Recently the US and several European law enforcement agencies cooperated to shutdown a number of websites using the Dark Web for criminal purposes. Operation Onymous targeted the Silk Road 2.0 web site which was used as a marketplace for multiple illicit activities including selling illegal drugs.
The Dark Web leverages the anonymity of the Internet and the TOR technology. TOR also known as “The Onion Router” was orginal developed by the Navy Research Lab to provide a means of secure communications for intelligence information passing through the Internet. The technology uses multiple layers of encryption and random website redirections that are opened one layer at a time (hence the “onion”) to prevent network analysis tools from following the traffic. Snowden used the technology to exfiltrate his documents from the National Security Agency.
How law enforcement penetrated TOR in this case is not known, the international cooperation demonstrated is important in the fight against illicit activity using the Internet. Trolls Oerting of the European Cyber Crime Center was quoted in the Guardian “This was one of the few operations that went flawlessly, everything went according to plan … it went like a conveyor belt … We have reached a different level in how we cooperate. This is good for the future.” Fighting cybercrime is a team sport.