The Czech law enforcement agency has recently seized a so-called Tor-based social networking website named “Atlayo” as a part of a dark web investigation involving drug traffickers in Denmark. A seizure banner has been put up on the website unlike any other seized website on the darknet. The banner credits the Danish law enforcement as well as the Czech Republic with the investigation that has led to the seizure of “Atlayo” social networking domain.
As stated by the author of a blog post on “Secrets of the Dark”, Atlayo is a social media site on the Tor browser that emphasizes anonymity and free speech. The user interface (UI) of the website resembles Facebook in certain aspects, which is not uncommon with all these Tor-based social networks. Similar to Facebook, it features a chat, pages, groups and more. The primary difference is that most of the people do not use their real names and the people were mostly interested in coding, hacking, anarchy, and at times, self-harm.
The users could access the social networking site Atlayo over the Tor browser by visiting the .onion link atlayofke5rqhsma.onion or merely by visiting atlayo.com. Apart from this, the website also operated its very own search engine addressed at xvwhmrw3sgwwmkko.onion. Both of the onion services are now offline while the latter third address possesses a little to almost no function beyond the display of the seizure banner.
As per the Copenhagen Police, some of the Atlayo users have also created Facebook-like groups functioning as storefronts for the several drug vendors. As per an inspector with a special investigative unit belonging to the Copenhagen Police, the drug users have purchased in total 4.5 kgs of cocaine, 5 kgs of methamphetamine, 3 kgs of MDMA, 3.5k ecstasy pills and 40 kgs of cannabis via the social network.
The authorities were successful in arresting two Roskilde residents of which one is 29 years old while the other is 23 years old – in connection with the investigation related to Atlayo. Both the arrested men have been accused of operating and creating a social network. A police inspector has revealed that during a hearing for both the suspects in the police custody, the Copenhagen police has identified another suspect. But it seems that the police have yet not arrested the third suspect and that his role in the case is still unknown.
The Copenhagen Police has led the investigation in Denmark and the National Drug Headquarters have assisted in the Czech Republic. According to a Danish newspaper and media outlet, Atlayo was hosted on the servers in Czechia (and is currently hosted at Wedos, which is one of the largest web hosts and domain registrars in the country). The A record for Atlayo.com has been changed on the 5th of June, 2020—the date on which the authorities took control of the website. The complete extent of the National Drug Headquarters’ involvement is still unknown.
“I don’t know how much money they got out of it or if that is necessarily the motive. In this environment you meet many kinds of people who have different motives,” Deputy Police Inspector Torben Henriksen with the Copenhagen Police told.
Notably, The Atlayo case is the first of its kind for the Danish police. It is the first-ever drug-related onion services takedown by Danish law enforcement. They have taken other onions offline as well, although, including the websites promoting child sexual exploitation or paedophilic activities.
Law Enforcement Authorities in Denmark have been arresting suspected users of Atlayo (for the alleged drug crimes) for several months now. They have arrested seven suspected users since February 2020 and an investigation into the social network’s users is ongoing, as the information goes.
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