Bryan Herrell, a moderator on AlphaBay, once the world’s largest online drug marketplace, has been sentenced to eleven years in prison for facilitating large-scale transactions and settling financial disputes when with the firm.
AlphaBay was once the world’s largest online drug marketplace on the Tor network, facilitating sales of up to $800,000 every single day. The marketplace boasted as many as 400,000 users by July 2017 and gained notoriety for facilitating the sale of stolen data from companies like TalkTalk and Uber.
Given its widespread popularity among cyber criminals and the fact that it allowed buyers and sellers to trade in several cryptocurrencies aside from Bitcoin, AlphaBay was better known as the Amazon of the Dark Web.
In July 2017, law enforcement authorites from the United States and Europe successfully took down AlphaBay as well as Hansa darkweb, another popular Dark Web marketplaces for cyber criminals. The taking down of AlphaBay was particularly significant, for it enabled criminals to buy and sell a number of powerful malware including Philadelphia Ransomware, CTBlocker, Stampado, and Blackmail Bitcoin Ransomware.
AlphaBay also saw its servers seized in Canada and the Netherlands by the FBI and the DEA and two of its administrators Alpha02 and Admin were arrested in Canada and Thailand. Alpha02 turned out to be a 25-year old Canadian national named Alexandre Cazes and Admin was a Thai national who allegedly committed suicide in prison shortly after he was arrested by Thai police.
This Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that 26-year-old Bryan Bryan Connor Herrell, a resident of Colorado, was sentenced to eleven years in prison for his role as a moderator on the AlphaBay marketplace. As moderator, Herrell facilitated hundreds of thousands of illicit transactions for guns, drugs, stolen identity information, credit card numbers, and other illegal items.
His principal role at AlphaBay was settling disputes between vendors and purchasers and serving as a scam watcher – providing a service dedicated to monitor attempts to defraud AlphaBay users. In the AlphaBay community, Herrell was known by names such as “Penissmith” and “Botah”.
“The FBI is committed to developing highly-trained cyber investigators who work with our international partners and perpetually evolve to counter the threat darknet criminals pose. Cases like these exemplify how the FBI and our international partners are eliminating the false promise of anonymity dark marketplaces claim to provide and are successfully dismantling criminal organisations which prey upon communities through use of sophisticated computer code,” said Special Agent in Charge Sean Ragan of the FBI’s Sacramento Field Office.
“Herrell’s sentence sends a clear message to criminals that the darknet is no safe haven for illegal transactions,” he added.
Less than a year after they took down AlphaBay and Hansa darkweb, law enforcement authorities in Europe also took down Webstresser.org, the world’s biggest marketplace to hire Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) services, and arrested its top operatives.
At the time of its takedown, Webstresser.org boasted over 136,000 registered users and DDoS tools available at the marketplace were used to target critical online services offered by banks, government institutions and police forces, as well as victims in the gaming industry.
Yet another factor that necessitated the quick takedown of Webstresser.org was that novices in the cyber crime industry with little experience and no technical skills could hire stressers and booters from the marketplace to launch crippling attacks on banks, government institutions, police forces, and gamers.
At the same time, sophisticated DDoS tools were available for hire at the marketplace for as low as EUR 15.00 a month, thereby ensuring that cyber criminals who didn’t have enough funds to launch attacks on their own could also rent malicious stressers and booters to fulfill their motives.