Finnish Police Quietly Seize a Darknet Imageboard
Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation and Customs recently seized a Finnish hidden service called Sipulikanava, an anonymous and majority uncensored imageboard. In 2015, Criminal Commissioner Juha Korhonen said that Finnish police planned to crack down on Sipulikanava and, along with it, Silkkitie aka Valhalla Market. Like the landing pages of other hidden services seized by the government, Sipulikanava now prominently displays two Finnish law enforcement logos and the text “this hidden service has been closed by the authorities.”
Known as “Onion Channel” in English, the site served as a Tor-only imageboard with categories for drug advertisements, hacking, and even ordinary discussion. The hidden service’s anonymous creator launched the site in early 2014, shortly after another Finnish Tor site shut down in December 2013. Sipulikanava’s predecessor, Thorlauta, had raised hell prior to shutting down. The site had attracted attention from law enforcement and the media. And according to the police, Sipulikanava had started attracting similar attention.
Or at least some attention. One recent incident in particular, Customs Supervisor Hannu Sinkkonen said, placed the imageboard in the spotlight. According to the Customs Supervisor, in Spring 2017, users of the site had arranged a large amphetamine deal that ended in armed robbery. The words “arranged” and “deal” only apply in a vague sense. Sinkkonen said that police were tasked with investigating that amphetamine deal/robbery.
After that event, Criminal Commissioner Juha Korhonen announced that the police aimed to tackle and investigate illegal hidden services. “Crimes have become really brutal on the Tor network, especially at the Silkkitie Marketplace and the Sipulikanava forum,” Korhonen said. The Criminal Commissioner likely learned later on that the vast majority of darknet market users had either abandoned Valhalla, had never heard of the market, or worked for Customs during one of the many Valhalla related drug busts.
Valhalla is currently still online, for the most part. It had trouble loading several pages in the days after the Sipulikanava takedown, but that is not unusual for the marketplace. Although Sipulikanava never reached the darknet drug market status of Alphabay or the Silk Road (by design), authorities still focused on the drug trafficking. In September, for instance, Finnish police uncovered a large amphetamine deal on the site and managed to arrest a number of suspects in connection with the conspiracy.
As the former users of Sipulikanava migrate towards one of the many remaining Finnish and international imageboards on the Tor network, police are taking steps that may lead to the arrest of the Onion Channel’s users. “Undercover steps have been taken [towards identifying suspects] in the last 24 hours, but at this stage we are not commenting on the matter any more,” Sinkkonen said.
The users of Sipulikanava were a very tight community. On the same day the closedown of Sipulikanava was announced they created three new sites on the dark net as a successor to Sipulikanava.
Sipulikanava was the unofficial discussion forum of Valhalla (a finnish DNM turned into a scam site). Although it was mainly in Finnish there was a category for English discussion too.