Dark Web Down?


The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) has said that it has dealt a "major blow to dark web markets." In a statement issued on the 7th November the NCA says that a coordinated operation between law enforcement agencies in Europe and the US has "targeted market places for illegal commodities on the dark web" and as part of this six people in the UK were arrested.

Amongst those arrested in strikes closely coordinated with international partners in the US were the suspected administrators of Silk Road 2.0, the Tor accessed drugs and firearms market place. The NCA statement also claims that "significant vendors of illegal drugs through the dark web" were also arrested and that "technical infrastructure which is key to the hosting of illegal market places on the dark web" were taken down.

So what will the impact of this operation be? That's hard to say, not least because it has been a commonly held belief that Silk Road 2.0 was compromised from the get go following the takedown of the original Silk Road site and arrest of alleged owner Ross William Ulbricht who is said to have been the infamous Dread Pirate Roberts. At the time I said that "it would be a brave, or foolhardy, person who started trading in illegal goods using it" and that prediction appears to have been accurate.

Mind you, according to a report by security investigative journalist Brian Krebs it seems that plenty of dealers were using the site. He points to evidence that as of September 2014, Silk Road 2.0 was generating sales of at least approximately $8 million per month and had approximately 150,000 active users.

The FBI and agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrested a 26 year old man from the San Francisco area, Blake Benthall, on suspicion of being “Defcon” who was running the new Silk Road site. He has been charged with drug trafficking, conspiracy to commit computer hacking, and money laundering. At face value the case against him looks pretty strong, what with the insistence of the authorities that a Homeland Security undercover agent had infiltrated Silk Road 2.0 from the very first stages when a forum was created to discuss where to go after Silk Road was taken down. That, and what appears to be a rather stupid mistake by Defcon in that the Silk Road 2.0 servers were registered using a genuine email address used by Benthall.

This last piece of evidence, however, also opens the door to suggestions that the whole Silk Road 2.0 affair is not quote as clear cut as it may appear. After all, would someone with the knowledge, experience and kudos within the underground community really be so stupid as to use his own email address to rent the servers? And it would be stupid, almost suicidally so, given the interest that the FBI were going to be taking in it. Whatever, if found guilty of the conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking charge he faces a mandatory 10 year sentence and a maximum of life.

Roy McComb, Deputy Director of the National Crime Agency, warns that “the operation is ongoing and more arrests can be expected as we continue to investigate those involved in setting up and profiting from these illegal market places. Criminals like to think that the dark web provides a safe, anonymous haven but in reality this is just like any other organised crime network. It may take time and effort to investigate and build a criminal case, but we are determined to identify and prosecute people caught dealing drugs and committing serious crime using the dark web.”

About the Author

A freelance technology journalist for 30 years, I have been a Contributing Editor at PC Pro (one of the best selling computer magazines in the UK) for most of them. As well as currently contributing to Forbes.com, The Times and Sunday Times via Raconteur Special Reports, SC Magazine UK, Digital Health, IT Pro and Infosecurity Magazine, I am also something of a prolific author. My last book, Being Virtual: Who You Really are Online, which was published in 2008 as part of the Science Museum TechKnow Series by John Wiley & Sons. I am also the only three times winner (2006, 2008, 2010) of the BT Information Security Journalist of the Year title, and was humbled to be presented with the ‘Enigma Award’ for a ‘lifetime contribution to information security journalism’ in 2011 despite my life being far from over...

Member Avatar

Although Silk road was a major contributor, I doubt that it was the only contributor to dark web markets... Soon there will be another one taking the place of Silk Road, and maybe the person running the website won't be stupid enough to use their own email address when renting servers. With the kind of revenue Silk Road was generating monthly, it would be childsplay to rent/buy new servers and set up another website/marketplace. I believe it to be dangerous to think that the dark web would ever vanish completely.

happygeek 2,411 Most Valuable Poster Team Colleague Featured Poster

Indeed. The operation quoted took down hundreds of other dark markets sites as part of the remit, but it will still only be a drop in the ocean. Such is the nature of the beast. That said, it does show that there is effort being put into intelligence gathering and acting upon that gathered data.

gerbil 216 Industrious Poster

"a worldwide swoop on ‘dark net’ sites. Some 16 masterminds of such sites have been arrested in an exercise that also took down more than 400 ‘dark net’ websites and servers."
Which is why a lot of onion sites are down...?
Locating the servers... was it really as "simple" as DDOS attacks on sites combined with the monitoring of web traffic at nodes? If that worked, then TOR needs many more servers as relays, the implication being that traffic would be less likely to be forced over owned servers.
Concerted efforts mounted against illegal trafficking/services sites might well be warranted, but sporadic use of TOR by individuals is hardly likely to be so targeted?

aileenwitts 0 Newbie Poster

I wish dark web will down permanetly. I need only clean business with clean web.

iwannaknownl 0 CompTia Certified network and Microsoft Certified Professional

It is not realistic to assume that darknet will ever be completely dismantled. If I want something that will cost me too much money, then I can not afford that. But if I can get there by someone for much less, I do not ask how that person has come to it. That is one reason why crime will never be eradicated completely. It's basically just a game. Society is also partly to blame for these criminal excesses.

iwannaknownl 0 CompTia Certified network and Microsoft Certified Professional

Crime is only partly disappeared from the mainstream web and has found its way to darknet. If you're above ground eradicate a booming market, it will just continue underground.

IntegratedTweak 16 Junior Poster in Training

The Dark Web is becoming too complex and immensive. Every Day a whole new batch of viruses trickle their way to the World Wide Web.

Be a part of the DaniWeb community

We're a friendly, industry-focused community of 1.20 million developers, IT pros, digital marketers, and technology enthusiasts learning and sharing knowledge.