Bulgaria’s State Agency for National Security (SANS) said on November 7 that it shut down 129 websites providing services on the Tor network as part of a wider international operation involving law enforcement and judicial agencies from 16 European countries and the US.
Operation Onymous, coordinated by Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), the FBI, the US Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Eurojust, resulted in 17 arrests of vendors and administrators running these online marketplaces and more than 410 hidden services being taken down, Europol said in a separate statement.
The operation resulted in the seizing of $1 million worth of digital currency bitcoin, 180 000 euro in cash, drugs, gold and silver.
“Today we have demonstrated that, together, we are able to efficiently remove vital criminal infrastructures that are supporting serious organised crime. And we are not ‘just’ removing these services from the open Internet; this time we have also hit services on the Darknet using Tor where, for a long time, criminals have considered themselves beyond reach,” EC3 chief Troels Oerting said.
Tor is a free network designed to anonymise a user’s real Internet Protocol (IP) address by routing traffic through many servers of the Tor network, which is used by a variety of people for both illicit and licit purposes.
The 129 hidden websites hosted in Bulgaria offered a number of illegal services, SANS said, “including the distribution of materials with sexual abuse of children, information about user accounts for online payment services, credit card data, drugs, weapons, contract killings, illegal trade of bitcoins and money laundering.”
The websites used the “infrastructure of a Bulgarian hosting company”, SANS said.