Finland rarely hits the news for darknet busts of any sort, and especially not considerably large busts. However, according to a Finland need source, the country may have just set their own record for darknet address or not man-hour. Police in Helsinki reported the arrest of 16 people in connection with darknet market drug dealing. The record set, though, came from the length of the investigation—three weeks.
Police said the “breakthrough” came from a “legally permitted and secret” investigation into the group. The group, officials told Finland news source YLE, just opened up shop on a darknet marketplace. The darknet, the officials said, required the Tor browser which rendered the group—along with any other users, including buyers—almost entirely anonymous. However, their “intensive online surveillance” helped identify the Helsinki-based clandestine drug syndicate despite the anonymity Tor provided.
They gave no notice as to what their process consisted of, or what methods investigators used to de-anonymize the group.
Although Tor receives praise, and rightfully so, for the anonymity provided in the Tor Browser Bundle, researchers have found critical vulnerabilities on multiple occasions. In September, Firefox developers patched a major security issue. A bug existed that allowed a bad actor to take control of victim’s “update server” and perform a man-in-the-middle attack, potentially injecting malicious code into an alleged update. And since developers created the Tor Browser based on Mozilla’s Firefox, the two often share both strengths and weaknesses.
More recently, a researcher found a vulnerability that resembled the FBI’s code used to de-anonymize members of a child pornography site. The worst part, according to analysts who studied the code, was that some entity actively exploited the vulnerability. To the relief of many Tor users, though, the malicious code used a de-anonymized user’s ping for a server in France, meaning the FBI likely played no role in the matter.
Regardless of the method investigators used to identify the group, they saw results shortly thereafter. “During the operation we held 16 drug dealers, who sold illegal drugs on the TOR network. The operation confiscated 220 grams of amphetamines, 4,487 ecstasy pills, 847 grams of marijuana, 426 grams of MDMA crystals, 47 grams of cocaine, 37 cannabis plants and 150 ml of GBL,” according to Detective Chief Inspector Jukka Paasio of the Helsinki police department.
The suspects now face six drug charges and another five aggravated drug changes. (For US readers—save for Ohio—aggravated drug charges are just a more severe drug offense). Paasio said that the investigation into the syndicate “expanded and the cases directed police attention to new persons suspected of criminal acts.” The authorities released no further details.