FBI agents raided a New Orleans home this week as part of an international crackdown on the so-called “Dark Web” — anonymous, underground marketplaces that facilitate the online sale of weapons, drugs and illegal services.
Particulars of the raid, which happened Thursday morning in Faubourg Marigny, weren’t made public, and it wasn’t clear who lived at the targeted address, 2559 N. Rampart St., at the corner of Franklin Avenue.
Mary Beth Romig Haskins, an FBI spokeswoman, declined to say what was seized or whether anyone was arrested. She would only confirm that the operation stemmed from a global effort to shut down websites that remain hidden through a popular software known as Tor, or the onion router.
Tor enables anonymous Web browsing by bouncing traffic through a vast network of “relays,” a circuit that helps to conceal the source and destination of encrypted data. Authorities said the crackdown was the largest to date targeting criminal websites operating via the onion router.
“Working closely with domestic and international law enforcement, the FBI and our partners have taken action to disrupt several websites dedicated to the buying and selling of illegal drugs and other unlawful goods,” FBI Executive Assistant Director Robert Anderson said in a statement. “Combating cyber criminals remains a top priority for the FBI, and we continue to aggressively investigate, disrupt and dismantle illicit networks that pose a threat in cyberspace.”
The owner of the North Rampart Street residence said she was unaware the home had been raided, adding that her tenants seemed like normal people. She declined further comment.
The Justice Department, in a news release Friday, said authorities had “taken action against over 400 Tor hidden service ‘.onion’ addresses, including dozens of ‘dark market’ websites” offering illegal goods via the Tor network. Website addresses and computer servers hosting those sites were confiscated as part of a joint law enforcement action involving 16 foreign countries, the release said.
The crackdown followed the arrest Wednesday of Blake Benthall, a 26-year-old charged in federal court in New York with operating Silk Road 2.0, a website the authorities described as “the Wild West” of the Internet. Benthall is known by the username “Defcon.”
“We shut down the original Silk Road website and now we have shut down its replacement, as well as multiple other ‘dark market’ sites allegedly offering all manner of illicit goods and services, from firearms to computer hacking,” Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in New York, said in a statement. “In coordination with domestic and international law enforcement agencies, we will continue to seize websites that promote illegal and harmful activities, and prosecute those who create and operate them.”
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