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Migration and Home Affairs
News article5 October 20202 min read

DisrupTor operation: crack-down on the sale of illicit goods on the Dark Web

Last week, Europol and Eurojust, and law enforcement agencies from across the world targeted vendors of illicit goods on the Dark Web. On Tuesday 22 September, the operation, called DisrupTor, resulted in arrests of 179 vendors of illicit goods and seizure of: $6.5 million in cash and virtual currencies; some 500 kilograms of drugs and medicine containing addictive substances and 64 firearms.

The operation shows that anonymity of Dark Web marketplaces does not provide a safe harbour for criminals. Thanks to international cooperation – in this case between Austria, Cyprus, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States – law enforcement managed to track down the criminals.

According to Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) 2020 published today by Europol, the dark web remains one of key facilitators for other forms of crime, including trade in an extensive range of illegal products and services. Volatility of the dark web environment poses an additional challenge to law enforcement: in 2019 and early 2020 the lifecycles of such markets have shortened, as their administrators seem to want to stay under the radar.

What are the dangers of buying illegal goods anonymously on the dark web?

According to recently published information by Europol, the dangers of using the dark web to buy illegal goods includes:

  • Putting your life in danger: dangerous illegal drugs such as fentanyl or counterfeit substances could kill you;
  • Become a victim of cyber scammers who are only after your money;
  • Exposing your device to damaging malware.

At the same time, law enforcement can trace back illicit transactions to both the buyer and seller; and an individual who purchased illicit goods from hidden sites is at risk of prosecution in a number of countries.


On 24 July, the European Commission adopted a new EU Security Union Strategy for the period 2020 to 2025, focusing on priority areas where the EU can bring value to support Member States in fostering security for all those living in Europe. The strategy lays out the tools and measures to be developed over the next 5 years to ensure security of EU citizens, including in the digital environment.

Cybercrime is one of the priorities of the EU Policy Cycle for organised and serious international crime for the 2018 - 2021 period.

The Commission also supports law enforcement in Member States through the Internal Security Fund.

More information


Publication date
5 October 2020