Bitcoin has seen its fair share of “less than legitimate” marketplaces in the past, and it looks like more and more Dark Web marketplaces are embracing the digital currency for its pseudonymous nature. Just a few days ago, another Dark Web marketplace was shut down, and 11,000 Bitcoin wallets and private keys have been seized by Italian police officials.
Operation Babylon Cracks Down on Dark Web Marketplace
As soon as the topic comes up, most people will think back to the times when Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 were around. Both of these illuster marketplaces allowed the trading of any type of goods or services – regardless of legality or morality – in exchange for the increasingly popular digital currency called Bitcoin.
Despite all of the trouble, both Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 operators and customers have gone through, various Dark Web marketplaces are still using Bitcoin payments to grant users a certain level of anonymity. After all, many people think Bitcoin is an anonymous payment method, while it really isn’t.
Bitcoin is a protocol that does not allow the end user to submit personal information regarding name or whereabouts in order to use it, but that’s about as far as the anonymity goes. Granted, every user can “hide” behind a Bitcoin address, but that address is a pseudonym. Any transaction made to and from that address can be publicly traced on the blockchain.
The operation dubbed “Operation Babylon” shut down a Dark Web marketplace which, at the time of operation, listed over 14,000 members. Over 170,000 transaction messages were broadcast through the Tor protocol, accounting for a total of twelve different types of illegal services offered in this marketplace. Bitcoin was the preferred payment method for all of these services.
Services ranging from drug dealing, to child pornography, and forged documents attract a lot of customers, despite the obvious illegality aspect of these services. During the two-year operation conducted by Italian police forces, Europol, and the FBI, infiltration of the Dark Web marketplace was successful, which ultimately led to its demise and the seizure of 11,000 BTC wallets. According to PCWorld, the total amount of funds allocated to these wallets equals to roughly 1 million euros.
Cracking down on Dark Web marketplaces and forums is extremely difficult, as they do not show up on regular search engines. Due to the fact these sites are hosted on .onion addresses, there is no way to access these platforms without a proper Tor client configuration. Additionally, most of these websites will provide their users with multiple ways of shielding their identity from prying eyes.
Bitcoin Is Not A Currency For Criminals Who Understand The Technology
As stated before, the common misconception is that Bitcoin is an anonymous payment method favoured by criminals and hoodlums. Nothing could be further from the truth, however, as there is no such thing as anonymity in the Bitcoin world. Bitcoin is a pseudonymous protocol, of which any transaction can be traced from its point of origin to its final destination, without using sophisticated tools.
People who have something to hide, or are offering less-than-legal services or products in exchange for Bitcoin, do not properly grasp how the technology works. There is only one anonymous currency in the world, and that is cash. Fiat currency in the form of cash can only be traced whenever it is within a bank’s own vaults. While it is in the hands of consumers, there is no way to see where the money goes to, or who it comes from.
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