A task force of international law-enforcement agencies led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.) and Homeland Security has resulted in raids and arrests in 16 countries across Europe and the closing of 50 “Darknet” black market websites trafficking in everything from stolen credit cards to for-hire killers. This investigation, dubbed Operation Onymous, targeted sellers running these “dark” websites, and 17 individuals have been arrested so far in this far-reaching sting. In additions, assets of gold, drugs, cash, and Bitcoin valued at over $1 million have been seized in these raids. Among the countries where these arrests took place are England, Germany, France and Spain.
Key to the success of this investigation was the penetration of the Tor software used by many of these sites to remain anonymous on the web. Used not only for illicit purposes, but by users coveting privacy worldwide, this software allows individuals to operate on the net without having their location tracked. The ability of authorities to get past this sophisticated program and the associated browser made the Darknet operation a success, but has also made those using it for legitimate business nervous that it opens the door to more privacy violations by governmental agencies.
By Jim Malone