Darknet marketplace in history," according to a statement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. "The Darknet is not a place to hide. The Department will continue to find, arrest, prosecute, convict, and incarcerate criminals, drug traffickers and their enablers wherever they are."

AlphaBay relied on the Tor anonymization network as well as cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Monero, and Ethereum, to mask the operation's infrastructure, administrators, operators, and users, according to the DOJ announcement. The FBI has identified an AlphaBay employee living in the US.

The investigation into AlpaBay's operations is still ongoing, according to the DOJ.

Meanwhile, the Dutch National Police shut down the Hansa Marketplace on June 20, after receiving a lead from Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) last year, according to a statement today by Europol. The European law enforcement agency noted that Dutch police arrested two of its administrators in Germany and seized its servers in the Netherlands, Germany and Lithuania.

After the Hansa Market seizure, Dutch police continued to operate it covertly to glean information on criminal activity on the platform before formally shutting it down today. It collected information on "high-value" targets and passed the information on 10,000 foreign addresses of Hansa Market buyers to Europol, the European agency stated.

"The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today after a highly sophisticated joint action in multiple countries. By acting together on a global basis the law enforcement community has sent a clear message that we have the means to identify criminality and strike back, even in areas of the Dark Web. There are more of these operations to come," says Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, in a statement

Kyle Wilhoit, senior security researcher with DomainTools, says he is not surprised about AlphaBay's demise given its APIs were compromised and 210,000 private messages leaked on two separate occasions.

"When you are conducting business with criminals, you must expect to some degree that your business is on shaky footing anyway, so this isn't terribly surprising to me," Wilhoit says.

Andrei Barysevich, director of advanced collections for Recorded Future, says he expects the level of cybercrime to go down in the short term.

However, he added, "Despite the recent news, we don't expect criminals to abandon dark Web marketplaces, as the business opportunity exposure to hundreds of thousands of buyers is too lucrative and as we have seen before, eventually new market leaders will arise, filling the void."

Black Hat USA returns to the fabulous Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, July 22-27, 2017. Click for information on the conference schedule and to register.

 

Related Content:

Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET's ... View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Data Privacy Protections for the Most Vulnerable -- Children
Dimitri Sirota, Founder & CEO of BigID,  10/17/2019
Sodinokibi Ransomware: Where Attackers' Money Goes
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  10/15/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
2019 Online Malware and Threats
2019 Online Malware and Threats
As cyberattacks become more frequent and more sophisticated, enterprise security teams are under unprecedented pressure to respond. Is your organization ready?
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2019-18214
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
The Video_Converter app 0.1.0 for Nextcloud allows denial of service (CPU and memory consumption) via multiple concurrent conversions because many FFmpeg processes may be running at once. (The workload is not queued for serial execution.)
CVE-2019-18202
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
Information Disclosure is possible on WAGO Series PFC100 and PFC200 devices before FW12 due to improper access control. A remote attacker can check for the existence of paths and file names via crafted HTTP requests.
CVE-2019-18209
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-19
templates/pad.html in Etherpad-Lite 1.7.5 has XSS when the browser does not encode the path of the URL, as demonstrated by Internet Explorer.
CVE-2019-18198
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In the Linux kernel before 5.3.4, a reference count usage error in the fib6_rule_suppress() function in the fib6 suppression feature of net/ipv6/fib6_rules.c, when handling the FIB_LOOKUP_NOREF flag, can be exploited by a local attacker to corrupt memory, aka CID-ca7a03c41753.
CVE-2019-18197
PUBLISHED: 2019-10-18
In xsltCopyText in transform.c in libxslt 1.1.33, a pointer variable isn't reset under certain circumstances. If the relevant memory area happened to be freed and reused in a certain way, a bounds check could fail and memory outside a buffer could be written to, or uninitialized data could be disclo...