Silk Road was an online black market and the first on the darknet which is an overlay network within the Internet that can only be accessed with specific software, configurations, or authorization, and often uses a unique customized communication protocol.
The term “darknet” was popularized by major news outlets to associate with Tor Onion services, when the infamous drug bazaar Silk Road used it, despite the terminology being unofficial. Tor can also provide anonymity to websites and other servers.
Servers configured to receive inbound connections only through Tor are called onion services (formerly, hidden services). Rather than revealing a server’s IP address (and thus its network location), an onion service is accessed through its onion address, usually via the Tor Browser.
Silk Road was launched in 2011 by its American founder Ross Ulbricht, a 29-year-old computer science engineer., under the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts” named after a character from the classic film “The Princess Bride.” Silk Road operated as a hidden service on the Tor network, allowing users to buy and sell products and services between each other anonymously. All transactions were conducted with bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that aided in protecting user identities. The website was known for its illegal drug marketplace, among other illegal and legal product listings.
Silk Road was the Amazon of drug sitesMilan Patel -former FBI Special Agent
Silk Road, accessed anonymously by users on the dark web, brought in approximately $1 billion in sales, according to investigators, with Ulbricht making millions by taking a cut of each transaction. The investigation led FBI agents from Iceland to New York to San Francisco in search of the shadowy figure behind the website.
Silk Road took drug trafficking into the 21st century. This was so easily accessible that it ended up getting into the hands of people that never really would have touched it. That led to overdoses and deaths.Vincent D’Agostino – FBI agent with the cyber division
In early 2011, Ross Ulbricht with a stash of homegrown hallucinogenic mushrooms launched Silk Road. To advertise the new site he came up with the idea of posting to forums, like “Hey, there’s this really cool site!” The postings worked. Soon, Silk Road attracted buyers and sellers from around the world to his illegal drug marketplace.
They were addressed with … printed labels on ’em so it looked like it was more of a business. … It definitely stuck out because you’d find five or six of the same packages, all addressed to different people, going all across the United States. So as the government started to intercept these packages, it started to make people ask the question of what is going on that, suddenly, people are starting to mail drugs? It went from two or three packages a day to 30 packages a day to 50 packages a day. Within a few weeks, it’s a hundred.
The FBI went to a mail recipient’s house and while the addressee was not home the roommate admitted he was getting drugs through the Silk Road website and paying with untraceable bitcoin. The site was not Silkroad.com or Silkroad.org it was accessed through the “onion”.
The onion router, or Tor, the onion meaning there are multiple layers to get to the center. … And that’s the way that the — that Tor works. … There are multiple computers that one has to go through in order to reach that content, the center of the onion. The Tor network … was created for the purpose of allowing people to communicate on the Internet without anyone having the ability to know who or where they were.
A server’s IP address is like a telephone number. Normally, once agents find a potential IP address, they get a subpoena from a judge to request further information from the internet service provider. But Tor protects its users by constantly changing that information leaving the FBI always one step behind.
Early in the summer of 2013, after nearly a year of trying to crack the inner workings of the Silk Road website, agents in the FBI’s New York Cyber Branch finally got a break. They noticed a coding error on the site. The vulnerability was leaking an IP address, which let investigators discover the location of the server hosting the website 2,700 miles away in Iceland.
They found a Silk Road administrator, going by “Cirrus” and got him to cooperate. Using the “Cirrus” id they were able to find the boss: Dread Pirate Roberts. Ross Ulbricht was arrested in a local branch of the San Francisco library after logging into the Silk Road server. He was found guilty of: one count of distributing narcotics, one count of distributing narcotics by means of the Internet, and one count of conspiring to distribute narcotics, each of which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years;
one count of engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison; one count of conspiring to commit computer hacking, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison;
one count of conspiring to traffic in false identity documents, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years; and one count of conspiring to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The Silk Road was a platform for selling anything from drugs and weapons to stolen credit card details, forged documents, and services such as prostitution. The most popular items for sale were drugs, followed by digital goods such as pirated software, music, and movies, and then counterfeit goods.
Items That Were For Sale On Silk Road
- Fake Passport
- ATM Cash Machine Hack
- Online Poker Coaching
- MDMA synthesis complete guide (Master the recipe of ecstasy)
- Night vision binocular goggles (Military grade)
- Smith & Wesson Handcuff keys
- Security-hardened dual-boot ThinkPad X1 Carbon
- Amazon receipt generator
- 100% Anonymous German Bank Account
- Dried Reindeer Meat from Finland
- Xtreme stealth phone Samsung D980 Dual Sim
- 1.5 Million Email addresses and Facebook profiles database
- Secure Hardware Dick Eraser
- 1891-cc Silver Morgan dollar
- Ulysse Nardin Maxi Marine Watch
- Harley Davidson leather biker jacket
- Mini bug detector – are you being watched or listened to?
- IWC replica watch
Drugs were grouped under the headings stimulants, psychedelics, prescription, precursors, other, opioids, ecstasy, dissociatives, and steroids/PEDs.
- 1 gram of Afghani hash
- 1/8th ounce of “sour 13” weed
- 14 grams of ecstasy
- 1 gram of tar heroin
- “Avatar” LSD
- 1 gram #3 Afghan Heroin uncut pure from the brick
- 100 grams of “Afghan Heroin Brown Powder”
- 5 grams of “Highest Purity Cocaine – Direct From Colombia”
- Danish passport “all the security features and original pages”
- New Jersey driver’s license, including all holograms
- Website hacking – with half to be paid before and half after the hack is completed.
- Method for hacking Gmail accounts
- 100 micrograms of acid
- Heroin – Stamp bags
- 1 gram White China Heroin
- 4-ACO-DMT Synthetic Mushrooms
- Glass Ball Meth Pipe
- 200g 0.01 Digital Accuracy Scales
- 10-pack syringes – 1cc – 1/2 inch
- 28 grams High-Quality Crystal Meth
The dark web Silk Road is no longer active, but it established the template for other marketplaces to follow. Many of them use Tor for anonymous access and conduct transactions through Bitcoin and escrow services. Some also have a rating system for vendors, just like the original Silk Road.
I watched the A&E documentary “Silk Road: Drugs, Death and the Dark Web” to help write this post. You can watch for free on the A&E online channel. It is not the complete story but an excellent overview.
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International Business Times
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