Cops Secretly Seized Darknet Drug Market, Then Ran It

Expert calls move 'psychological warfare'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2017 4:51 AM CDT
Cops Secretly Seize Dark Net Drug Market, Track Users
This screen grab provided by the US Department of Justice shows a website that has been seized as part of a law enforcement operation.   (US Department of Justice via AP)

The shadowy world of online drug marketplaces has been left reeling from a one-two punch by authorities: AlphaBay and Hansa Market, two of the biggest darknet drug markets, have been shut down and their operators arrested. After AlphaBay, the biggest site of its kind, users headed to Hansa, unaware that Dutch police seized control of the site in June, the New York Times reports. Dutch police revealed Thursday that they'd been impersonating the site's administrators for weeks, logging information on buyers and sellers and informing police in nations where drug shipments would be arriving.

A Carnegie Mellon University darknet expert tells the AP that the double whammy is "psychological warfare" that will create "a bit of chaos" as buyers wonder if there are any sites they can trust. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the AlphaBay operation "the largest darknet marketplace takedown in history." NBC News, however, reports that users appear to have flocked to Dream Market, a third major darknet marketplace, where listings for fentanyl and heroin have soared despite rumors that it, too, has been compromised by investigators. (Alleged AlphaBay co-founder Alexandre Cazes hanged himself in his prison cell after his arrest in Bangkok this month.)

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