Authorities in Finland and Europol on Tuesday announced the seizure of Piilopuoti, a drugs marketplace operating on the Tor network since May 2022.
Designed to facilitate free and anonymous internet browsing and communication, the Tor network is also used by cybercriminals to conduct illegal activities, including the sales of malware, drugs, weapons, and other illicit goods.
A Finnish-language website, Piilopuoti was opened last year as a hidden service, enabling the anonymous trade of narcotics that were typically smuggled into Finland from abroad, the Finnish authorities say.
Finnish Customs investigated the dark web site in cooperation with German and Lithuanian authorities, Europol, Eurojust, and private cybersecurity companies.
Following the takedown, authorities seized the contents of the site’s web server and replaced the domain’s homepage with a warning that it had been seized.
Specific details on the takedown, however, are not being released now, as the investigation into the matter continues, Finnish Customs announced.
Commenting on the seizure, multiple cybersecurity companies, including Bitdefender, which assisted with the investigation, have underlined the need for cooperation between authorities and the private sector in investigating and taking down similar illicit sites.
“This operation underscores the power of collaboration between the public and private sectors in disrupting illegal online activities. It serves as a clear message to criminals who believe they are untouchable on the dark web: international efforts will bring them to justice,” Bitdefender senior director Alexandru Catalin Cosoi said in an emailed comment.
WithSecure’s Tim West pointed out that the takedown of a dark web marketplace is no easy feat, and that such actions require “an incredible amount of dedication and collaboration”.
“This is not the first dark web marketplace shutdown this year, with Genesis Market being seized in April. These shutdowns really demonstrate the power of a cooperation across the ‘goodies’ in the fight against cybercrime, especially between the public and private sector,” West said.
Rapid7 chief scientist Raj Samani also points out that this takedown shows that the dark web, which has historically allowed cybercriminals to operate without the fear of being identified, is no longer offering the same level of anonymity.
“Absolute anonymity is no longer a thing, nor is being able to carry out activities on the dark web entirely risk free,” Samani noted.