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Worldwide crackdown on 'dark net' leads to 15 arrests (and two in Ireland)

An investigation coordinated by Europol covered the United States and 16 countries in Europe.

Image: mouse via Shutterstock

POLICE ACROSS THE world have closed hundreds of online ‘dark net’ markets selling illegal drugs, weapons and services, arresting 17 people in a massive operation against the Tor network that allows users to browse anonymously online.

Two of these arrests were in Ireland, as reported yesterday.

Investigators from the United States and 16 European countries yesterday”undertook a joint action against dark markets running as hidden services on Tor network,” the Europol police agency said in a statement.

Tor is an encryption service that masks a computer user’s identifying IP address, allowing them to set up private web connections in what is known as the Darknet — a hidden network used for both licit and illicit ends.

“The action aimed to stop the sale, distribution and promotion of illegal and harmful items, including weapons and drugs, which were being sold on online ‘dark’ marketplaces,” Europol said.

A total of 414 sites have been seized and closed down in the operation codenamed “Onymous”, but Europol declined to say how it had identified vendors and administrators on the supposedly anonymous Darknet.

The operation seized virtual Bitcoins, used to carry out transactions, worth €800,000, €180,000 euros in cash as well as drugs.

“We are not ‘just’ removing these services from the open Internet,” said Troels Oerting, the head of Europol’s EC3 cybercrime unit.

This time we have also hit services on the Darknet using Tor where, for a long time, criminals have considered themselves beyond reach. We can now show that they are neither invisible nor untouchable.

In Ireland gardaí sezied almost €200,000 worth of drugs and a quantity of Bitcoin in Dublin.

Two arrests were made.

The raided property, located on the South Circular Road, had been under surveillance for some time.

A quantity of LSD, ecstasy and other drugs were seized.

- © AFP, 2014, additional reporting by Nicky Ryan.

Read: What do kids these days know about drugs? Answers on an iPad, please > 

Read: Kildare man’s privacy was not violated when he signed for cocaine addressed to fake diplomat > 

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