As the final legal chapters close on Ross Ulbricht’s Silk Road website held within the “Dark Web”, the proliferation of many, many more dark markets is making international news. Authorities have closed down one of these Dark Web havens, and have confiscated thousands of bitcoin wallets in association with its use.
Is this Silk Road 2.0, 3.0, or 4.0?
Under code name “Operation Babylon”, Italian officials have shut down the site that hosted over 14,000 members, performing over 170,000 transactions using Tor’s web browser. The illegal activity said to have taken place ranged from child pornography to drug and arms sales, to credit card code and hacking kits. Over 200 drug dealers are claimed to have used the site for trafficking purposes, but this may be only one site of its kind out many.
The website is said to have been masterminded by an Italian near Naples. Bitcoin use seems to have been prevalent, with over 11,000 digital wallets connected to the site seized, containing over US$1 million euros worth of the digital currency. Michele Prestipino, the prosecutor who led the investigation, told a press conference in Rome:
“The virtual world of the Dark Web has its own hierarchies and severe rules on access and affiliation. Getting into such a closed community was extremely difficult.”
A police crackdown on child pornography led them to the site on the Dark Web, which is not available through conventional Internet searches. Gaining enough access and evidence has taken undercover authorities two years to procure. This also has brought cooperation from Europol and the FBI to help find the identities of those involved with these illegal transactions.
“(There is an) incredible criminal world, parallel to The Internet, which paradoxically represents only a small part of the communications taking place over the Web,” Prestipino said. “For us this investigation is just a point of departure.”
Dark Web sites like Silk Road have not gone away with the closure of the site but have only revealed many variants that may be even bigger within the Internet’s underbelly. Silk Road was the largest known site of its kind in 2013, but that seems to have been just the tip of the iceberg. According to the latest information, many sites, some even larger than Silk Road, have more than filled the market gap left by Silk Road in the web’s growing underworld black market trade. Black market Dark Web sites, statistically, have become more numerous than ever before, and this is just what is known on the Internet’s surface.
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