Sunday, 24 January 2021 22:46

AFP executes search warrants in QLD after the takedown of the world's largest illegal dark web marketplace


The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has executed a series of search warrants across Brisbane and the Gold Coast over two days in connection to the shutdown of DarkMarket, the world's largest illegal marketplace on the dark web.

The AFP reports seizing a “laptop, four mobile phones, six USB thumb drives and five hard drives, as well as SIM cards and bank cards during search warrants executed on Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 January 2021 in Park Ridge, Mount Cotton and at a commercial facility in Molendinar."

The AFP says the AFP-led cybercrime Operation Futurist “was sparked after information was provided by the German State Criminal Police Office.”

German police last week arrested a 34-year-old Australian national accused of operating DarkMarket, which was selling drugs, counterfeit cash, stolen credit card data, anonymous SIM cards and malware. Officers shut down DarkMarket’s servers and criminal infrastructure, which were operating in Germany.

The Australian man, arrested near the border of Germany and Denmark on 11 January, is accused of being an administrator of DarkMarket.

DarkMarket had almost 500,000 users, more than 2400 sellers and more than 320,000 transactions. Almost (AUD) $220 million in cryptocurrency was traded on the site.

The AFP says it is “not ruling out arrests as a result of the search warrant activity conducted this week. Cybercrime Operations and Digital Forensic Teams are reviewing evidence seized.”

AFP Southern Command Acting Commander Investigations Jayne Crossling said it was likely Australian criminals were purchasing illicit items from DarkMarket.

Crossling added: “Some of these items could have been used or acquired by Australians in Australia. The job of the AFP and its partner agencies is to keep Australians safe.

“If police knew there was criminal activity occurring in geographic location, action would be taken. There is no difference with the dark web, although the anonymising features of the dark web makes it harder for law enforcement to identify perpetrators, who commit abhorrent crimes.

“The AFP works very effectively with law enforcement globally to combine tools and expertise to reduce the risk of harm to the community. Despite that, too many crimes are being facilitated on the dark web,” continued Crossling.

In December last year, a Canberra woman was arrested for allegedly arranging for the contract killing of her parents over the dark web.

Acting Commander Crossling said the dark web was a commerce underbelly used by child sex offenders, organised crime syndicates and those who sought to harm law abiding citizens.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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