After AlphaBay's Demise, Customers Flocked to Dark Market Run by Dutch Police


"According to Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, AlphaBay was 10 times the size of the Silk Road - formerly the largest DDW [darknet and deep web] marketplace that was responsible for over $1 billion in narcotics sales", says Ronnie Tokazowski, a senior malware analyst at security intelligence firm Flashpoint, in a blog post.

Rather than similarly infiltrate the other Dark Web marketplace, AlphaBay, once the investigators had control of Hansa they merely shut it down. Now it has been confirmed by Europol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the U.S. and the Netherlands police that Hansa has also been deactivated.

Prior to the shutdown, Alexandre Cazes, a Canadian officials believe created AlphaBay, was arrested in Thailand by authorities working in cooperation with USA law enforcement. Cazes, who allegedly went by the nicknames "Alpha02" and "Admin", reportedly committed suicide while still in custody in Thailand. "Subsequent enquiries located the Hansa market infrastructure in the Netherlands, with follow-up investigations by the Dutch police leading to the arrest of its two administrators in Germany and the seizure of servers in the Netherlands, Germany and Lithuania". After all, takedowns like the seizure of the Silk Road in 2013, and so-called Operation Onymous in 2014, which ended half a dozen top darknet sites, took chunks almost as large out of the darknet markets infrastructure.

Rumors about AlphaBay's demise had been circulating for days after the market was shut down in early July.

"We will find you", Sessions said, in a press briefing, "dismantle your organization and network, and we will prosecute you".

The website allegedly trafficked in illegal drugs, stolen documents, counterfeit goods and "other computer hacking tools, firearms, and toxic chemicals throughout the world", according to the Justice Department.

United States and European investigators collaborated for months on the takedown, which saw AlphaBay and Hansa - together responsible for more than 350,000 "illicit commodities" - first infiltrated and then taken offline. Now Dream Market will no doubt take more refugees from Hansa, to become the dark web's reigning bazaar of the moment.

"The operation at AlphaBay was well run and sophisticated, and it struck me as highly unlikely that the market would go down as an exit scam with anything other than calculated precision", Emily Wilson, the director of analysis at Terbium Labs said, in an email.

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It's still unclear how global law enforcement penetrated the two sites, both of which hid the location of their servers, administrators, and users with anonymity software like Tor and I2P.

The way that the police operation was rolled out appeared created to give police as many new leads as possible.

Europol said the shutdown will lead to "hundreds" of new investigations in Europe.

He said: "We are keenly aware there will be another Alpha Bay, but with each investigation we learn more".

"This operation is an example of the improving concerted ability of law enforcement to strike against criminals, even on the dark net", he said.

Darknet sites have thrived following the appearance - and subsequent takedown - of illegal goods bazaar Silk Road.

Federal officials confirmed the recent death of Alexandre Cazes, whom they said was the Thailand-based Canadian mastermind behind AlphaBay, and announced that civil forfeiture actions had also begun.