Israeli police and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have arrested at least two men and reported others in a takedown of a bitcoin-enabled dark web listings site, the Israeli police force announced in two official tweets on May 7.
The police revealed that a cross-border investigation successfully traced several suspects who allegedly founded and administered a darknet site — identified as Deep Dot Web in local media reports — which was reportedly a resource for finding illegal dark web marketplaces. Such listed sites hawk illicit goods, such as drugs, weapons, or stolen credit cards, the police alleged.
In a second tweet, the announcement continued to outline that:
“The owners of the site raked in millions of dollars through an ‘affiliate marketing’ method, thereby earning from every sale done through them. The payment for the transactions was carried out using bitcoin. The 2 suspects arrested in Israel will be brought before a judge for a hearing regarding their potential detention extension.”
While Israeli police confirmed the arrest of two individuals in their 30s in the local cities of Tel Aviv and Ashdod, Israeli newspaper JPost and technology media outlet Tech Crunch reported that further related arrests have also been made by cross-border investigators in France, Germany, the Netherlands and even Brazil.
As reported, darknet marketplaces are accessed using services such as the Tor browser, which uses so-called onion routing — a technology for anonymous information exchange — so that users can remain concealed and circumnavigate censorship by disguising their IP-address.
The Deep Dot Web arrests follow a joint operation by the German police and Europol last week to take down the dark web marketplace Wall Street Market. The action resulted in the seizure of millions in cash, reported six figure amounts in cryptocurrencies, and other assets, as well as the arrest of three German citizens.
While cryptocurrency and its history of usage in darknet dealings became notorious in the aftermath of the closure of the illicit marketplace Silk Road, a two-year study of the dark web ecosystem — published in February 2018 — claimed that bitcoin may be losing its cachet as the number one currency on darknet markets, reportedly due to users’ frustrations with network traffic and transaction fees.