The Biggest Drug Markets on The Dark Web Just Went Offline

dark web drug markets offline
The accessibility of the data published on the dark web means “even unsophisticated and newbie hackers” can take advantage of it. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

The most popular drug markets on the dark web have mysteriously gone offline, with no explanation given by administrators of the websites. The sites affected include the number one ranked Dream Market, as well as Trade Route, Tochka and Wall Street.

Speculation on Reddit forums dedicated to dark web drug marketplaces center around a large-scale crackdown by authorities.

Members of one forum pointed to massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that took place earlier this year, which have preceded crackdowns on other dark web sites such as the Silk Road and the Silk Road 2.0.

The attacks, known as sniper attacks, allow attackers to anonymously deanonymize and disable the Tor Network, through which such sites are accessed.

"These [DDoS attacks] were probably effort to locate the server," one Reddit user wrote. "Now look at all the DDoS attacks on the current markets. Is it not reasonable that this current [attack] is a government effort to locate the remaining unfound servers?"

anonymous dark web hack child porn
Dark web sites have been exposed in the past to law enforcement through DDoS attacks. REUTERS/Tim Shaffer

At last month's 5th annual Europol-Interpol Cybercrime Conference in The Hague, Netherlands, the two law enforcement organisations pledged to renew their focus on cybercrime.

"The current state of cybercrime, reaching all the corners of the world and threatening to undermine the benefits brought by the new technologies, requires a global response," said Silvino Schlickmann, Interpol's director of cybercrime.

Read more: Anonymous hacker takes down 20 percent of the dark web in child porn operation.

The dark web has a reputation for hosting sites associated with illicit activities, such as the now defunct drugs marketplace Silk Road. The dark web was originally created to improve online privacy and still serves as a vital tool for whistleblowers and others seeking to hide their identity.

The dark web is often confused with the deep web, a vast section of the surface internet that is not indexed by search engines like Google. The deep web comprises around 95 percent of the internet, while the dark web is a much smaller separate section of the internet that requires specialist software tools to access.

Earlier this year, more than 10,000 websites on the dark web were knocked offline after a hacker targeted an internet provider allegedly hosting child pornography.

"I came across several child porn sites [on the provider's server]. That's why I decided to search for an exploit and hack them," the hacker, who is associated with the Anonymous hacker collective, told Newsweek .

"I didn't plan this attack, just had the right idea and took the opportunity after finding out what they were hosting."