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A Milestone Moment - A Win Against Criminal Operators Online

Digital Citizens, Friday, November 7, 2014

November 6 was a milestone day in the fight against online crime. Make no mistake the shut down of six popular online drug bizarres - all sellers of illegal drugs - is a breakthrough moment for law enforcement. By our count, approximately at least 35,000 listings - including 25,000 drug listings - are gone after the FBI and Europol launched "Operation Onymous". That's more than half of the listings we found in our review of the DarkNet marketplaces at the end of the summer. But this is much more than a takedown of six DarkNet websites (Silk Road 2.0, Pandora, BlueSky, Cloud 9, Hydra, and Cannabis Road). Law enforcement launched what amounts a nuclear attack on the DarkNet crime rings. Bad actors must be wondering today if they can continue to hide in the Internet's darkest corners. At this hour, there are 17 people sitting in jail cells who can tell you that the Internet is not necessarily a safe place to hide.

We want to applaud law enforcement and the investigators who found a way to work through the fog of the online crime. They hit three of the six largest DarkNet sites as well as three of the fastest growing newer sites. Taking down the chat rooms too is another step towards disrupting this illegal black market that has become so popular. We've talked a lot about how the DarkNet Marketplaces have evolved, Clearly, law enforcement has too. Going after the chat rooms is like knocking out the business development offices for these drug dealers. Taking out the current marketplaces is one thing, but complicating their ability to converse about the next great marketplace is another significant breakthrough. 

But we all know this could be a short term victory. Now we’ve got to watch the DarkNet giants Agora and Evolution. In our last check just a few weeks ago, these sites had more illicit items listed for sale than Silk Road. Can they handle the traffic and scrutiny that comes with Silk Road gone? Also, does Silk Road have another comeback in store? There are already some signs that someone will try to reconstitute the best known and most "respected" brand operating in the Internet's darkest corners. Few believed it could come back after the first takedown - but it was up just weeks after the previous arrest. So now we have to ask - is the end of the story, or just beginning of the next chapter in the 21st century drug war?

Also, if we can do this to keep illegal drugs offline, perhaps it is time to consider what we can do about some other criminal activities on the Internet, including content theft and sales of stolen credit cards. We hope that this is the start of a winning streak for law enforcement and not an isolated case of progress.

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