Silk Road was an online black market, on the Dark Web. It was a platform for selling illegal drugs, like cocaine, heroin and amphetamines. Because it was part of the Dark Web, it was operated as a Tor hidden service, which meant that online users were able to browse it anonymously. Silk Road was launched in February of 2011 and in October of 2013 the FBI shut the website down, and arrested its founder Ross William Ulbricht, also known as ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’. Ulbricht was charged with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering.
Silk Road and the Dark Web
Between February 2011 and July 2013, it was estimated that Silk Road did approximately $1.2 billion worth of business. The website was part of the Dark Net or Dark Web, which is the anonymous and hidden underbelly of the Internet. The Dark Web is like a blind spot in the Internet and contains websites and material which is not searchable via engines like Google.
Silk Road was part of Tor, which is an anonymous computer routing network. Users who learned about Silk Road obtained a list of Tor addresses from a directory server. The user installed the Tor software and was then able to access the Silk Road network. Any sellers on Silk Road remained anonymous because the software masked the user’s online footprint. Instead of using payment methods such as PayPal, payment was made in Bitcoin, which is digital money. Because Bitcoins are used without the involvement of banks or governments, they are not really traceable. This kept transactions done on Silk Road hidden and anonymous.
Shutting Down Silk Road
The FBI was responsible for shutting down Silk Road. It’s not known exactly how the FBI got inside the website’s servers. However, FBI agents, along with agents from the DEA, IRS and US Customs seized computer servers in Latvia, Iceland and Romania, which were supposedly off the grid. From these computers the agents were able to copy the content of the sites, which included transactions of buying and selling illegal product. It was after this raid that the founder Ulbricht was arrested.
Is Silk Road Shut for Good?
While the FBI had taken over the Silk Road website, it’s forum was still operating. It is possible that a lot of the users of Silk Road had transferred their business to other Dark Web sites, like Black Market Reloaded. However, that site was also shut down indefinitely, as its site code was leaked.
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