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International law enforcement agencies made 61 arrests and shut down 50 dark web accounts used for illegal activity in a joint operation, Europol has announced.
As a result of 65 search warrants, police were able to seize nearly 300kg of drugs, 51 firearms and more than €6.2m, including almost €4m in cryptocurrency.
By coordinating efforts and acting simultaneously, Europol said a strong signal has been sent to those active in selling and buying goods on the dark web that they can still be tracked down by police.
While the dark web is accessible only through special software such as the Tor browser and provides a safe environment for personal privacy and freedom, Europol said it is also a “fertile environment” for criminals and individual illegal activities.
“Investigating these illegal activities online has become a priority for law enforcement all over the world. While you may have a higher level of anonymity on the dark web, you still have an identity; dark web applications are not an invisibility cloak or an immunity vaccine against the law,” Europol said.
Europol’s executive director, Catherine De Bolle, said the dark web is not as dark as many users think. “When you buy or sell illegal goods online, you are not hidden from law enforcement and you are putting yourself in danger,” she said.
“This international coordinated approach demonstrates law enforcement’s determination to tackle crime on the dark web and to reduce the number of people who fall victim to criminals selling life endangering products or scamming them for their own gain.”
Europol warned that the risks are higher for anyone who uses the dark web to buy illegal goods anonymously, because anyone carrying out transactions on the dark web exposes their sensitive data to scammers who are only after money and personal details.
In addition, Europol said activity on the dark web exposes users’ devices to some of the most damaging malware around and exposes buyers to potential losses due to the non-delivery of goods as well as harm from lethal drugs, malfunctioning weapons and cyber crime services that work against the buyers.
Read more about the dark web
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