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  1. German Police Take Down 'World's Largest Darknet Marketplace' A German-led police operation has taken down the "world's largest" darknet marketplace, whose Australian alleged operator used it to facilitate the sale of drugs, stolen credit card data and malware, prosecutors said Tuesday. At the time of its closure, DarkMarket had nearly 500,000 users and more than 2,400 vendors worldwide, as the coronavirus pandemic leads much of the street trade in narcotics to go online. Police in the northern city of Oldenburg "were able to arrest the alleged operator of the suspected world's largest illegal marketplace on the darknet, the DarkMarket, at the weekend," prosecutors said in a statement. "Investigators were able to shut down the marketplace and turn off the server on Monday," they added, calling it the culmination of a months-long international law enforcement operation. A total of at least 320,000 transactions were carried out via the marketplace, with more than 4,650 bitcoin and 12,800 monero -- two of the most common cryptocurrencies -- changing hands, prosecutors said. At current exchange rates, that represented turnover valued at 140 million euros ($170 million). The marketplace offered for sale "all kinds of drugs" as well as "counterfeit money, stolen and fake credit card data, anonymous SIM cards, malware and much more". A 34-year-old Australian national believed to be the DarkMarket operator was arrested near the German-Danish border, just as more than 20 servers it used in Moldova and Ukraine were seized. "Investigators expect to use the data saved there to launch new probes against the moderators, sellers and buyers of the marketplace," prosecutors said. The prime suspect was brought before a judge but declined to speak. He was placed in pre-trial detention. The American FBI, DEA narcotics law enforcement division and IRS tax authority took part in the probe along with police from Australia, Britain, Denmark, Switzerland, Ukraine and Moldova. Europol, Europe's police agency, played a "coordinating role". - Pandemic promotes darknet sales - The German prosecutors said DarkMarket came to light in the course of major investigation against the Dutch web-hosting service Cyberbunker, which is accused of being a haven for cybercrime and spam. German authorities said Cyberbunker hosted DarkMarket for an unspecified time. The secret "darknet" includes websites that can be accessed only with specific software or authorisations, ensuring anonymity for users. They have faced increased pressure from international law enforcement in recent months. The EU narcotics agency sounded the alarm in September that the pandemic was failing to disrupt drug smugglers and dealers, as users and sellers were using the web for their supply. While street dealing had been affected by restrictions during the height of the pandemic, it said consumers and dealers had been turning to online "darknet" markets, social media and home delivery. Also in September, a global police sting netted 179 vendors involved in selling opioids, methamphetamine and other illegal goods on the internet underground, in what Europol officials said at the time put an end to the "golden age" of dark web markets. Some 121 suspects were arrested in the US, followed by 42 in Germany, eight in the Netherlands, four in Britain, three in Austria, and one in Sweden. That so-called Operation DisrupTor followed a law agency shutdown in May 2019 of the Wall Street Market, the second largest dark web exchange, which had more than 1.1 million users and 5,400 vendors. Source: German Police Take Down 'World's Largest Darknet Marketplace'
  2. They were inspired by Breaking Bad and look like ping pong balls. A clutch of young sea turtles make way for the sea in Central America. The trade of endangered sea turtles, for shells and meat, is illegal — but that hasn’t stopped traffickers from smuggling eggs from beaches and selling them to restaurants as a delicacy. Now, a conservation group is working to create a way to expose traffickers and put a stop to it. In a study published in Current Biology, 3D-printed “decoy eggs” with GPS-tracking can be used to trace the spread and isolate main offenders. Produced by conservation group Paso Pacifico, the decoy eggs were designed in submission to the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge, held by the United States Agency for International Development. Paso Pacifico-affiliated scientist Kim Williams-Guillen designed the eggs, deriving inspiration from her favourite crime TV shows. “In Breaking Bad, the DEA places a GPS tracking device on a tank of chemicals to see who receives the chemicals,” she said in a press release. “In one episode of the Wire, two police officers plant an audio device in a tennis ball to surreptitiously record a suspected drug dealer. Turtle eggs basically look like ping pong balls, and we wanted to know where they were going — put those two ideas together and you have the InvestEGGator.” The decoy eggs resemble a cross between ping pong balls and the Death Star. The study’s lead author Helen Pheasey said, “We showed that it was possible to track illegally removed eggs from beach to end consumer as shown by our longest track, which identified the entire trade chain covering 137 kilometers.” Pheasey also confirmed that placing the decoys into turtle nests did not damage the incubating embyros, ensuring that the tracking could be done without risk. For added confirmation, the team tested the decoys in the field, placing the eggs in turtle nests in Costa Rica. A quarter of the fake eggs were illegally removed, allowing researchers to track their movements. While some of these eggs only made it to nearby bars and residential areas, one made it almost 137 kilometers (85 miles) inland. But according to Williams-Guillen, while it’s a strong start, this technology is far from the one and only solution. “It really must be used in the context of a multi-pronged conservation approach that uses education, building better economic opportunities, and enforcement to help fight sea turtle egg poaching.” Source
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