Authorities from both the United States and Europe revealed that they have seized the addresses of over 400 secret websites, along with arresting 16 people allegedly connected to these illegal portals, as part of a crackdown on black markets that promote the sale of drugs and other unlawful services.
The developments on the crackdown operations were announced just a day after New York prosecutors released the charges against Blake Benthall, the alleged administrator of Silk Road 2.0.
Silk Road 2.0 is the successor of the original Silk Road website, which was shut down in November 2013. Both websites operated as underground online marketplaces for illegal drugs and services.
U.S. authorities said that the worldwide sweep is the biggest action by law enforcers to date against the illegal websites that operate through the Tor network, allowing users to hide their IP addresses to conceal their true identities.
The Tor network was initially developed by researchers from the U.S. Navy for the protection of the anonymity of communications regarding national security. It is now being abused by users that look to avoid being the subject of surveillance.
The Europol said that cyber crime teams from the U.S. and Europe have seized $1 million in the form of the Bitcoin digital currency, 180,000 euros in cash, gold, silver and drugs over crackdowns spanning 18 countries.
The over 400 domains and websites that were seized on Nov. 6 operated on the Tor network. Authorities said that the websites dealt with buying and selling items and services such as drugs, child pornography, weapons, and hackers and hitmen for hire.
U.S. authorities recently seized Silk Road 2.0, which by September had around 150,000 active users and was generating around $8 million in sales monthly.
Like the original Silk Road, Silk Road 2.0 charged a fee on top of every transaction generated through the portal.
Europol cyber crime center head Troels Oerting said that the operation that led to the shutdown of Silk Road 2.0 was able to knock out a major portion of the infrastructure that was being used to sell drugs and weapons.
"We have also hit services on the Darknet using Tor where, for a long time, criminals have considered themselves beyond reach," Oerting said. "We can now show that they are neither invisible nor untouchable."
According to Oerting, the illegal websites even had working business models, with complete listing on the illegal items and services being sold.
Oerting added that the buyers from the illegal websites were able to receive their orders through a courier, and that reliable suppliers were rated through a ranking system.