The European Union’s law enforcement agency today announced the creation of a dedicated team that will be investigating activity across the dark web.
The newly established Dark Web Investigations Team, embedded within Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), is the result of a Europol initiative “to create a coordinated law enforcement approach to tackle crime on the dark web.”
The dedicated team will have participation from EU law enforcement agencies, operational third parties, and other relevant partners.
Through EC3, Europol has been long supporting investigations of criminal marketplaces on the dark web, and helped last year with the takedown of some of the largest dark web markets, such as AlphaBay.
Many critical marketplaces for criminal organizations and individual illegal activities worldwide are hosted on the dark web, the law enforcement agency points out. Such underground markets represent fertile environments for criminals, as they offer the possibility to buy and sell anonymously.
Shut down last year, Alphabay and Hansa, two of the largest underground marketplaces, were reportedly responsible for the trading of over 350,000 illicit goods, including drugs, firearms and cybercrime tools, such as malware.
The successful takedown of these dark web portals resulted in a decreased volume of transactions and in some traders leaving the dark web platform due to anxiety, uncertainty, and the risks regarding the level of anonymity, Europol notes. Many vendors “were not inclined to open them again,” and the distrust between vendors and buyers has increased.
The newly established dedicated Dark Web Team “will deliver a complete, coordinated approach: sharing information, providing operational support and expertise in different crime areas and the development of tools, tactics, and techniques to conduct dark web investigations and identify top threats and targets. The team also aims to enhance joint technical and investigative actions, organize training and capacity-building initiatives, together with prevention and awareness-raising campaigns – a 360° strategy against criminality on the dark web,” Europol says.
Related: U.S., European Police Say ‘Dark Web’ Markets Shut Down
Related: Dark Web Market AlphaBay Goes Down