The Dark Web has become a thriving hub of all sorts of criminal activities from selling illegal drugs to the distribution of ransomware and running child porn platforms. To tackle the situation, a wide-scale crackdown was launched by European law enforcement agencies throughout Europe coordinated by Europol and 13 countries.
The operation was launched on November 19th in which European agencies were after several gangs involved in money laundering and other malicious activities through Dark Web.
According to the press release from Europol, during the operation, 235 individuals were detained and 300 houses were raided. Most of the individuals were taken into custody from 3rd to 6th December and involved those who were counterfeiting Euro banknotes on Dark Web.
It all started with a data leak after one of the suspects didn’t implement appropriate security measures for hiding the transaction data. In the absence of proper encryption, it was easy for the law enforcement to identify the gang involved in the counterfeit money racket. The culprits used cryptocurrency for receiving payments but stored the list of mailing addresses of their customers.
Authorities also seized about 1500 counterfeit Euro banknotes along with weapons including blades, firearms, nunchaku, and illegal knives, drugs, hardware for cryptocurrency mining, computers, mobile phones, and Bitcoin virtual currency. Additionally, two marijuana growing facilities, one cannabis plantation, and an illegal counterfeit print shop were discovered by German authorities in France.
This year has been tough for the Dark Web operators. In June the Austrian police and law enforcement agencies managed to shut down a portal of the Dark Web and arrested individuals operating it. Conducted by Austrian Federal Criminal Police Office, this operation was also coordinated by Europol. The latest operation is merely a continuation of this operation since the transaction related information acquired during the raid was transferred to the Europol by Austrian authorities.
During the Austrian crackdown, a Euro printing shop located in Leoben, Austria was also shut down. The authorities discovered that the facility had the capability of printing 10, 20, and 50-Euro banknotes and before the arrest around 10,000 Euros had been shipped.
However, the war against counterfeiting on the dark web is far from over as there are tons of other marketplaces offering similar services to people around the world.
“This joint effort highlights that complete anonymity on the internet and the Darknet doesn’t exist. When you engage in illegal activity online, be prepared to have police knocking on your door sooner or later. Europol will continue to assist Member States in their efforts of protecting the euro against counterfeiting, both in the real world as in the virtual one,” said Europol’s Deputy Executive Director of Operations, Wil van Gemert.