Two of the largest online black-market sites have been shuttered in a law enforcement crackdown, but drug dealers have moved in a hurry to a third “dark net” emporium, where listings of fentanyl and heroin have already spiked, according to analysts.
The newfound popularity of DreamMarket highlights the whack-a-mole challenges of policing drugs sold online even as government officials touted the the death of the other two sites, AlphaBay and Hansa.
The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Justice Department announced Thursday that AlphaBay — described as a major source of fentanyl and heroin that has been linked to overdose deaths — had been seized and closed down.
“This is likely one of the most important criminal investigations of the year — taking down the largest dark net marketplace in history,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The so-called dark net is a part of the Internet that can only be accessed by specialized software or hardware and contains clandestine websites not found through normal search engines.
Alphabay and Hansa advertised drugs, chemicals, counterfeit documents, weapon and computer malware among many other items and services, cloaking users in anonymity. Authorities said AlphaBay alone was responsible for at least a billion dollars worth of commerce, using bitcoin and other crypto-currencies.
AlphaBay’s suspected founder, Alexandre Caze, was arrested earlier this month in Thailand at the request of U.S. officials. A week later he was found dead in his cell.
As soon as authorities shut down AlphaBay, sellers began migrating to other sites, according to Kela Targeted Cyber Intelligence, a Tel Aviv company that specializes in monitoring the dark net.