Just 24 hours after the FBI announced that it had arrested 26-year-old Blake Benthall, a key figure behind the Silk Road 2.0 website, EC3 put out its own release detailing how both law enforcement agencies had facilitated a joint action – entitled Operation Onymous - against dark markets running as hidden services on the Tor networks.
This collaboration involved 15 EU member states and other counterparts from the US and saw the law enforcement agencies bring down various marketplaces as part of a unified international action from Europol's cooperational coordination centre at The Hague in the Netherlands.
EC3's own J-CAT – which was exclusively revealed by SC earlier this year – also supported the operation although the specific details of that collaboration are unknown at this stage. The J-CAT was launched in September to serve as a platform for targeted operations against global criminal networks and infrastructure, carried out by EC3 and EU member state employees stationed permanently at Europol's headquarters.
As with the Silk Road 2.0 takedown, the objective has been primarily to stop the sale, distribution and promotion of illegal and harmful items such as weapons, drugs and even cyber-crime-as-a-service tools.
The crackdown in Operation Onymous has resulted in the arrest of 17 vendors and administrators running these services as well as the takedown of more than 410 hidden services on a Tor network which is commonly used by the likes of criminals, activists and journalists to conceal their IP address and hide their online browsing activities. The bust also saw law enforcement seize Bitcoins worth approximately US$ 1 million, €180 000 euro in cash, as well as drugs, gold and silver.