Police take dark web websites offline

Last week, the Dutch police took down dozens of websites that were accessible via the dark web. Visitors to the sites thought they could buy counterfeit money anonymously this way. Anyone who now surfs to the sites will see a splash page: a page with the message that the domain name has been seized.

This is what you need to know about the dark web

The dark web is the part of the internet that is hidden from the general public and is known as a place where many illegal activities take place. Think of selling credit card details, drugs, weapons, counterfeit money, child pornography and stolen login details. It is not accessible through major and well-known web browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge. To access the dark web, you need to use the Tor browser.

The dark web works very differently from the regular internet. For starters, domain names on the dark web are composed differently. URLs do not end in .nl or .com, but in .onion. Furthermore, the domain name is composed of a series of random numbers and letters. For example, to use the DuckDuckGo search engine, go to https://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/. Finally, pages on the dark web are not neatly indexed like Google or other major search engines.

‘Dark web is not as anonymous as criminals may think’

The research was preceded before taking the sites offline. The Rotterdam Cybercrime Team, the National Unit and the Public Prosecution Service joined forces. As a result, the Cybercrime team was able to remove dozens of websites from the dark web.

“Sellers, buyers and also managers of illegal marketplaces often feel invisible to the police and the judiciary. By taking over these sites and conducting criminal investigations, it becomes clear that the dark web is not at all as anonymous as the criminals may think,” the police wrote.

Multiple sites taken down from the dark web dark

It is not the first time that websites on the dark web have gone black due to the intervention of the police and investigation and security services. One of the largest and most famous illegal marketplaces hosted on the hidden part of the internet is Silk Road. In October 2013, the FBI arrested the man behind the site, William Ulbrich, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts. Others tried to revive Silk Road, but without success. In November 2014, the site was finally taken off the air.

When the end of the exercise for Silk Road, a new illegal marketplace took its place: DarkMarket. The platform had more than half a million members and 2,400 buyers. They traded in drugs, counterfeit money, stolen credit card details, personal data, child pornography, anonymous SIM cards and rogue software that could be used to carry out phishing and DDoS attacks. In January of this year, the German police took DarkMarket offline. More than 320,000 transactions are said to have been made via the platform, with more than 140 million euros being spent in cryptocurrency.

In June, the FBI took Slilpp off the air. More than 80 million stolen credentials were traded through this channel for bank accounts, online payment services, provider and retailer accounts. “The Slilpp marketplace has caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses to victims worldwide, including by allowing buyers to steal the identities of US victims,” the US Department of Justice said. The department said it would not tolerate an “underground economy for stolen identities” and would do everything it could to apprehend the perpetrators. By closing Slilpp, the ministry hopes to send ‘a clear message’.

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