Biggest ever Tor raid hits 410 underground sites; 17 arrested

Tor users are neither 'invisible nor untouchable,' official says

Coordinated raids by law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and 16 European countries have closed hundreds of underground websites, including dozens dealing in weapons and drugs, and led to the arrest of 17 people.

The raids took place on Thursday and were the biggest so far against sites running on the Tor network, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and Europol, which cooperated on the action.

Tor is an encrypted system that facilitates anonymous communication. It has plenty of legitimate uses, particularly for evading surveillance in countries with authoritarian governments, but its use by criminals has caused controversy. Police have increasingly been targeting underground websites on Tor, and Thursday's raids are the latest in that work.

Troels Oerting, head of Europol's European cybercrime center, said criminals using Tor have long considered themselves beyond the reach of the law, but that's no longer the case.

"We can now show that they are neither invisible nor untouchable," he said in a statement. "The criminals can run but they cant hide."

The list of shuttered sites included names such as Blue Sky, Hydra and Cloud Nine, and the DOJ said they dealt in drugs, fake currency, stolen credit card data and fake ID documents. Executive Outcomes dealt in firearms and shipped worldwide, Fake Real Plastic sold counterfeit credit cards, Fake ID sold fake passports and Fast Cash and Super Notes Counter sold counterfeit Euro and U.S. currency in exchange for bitcoins, authorities said.

The first hint of the raids came on Thursday, when police in the U.S. said they had arrested the alleged operator of Silk Road 2.0, a website allegedly used to sell illegal drugs, computer-hacking tools and fraudulent identification documents. At the time they didn't say that the arrest was part of a larger action.

"As illegal activity online becomes more prevalent, criminals can no longer expect that they can hide in the shadows of the dark web,'" said U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, in a statement. "We shut down the original Silk Road website and now we have shut down its replacement, as well as multiple other dark market sites allegedly offering all manner of illicit goods and services, from firearms to computer hacking."

But despite the assertions of Oerting and Bharara, it still remains incredibly difficult for law enforcement to discover who is behind a Tor website. The same safeguards built into the system that keep the identity of a dissident secret from a government also help criminals stay anonymous. Typically, a true identity is discovered because of a clue such as an email address that has inadvertently been left in the open.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags CriminalU.S. Department of JusticeEuropollegalinternet

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?