The case has a significant resemblance to that of the famous Silk Road dark web platform, which provided a marketplace for everything from illegal substances and contraband to stolen credit card information to contract killers. Unlike Silk Road, which was tightly controlled by founder Russ Ulbricht and a small handful of lieutenants, Dark Dot Web was an altogether more expansive conspiracy, providing paying users with indexed and categorized access to illegal dark net websites – complete with ratings and reviews – without actually hosting or providing any of the illegal services.
Deep Dot Web’s Unique Operating Style
Unlike conventional dark web marketplaces like Wall Street Market and Silk Road, which made money by charging commissions on the illegal transactions they hosted, Deep Dot Web’s operating principle was simpler and more fireproof. Instead of hosting the transactions or offering the services, DDW simply provided referral links to the dark web marketplaces, which users could only access through .onion domains over the Tor Network. Some have compared it to The Pirate Bay in that it provided broadly reliable frontend access to illegal content and services that would otherwise be very difficult for ordinary internet users to locate.
Authorities claim that the site’s owners made millions of dollars using this criminally innovative ‘picks and shovels’ approach to illegal online trading. Since the raids took place and the site was busted, its homepage now displays a ‘seized’ notice as authorities prepare to go into potentially drawn-out multi-jurisdiction legal proceedings that may even involve extradition at some point.
DDW’s shutdown came as part of a wider action against dark web marketplaces that also saw popular darknet trade site Wall Street Market go down. Before it went down, WSM allegedly had over a million user accounts and more than 5,000 active vendors offering everything from Fentanyl to ransomware in exchange for bitcoin and Monero, with the platform receiving a cut of approximately 6 percent of every transaction. Under the power of the German Federal Criminal Police (Bundeskriminalamt) and a joint team of law enforcement agencies from the Netherlands, U.S. and Finland, three German nationals, Tibo Lousee, Jonathan Kalla and Klaus-Martin Frost were arrested on May 3.
Dramatic Week of Arrests
According to the Times of Israel, two Israeli suspects aged 34 and 35, and resident in Ashdod and Tel-Aviv respectively were arrested as part of the operation on Monday, May 6. No further information was provided about the suspects’ identities or any seizures made during the arrests.
Prior to WSM’s takedown, it was one of the largest remaining dark net trade platforms, having absorbed users from several smaller ones that were busted by the cops or exited the scene. The February takedown of Finnish darknet platform Valhalla by Finnish authorities, in particular, swelled the ranks of those doing illegal business on WSM, which made it a prize for law enforcement.
The double-bust of Wall Street Market and Deep Dot Web within 4 days of each other represents one of the most successful weeks for law enforcement in the somewhat nascent world of dark web-assisted illegal trade. Regardless of whatever progress authorities make, it seems inevitable that more individuals with high technical abilities and low ethical barriers will continue to build Wild West marketplaces on the dark web. For now however, following the biggest such bust since Silk Road, they are probably entitled to give themselves a pat on the back.