FBI Takes Over 400 Underground Sites Offline in ‘Operation Onymous’

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Just one day after the FBI and Europol worked in a joint operation to seize the servers and apprehend the owner of the Silk Road 2.0, Blake Benthall, the man who ran the online drug bazaar and may spend life in prison, the FBI wasn’t done just yet.

United States federal authorities and Europol announced the seizure of 27 darknet markets shortly after the seizure of the Silk Road 2.0, in part with Operation Onymous. The international operation shut down 410 hidden service sites selling illegal drugs, weapons alongside other illicit services.

“The action aimed to stop the sale, distribution and promotion of illegal and harmful items, including weapons and drugs, which were being sold on online ‘dark’ marketplaces,” Europol said in their press release.

The international operation worked with 17 different countries law enforcement agencies, including United States federal authorities alongside Europol. Operation Onymous led to the arrest of 17 people who were found to be operators of darknet websites, included, authorities seized $1 million in Bitcoin and 180,000 Euros in assets of cash, drugs, gold and silver.

According to authorities, Operation Onymous is the largest law enforcement action against illegal websites operating over the Tor network, a service that allows users to communication anonymously over the internet with heavily encrypted connections.

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“We are not ‘just’ removing these services from the open Internet,” wrote Troels Oerting, Head of Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) cyber crime unit. “This time we have also hit services on the Darknet using Tor where, for a long time, criminals have considered themselves beyond reach. We can now show that they are neither invisible nor untouchable. The criminals can run but they can’t hide. And our work continues.”

Authorities have yet to release a full list of websites taken offline, but a number of darknet users have said many popular drug marketplaces were turned offline over the weekend. Affecting a little less then 20% of the darknet in total. The most popular website taken offline in Operation Onymous was the Silk Road 2.0, which had its servers seized and owner arrested Friday.

The Silk Road 2.0 was the resurrection of the original drug marketplace that dominated the darknet which was taken offline over a year ago. The FBI found the Silk Road 2.0 to generate over $8 million a month in sales attracting a community of over 150,000 active members.

On Sunday the Tor Project said they are unaware how federal authorities were able to locate the physical location of the servers and take them offline in part of Operation Onymous. “We not contacted directly or indirectly by Europol nor any other agency involved,” spokesperson “Phobos” wrote on the Tor project website.

Either there is a gaping security hole in the Tor network or authorities followed separate markets paper trails over the course of several months targeting hidden service site operators.

About Author

Brandon Stosh is the founder and CEO of www.freedomhacker.net. Stosh is a cyber security researcher and professional consultant who strives to provide reliable news on cyber-security based topics.

3 Comments

  1. if jacob appelbaum is any indicator, it’s not their paper trail they’re following. they have various darknet users found and stalked using the global sigint network NSA and the other agencies utilize all the time. users and operators must be leaking their emails or various other selectors these scary agencies are using to surveil and eventually detain them with.

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