The Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office announced the first arrests conducted by law enforcement in the country regarding the takedown of the Hansa Market.
According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Netherlands, law enforcement authorities arrested one of the top sellers in the country. The 28-year-old man of Krimpen aan den Ijssel, the Netherlands allegedly sold large quantities of cannabis both domestically and internationally for many years under the pseudonym of “Quality Weeds”. In his home and cellar box, mail packages and “a considerable amount of money” were found by investigators. In addition to the arrest of the alleged dark web vendor, law enforcement authorities detained three 17-year-old boys in Gelderland for the suspicion of drug sales.
However, this is only the beginning. The Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office expects more arrests. More arrests will occur because of a global law enforcement action, in which authorities managed to take down Hansa, the most popular marketplace after AlphaBay went offline All communications between buyers and sellers were recorded without the knowledge of both the buyers and the sellers on Hansa. In the past, law enforcement authorities managed to shut down darknet marketplaces, however, they were not able to actively monitor the illegal activities from the inside.
“The impact of this undercover operation should not be underestimated. Believing you’re anonymous is the cornerstone of this kind of places. That trust is has gone now,” Rolf van Wegberg, a member specialized in the dark web of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), said.
According to the researcher, the popularity of darknet marketplaces had risen in the past few years. Mr. Wegberg stated that every time the FBI took down a dark web market, another emerged from the dark gaining more popularity. The study of the TNO showed that approximately 40,000 advertisements were present at Hansa when the market was online. In addition to drugs, stolen credit card information and jewelry were among the popular products.
The research also showed that, unlike traditional criminals, online criminals often have an ordinary “9 to 5” job in the “offline world”.
“Traditional crime is getting worse when people get a job, but in computer crime, this is not the case,” said Marleen Weulen Kranenbarg who conducts research on computer crime at the NSCR (Dutch Study Center for Crime and Law Enforcement). An analysis by TNO showed that during office hours, there are significantly fewer posts on underground marketplaces.
In addition, by analyzing the dark web, the researchers discovered that online criminals are more often first offenders. In addition, they are moreover older than the “traditional drug criminal”. Ms. Wegberg stated that because of the anonymity of the Tor browser and the onion network, people do not see any problems for their lives in the “real world”.
According to the TNO research, law enforcement authorities can only take down dark net marketplaces when human mistakes are made. According to Ms. Wegberg, Alexandre Cazes, the administrator of AlphaBay who was found dead in his prison cell in Thailand, was identified by law enforcement authorities because he used his own Hotmail address for certain criminal activities. Ms. Wegberg added that the language online criminals use is also important in such cases. According to her, law enforcement authorities have much easier job identifying the criminals when they use their native language (if applicable) instead of English.
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Europol announced the takedown of both AlphaBay and the Hansa Market on July 20. The event surprised the community since they believed at first that the administrators of AlphaBay exit scammed. Dutch law enforcement authorities took control of Hansa on June 20 and secretly monitored the activity of the users. According to the Europol’s statement in the case, the Dutch National Police was able to capture the addresses and the identities of approximately 10,000 Hansa users. After the announcement, whoever visited either AlphaBay or Hansa, could only see the seizure banner of the federal agencies.