Police Operation Targets Darknet Users in Italy

Italian law enforcement, yet again, made moves in an attempt to end criminal activity on the second iteration of the Italian Darknet Community. From the perspective of many of the users of the original Italian Darknet Community (IDC), the current marketplace and forum is no more than a law enforcement honeypot. Italian authorities have taken the hidden service down, raided users, raided users again, and then launched fairly large-scale operations into some of the vendors on the market. This time, in an operation the press has referred to as “Darknet.Money,” the Special Technological Fraud Unit of the Guardia di Finanza targeted three IDC members responsible for selling a small number of cloned SIM cards, among other fraud-related items.

The operation, according to an official press release, was conducted by a social unit of the financial police in Rome and coordinated by police in Brescia, Italy. The so-called “Darknet.Money” operation involved the execution of a grand total of five search warrants and three suspected fraudsters. Two of the three Alleged fraudsters had no direct connection to IDC, either; they simply interacted with the police’s primary target on an inherently criminal level. According to the authorities, at least.

Officially, the operation’s scope encompassed several forms and variations of fraud. Italian authorities mentioned “counterfeit banknotes and [fake] precious metals.” The three targets of the investigation had been counterfeiting euro notes, Italian police believed. And Italian police, thanks to the Napoli Group, know their way around counterfeit banknotes. The trio had also been cloning credit cards and SIM cards for personal use and for distribution through the Italian Darknet Community’s marketplace. On IDC’s market, the police accused at least one of the conspirators of selling unauthorized access to private data, stolen card information, and cloned SIM cards.

The police placed more emphasis on the cloned SIM cards than on many of the other items the trio from Naples had allegedly been selling on the darknet. The cloned SIM cards and stolen credit cards had been stolen from “unsuspecting Spaniards and Germans,” the police explained. These three alleged crooks had been making thousands of dollars every month through stolen information.

After a brief explanation of Tor, the police explained how darknet markets worked. “The sites are divided into sections classified according to the type of products being bought and sold: Fraud, Drugs, Weapons, Counterfeit Items, Identity Data, Credit Cards, Knives, Guns and Explosives, Passports, etc,” they wrote.

They finally revealed that the primary target—the only suspect with an actual presence on the darknet—was a fraud vendor who sold his stolen or counterfeit products on IDC under the username “Benz99.” Benz99 is far from the most prolific fraud vendor on the darknet, but the Guardia di Finanza of Rome, through an unknown method that involved Benz99 customers, had gathered enough evidence to make an arrest they hoped would send a message to other criminals “hiding behind the internet to conduct illegal activity.” The vagueness of the press release, though, hardly sends a warning.