*Excerpted from BBC
AlphaBay and Hansa dark web markets shut down
Two of the largest dark web marketplaces have been shut down following a “landmark” international law enforcement investigation.
The AlphaBay and Hansa sites had been associated with the trade in illicit items such as drugs, weapons, malware and stolen data.
According to Europol, there were more than 250,000 listings for illegal drugs and toxic chemicals on AlphaBay.
Hansa was seized and covertly monitored for a month before being deactivated.
The agency said it believed the bust would lead to hundreds of new investigations in Europe.
“The capability of drug traffickers and other serious criminals around the world has taken a serious hit today,” said Europol’s executive director Rob Wainwright.
It was a “landmark” operation, according to US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) acting director Andrew McCabe.
AlphaBay has been offline since early July, fuelling suspicions among users that a law enforcement crackdown had taken place.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said that illegal drugs listed for sale on AlphaBay included heroin and fentanyl.
It added in a court filing that $450m (£347m) was spent via the marketplace between May 2015 and February 2017.
Investigations were led by the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Dutch National Police.
Police in other countries, including the UK, France and Lithuania, also contributed.
The Dutch National Police took over the Hansa marketplace on 20 June after two men in Germany were arrested and servers in Germany, The Netherlands and Lithuania were seized.
This allowed for “the covert monitoring of criminal activities on the platform” until it was eventually shut down a month later.
Ever since AlphaBay went offline earlier in July, users of the site had discussed potential alternative dark web marketplaces on online forums.
Hansa was frequently mentioned, meaning that the authorities were likely able to uncover new criminal activity on Hansa as users migrated to it from AlphaBay.
“We recorded an eight times increase in the number of human users on Hansa immediately following the takedown of AlphaBay,” said Mr Wainwright.
By Chris BaraniukTechnology reporter for BBC