back to article Cops harpoon two dark net whales in megabust: AlphaBay and Hansa

Two of the largest dark net marketplaces - AlphaBay and Hansa - have been shut down following an international police operation. AlphaBay was the largest criminal souk on the dark web, accessible through a hidden service on the Tor network. Prior to its takedown, AlphaBay reached over 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors, …

  1. PushF12

    Layers of security

    Most of the known Tor busts involved a combination of Firefox bug and social engineering. (eg: The target ignored the download warning to watch a tempting porn file that caused the media player to phone home.)

    Anybody doing enough business through Tor (or Bitcoin) to be noticed by the establishment should at least have a dedicated client computer and the wherewithal to piggyback on a public Internet connection.

    Per usual, laziness and lack of discipline gets people busted.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Layers of security

      Frankly, I don't care if opioid sellers are lazy and undisciplined.

    2. Florida1920

      Re: Layers of security

      Per usual, laziness and lack of discipline gets people busted.

      A cop once told me, "We don't catch the smart ones."

      1. Adam 1

        Re: Layers of security

        > We don't catch the smart ones.

        Something tells me that one look at the applicable Venn diagram will alleviate any concerns people should have about that limitation.

    3. CrazyOldCatMan

      Re: Layers of security

      Most of the known Tor busts involved a combination of Firefox bug and social engineering

      In the Alphabay bust, it was a massive OpSec fail that lead to the arrest of the owner - in the welcome emails (and password reset emails) he used a real (Gmail or Yahoo I think) address that he'd used elsewhere.

      So all the investigators had to do was follow that chain back to the owner. You would have thought that someone savvy enough to spin up a major darknet market would be clever enough to use one of the many mailinator-like services around to hide the origins and details of the emails..

    4. MK_E

      Re: Layers of security

      TOR is barely a step above security through obscurity, the equivalent of going out in a crowd in a plain hoodie and jeans. Sure, you'll avoid notice by most, you'll be pretty nondescript to any CCTV operators out there, but the moment you meet up in an underpass with three other behoodied guys, one of whom happens to be an undercover cop, your anonymity won't save you.

  2. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Nothing new

    Obviously a Tor site can be taken over by police after the administrators or hosting server is found (often by non-Internet related clues), and it's difficult for any customer to retain anonymity if they need to provide a delivery address for physical goods. These things have always been obvious.

    Tracing the customers of intangible goods presents a bigger (but not impossible) challenge for police. Tor has never claimed to be a sure-fire way to be anonymous. Like most security methods, it needs to be used in combination with several other measures.

  3. Alistair

    Cynical bastard's observation.

    "was arrested in Thailand and the site taken down. The 25-year-old died in custody in Thailand a week later."

    Umm. I think there may be some questions that need asking in this case......

    (admittedly we might in general not like the answers, but the questions should be asked).

    anyone that puts something "RL" related into "Dark Web" environments is going to get bitten by the fallout....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cynical bastard's observation.

      When the story first ran, I also wondered if it was a "fallen down the stairs" dead or "hanging from own belt" dead.

    2. DNTP

      Re: Cynical bastard's observation.

      I'm going to bet on "faked his own death with the prearranged assistance of some of the local Thailand's Finest."

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cynical bastard's observation.

      It is alleged he "committed suicide". I posit the scenario that the Thai authorities new exactly what he was up to - owning fancy properties and driving around in Lambos without obvious means of financial support - and his "suicide" ties up a few loose ends.

  4. IglooDude

    I read elsewhere (NY Times) that it is the latter - suicide.

  5. Scott Broukell

    Oh botheration! Just when I had discovered the means to access the dark web - by turning the monitor brightness up to and beyond 11.

    1. Stevie

      Beyond 11

      It's always darkest before someone subverts the TOR node.

  6. Herby

    Now if they went after the spam hawkers...

    It would be a much nicer day. Maybe some has been done already, but you never know. Freezing assets sends a powerful message.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If someone buys unregulated, untested narcotic substances online and it kills them, they aren't a victim of drug peddlers, they are a victim of the War on Drugs™.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Kind of sounds like they are the victim of their own actions, actually.

      Or is that too libertarian a sentiment for El Reg?

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        I thought it was known as "evolution"

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this is why server farms should be set up on reservations

    Get a good tribe to back a dark web server farm and rake in some money.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I always thought the dark web

    was in granny's basement behind the washing and drying machines, where the spiders congregate to chew on a collection of 20-year-old lost knickers.

  10. Winkypop Silver badge

    Pub carparks

    Ban them now!!!!

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nobody mentioned this?

    "With the help of Bitdefender, an internet security company "

    So was their Anti virus software searching their computer for something other than virus? Sounds like BestBuy.

  12. mrobaer
    Big Brother

    Just as I suspected

    "Europol revealed today that the market had been under the covert control of cops for the last month"

    When the AlphaBay story came out, this is just what I suspected was going on there. Only the man behind the curtain was apparently not happy with the arrangement and the Cazes guy had to be eliminated.

  13. StheD

    The NY Times story also said that Cazes was logged into AlphaBay when the cops broke in, so they were able to easily collect everything.

    Maybe he killed himself out of shame for his stupidity. I suspect the cops would have wanted more info out of him first.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      'Maybe he killed himself out of shame for his stupidity.'

      Remember this was in Thailand, maybe the Thai cops had another angle.

  14. PNGuinn


    So, it's back to using Fleabay for now then?

    Life must go on.

  15. Disgruntled of TW

    Instagram and Snapchat next ...

    Both organisations adopting the ostrich technique of problem management despite BBC documentary. Stacey Dooley rather brave in confronitng 15 year old kids flogging via Snapchat and Instagram.

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