Sometimes, the internet is an unnerving, illicit thing. Example A: Silk Road.
Silk Road was an online black market website accessible via Tor, a free hidden browser service that allowed people to web surf anonymously and securely without potential traffic monitoring. The website launched in February 2011 and has been called the Amazon.com or the eBay of illegal drugs. Until today, that is.
Silk Road was shut down on 2 October by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. In relation to Tor and Bitcoin, Silk Road has been described as "a dark corner of the web", where users could buy anything from cocaine to marijuana using the virtual currency Bitcoin.
The Verge on Wednesday published the criminal complaint, civil forfeiture complaint and protective order filed in the Southern District of New York against Ross Ulbricht. He's the 29-year-old San Franciscan owner of Silk Road, though he's more famously known by the handle Dread Pirate Robert. The YouTube video below features an interview with Ulbricht.
According to The Verge, the FBI located Silk Road's host server in an unspecified foreign country and subsequently monitored Dread Pirate Roberts's private messages. Among other allegations in the complaint, Dread Pirate Roberts allegedly ordered the murder of a user FriendlyChemist. The user attempted to blackmail Dread Pirate Roberts, asking $500,000 or else he'd reveal many Silk Road identities.
Dread Pirate Roberts called upon a hitman through Silk Road to kill FriendlyChemist, and he even bragged about a previous hit in which he had paid $80,000. Although Dread Pirate Roberts reportedly paid 1,670 bitcoins for the murder of FriendlyChemist, the FBI didn't find any evidence of a homicide and did not charge Ulbricht with murder. Ulbricht was charged with hacking, money laundering and narcotics trafficking, though.
While Ulbricht's indictment and Silk Road's seizure won't end online black markets, it certainly sheds light on how vast and shady such services are on the Internet. For instance, as Engadget noted, Silk Road generated $1.2 billion in revenue from just two years of operation.