Europol and nine countries have successfully taken down the notorious dark web marketplace, Monopoly Market, in a coordinated operation codenamed SpecTor.
The operation led to the arrest of 288 suspects involved in the illegal buying and selling of drugs on the dark web. Law enforcement authorities seized over EUR 50.8 million (USD $55.69 million) in cash and cryptocurrencies, 850 kg of drugs, and 117 firearms, making it one of the largest dark web busts to date.
The police action was made possible by intelligence packages compiled by Europol, based on evidence provided by German authorities who dismantled the marketplace’s criminal infrastructure in December 2021.
The suspects arrested as part of the operation were active on other illicit marketplaces, further disrupting the illegal trade of drugs and illicit goods on the dark web.
Law enforcement authorities arrested vendors and buyers across Europe, the United States, and Brazil, including several high-value targets.
The suspects were apprehended in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, France, Switzerland, Poland, and Brazil. Investigations are still ongoing to identify additional individuals behind dark web accounts.
The takedown of Monopoly Market comes on the heels of the Hydra bust in April 2022. Hydra was the highest-grossing dark web marketplace, with an estimated revenue of EUR 1.23 billion.
The operation resulted in the seizure of EUR 23 million in cryptocurrencies by German authorities.
Unfortunately, the illegal trade of cryptocurrencies on the dark web continues to thrive. A recent study by PrivacyAffairs.com found that hacked cryptocurrency accounts of exchanges such as Coinbase and Kraken are popular targets.
Verified Coinbase accounts are reportedly being sold for $610, while Kraken users’ accounts have been sold for as low as $810.
Cryptocurrencies are largely unregulated and decentralized, making them a prime target for cybercriminals looking to make a quick profit.
With the increasing value of cryptocurrencies, the incentive for hackers to steal them is also on the rise. Unfortunately, the anonymity of cryptocurrencies makes it challenging to track down and recover stolen assets, leaving victims with few options for recourse.