Law enforcement authorities in France and Israel have succeeded in arresting two administrators of a website known as DeepDotWeb who earned millions in kickbacks by referring buyers of fentanyl, heroin and other illegal goods to popular Dark Web marketplaces.
The internationally coordinated operation carried out with help from Europol resulted in the arrest of two Israeli cyber criminals and also resulted in the shutting down of DeepDotWeb that had been active since 2013.
Using the website, the cyber criminals facilitated the sale of illegal drugs, firearms, malicious software, hacking tools, stolen financial information, payment cards and other illegal counterfeit goods on a number of Dark Web marketplaces. The criminals reportedly serviced hundreds of thousands of customers who were looking to purchase such goods discreetly.
DeepDotWeb administrators made £6.5 million in bitcoin
Once customers referred by the two criminals made purchases on Dark Web marketplaces, the latter received a portion of the proceeds from each purchase and these payments were received by them via a bitcoin wallet controlled by DeepDotWeb. In order to avoid detection, they routed the money through a large number of bank accounts that were created in the name of shell companies.
According to Europol, the duo received more than 8,150 bitcoins in kickback payments that amounted to approximately €7.5 million (£6.5 million) when adjusted for the trading value of bitcoin at the time of each transaction.
The taking down of DeepDotWeb and the arrest of its administrators is another major success for Europol and other law enforcement authorities in Europe after two major Dark Web marketplaces Wall Street Market and Valhalla were taken down by authorities only a few days ago.
Dark Web marketplaces trading credentials of millions of users
The regular hunting down of illegal marketplaces on the Dark Web should come as great news for citizens and organisations alike as the Dark Web serves as a hub of stolen online credentials, banking and financial data, as well as vast amounts of personal data stolen from cloud servers or databases.
In February, a Dark Web marketplace known as Dream Market cyber-souk put up over 620 million stolen online accounts for sale that could be purchased by scammers or cyber criminals for less than $20,000 in Bitcoin.
While 162 million accounts were stolen from Dubsmash, 151 million were stolen from MyFitnessPal, 92 million from MyHeritage, 41 million from ShareThis, 28 million from HauteLook, 25 million from Animoto, 18 million from Whitepages, 16 million from Fotolog, 11 million from Armor Games, and 8 million such accounts were stolen from BookMate.
Millions of online accounts containing details of millions of people were also stolen from other platforms such as Artsy, CoffeeMeetsBagel, DataCamp, 500px, and EyeEm. The passwords for all online accounts were hashed using the age-old MD5 algorithm and could be decrypted using standard software by those purchasing such accounts on the marketplace.