Dark Net Sites Shut Down After Massive Raid

The operation was part of a collaborative effort between 16 European states and the U.S., which led to 17 arrests. One of the suspects is Blake Benthall, accused of being the brains behind Silk Road 2.0.

Experts have since said that the shutdown is a major step in fighting cybercrime.

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Dark and mysterious

The dark net site operates using Tor, which cannot be found using normal search engines. The hidden area of the internet plays host to legitimate sites alongside thousands of marketplaces for illegal activities and sites for extremist groups.

After the original Silk Road was shut down, Silk Road 2.0 launched in October 2013. It is one of the most notorious dark web sites and facilitates the buying and selling of illegal drugs.

As part of the operation, $1 million in Bitcoins was also seized.

“Today we have demonstrated that, together, we are able to efficiently remove vital criminal infrastructures that are supporting serious organised crime,” said Troels Oerting, head of Europol’s European cybercrime centre.

“And we are not ‘just’ removing these services from the open internet; this time we have also hit services on the dark net using Tor where, for a long time, criminals have considered themselves beyond reach,” he added.

Dark Net Sites: The first blow in a long struggle

According to the BBC’s understanding of the matter, the raid broke new technological ground, with police using revolutionary techniques to physically locate dark net servers. The extent of international cooperation was also far  greater than in previous efforts.

The deep web is supposedly up to 500 times larger than the surface web, and currently has around 3 million users. Up until this point criminals have felt as though they are safe to conduct their illegal activities using Tor, but Europol adviser Prof Alan Woodward, a security consultant from the University of Surrey, claimed that this operation has ushered in a new era in the struggle against cybercrime.

“Tor has long been considered beyond the reach of law enforcement. This action proves that it is neither invisible nor untouchable,” he said.

Woodward also warned that new versions of the sites would be made, and there was still a long way to go to eradicate illegal activities from the dark web.