A globe-spanning group of law enforcement agencies took down DarkMarket, an underground dark web marketplace. The European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) announced the successful operation on Jan.12. DarkMarket was a hub for threat actors to buy and sell counterfeit products. Stolen credit card details and malware were up for grabs, as well as other illicit goods and services.

At the time of the takedown, DarkMarket was the world’s largest illegal dark web marketplace with about 500,000 users and 2,400 sellers. Its more than 320,000 sales involved over 4,650 bitcoin (worth about $157 million) and 12,800 Monero (about $1.8 million).

Dark Market Operator Arrested

The takedown became possible after an arrest by the Central Criminal Investigation Department in Oldenburg, Germany. They seized an Australian citizen who was the alleged operator of DarkMarket near the German-Danish border, Europol says. 

The cyber crime unit of the Koblenz Public Prosecutor’s Office then launched an investigation into this person and their dark web marketplace. This effort enabled officers to shut down the marketplace. They seized over 20 of its servers located in Moldova and Ukraine.

Europol organized information exchange and provided specialist support. The agency says the international partners planned on using the data stored on those servers to go after the site’s moderators, sellers and buyers.

Other Dark Web Marketplace Stings 

Law enforcement agencies across the world seized several dark web markets over the past few years.

For instance, the FBI worked with digital crime investigators, as well as European law enforcement to obtain a warrant for the seizure of dark web index Deep Dot Web in May 2019. Law enforcement agencies based in Israel, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil made arrests as part of the takedown.

A few months later, the U.S. Justice Department announced the indictment of a South Korean national for running Welcome to Video, then the largest dark web child abuse website. IRS Criminal Investigation first seized Welcome to Video’s servers in 2018. Following this, law enforcement in the U.S. and 11 other countries arrested and filed charges against 337 of the site’s users.

In addition, law enforcement arrested 179 people, seized 500 kilograms of illegal drugs and confiscated $6.5 million in funds in September 2020 in a dark web marketplace takedown.

How to Prevent Your Data from Ending up on the Dark Web

Law enforcement agencies across the world continue to prosecute criminals who hide in the dark web. These threat actors also continue to use the dark web to prey upon everyday users.

Keeping this in mind, it’s important that businesses and other online entities work to keep their sensitive data off a dark web marketplace. The first thing they should consider doing is applying encryption to their data. Doing so will not only help them comply with a number of data protection rules. It will also help them render their data useless if it ends up on a dark web marketplace like DarkMarket.

From there, undo the silo in which data security resides. Data defense needs to function as part of a broader landscape. This itself will help keep that data safe. With that in mind, organizations can work to automate and manage their data security workflows across all departments.

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