On Wednesday, the FBI closed Silk Road 2.0 and arrested Blake Benthall, who was accused of running the anonymous website. According to the prosecutors, Benthall confirmed operating the marketplace after the arrest.
Silk Road 2.0 is the second version of the site, which was launched weeks after the original Silk Road was closed on October 2, 2013.
Just after the shutdown of Silk Road 2.0, the new version of the website, Silk Road 3.0, appeared on the Internet.
Silk Road 3.0 is accessible only through the anonymous TOR network, which is linked via special browsers that encrypt internet traffic. There is a number of other websites on the TOR network that are open for drug purchases.
The web creates new challenges for law enforcement agencies that deal with illegal drug trafficking. Silk Road is not visible through popular search sites. Furthermore, instead of cash, the buyers use virtual currencies, mostly bitcoin, which are impossible to trace.
“As long as the dark web exists, there will always be people who set up places to engage in wrongdoing,” commented the US defence attorney Joseph DeMarco.
He doesn’t think there would be one solution of how to stop illegal activity on the TOR network. “There will always be an arms race between the bad guys and law enforcement,” DeMarco added.
The TOR network developers say it’s a way to protect the privacy of its online users. Moreover, none of TOR websites will appear in Google search.
One of the network creators, Roger Dingledine, said: “TOR was created to protect people’s privacy and anonymity, and we don’t condone its use for these illegal activities.”
However, the network is also a place of illegal activity, including drugs and arms trafficking.
The US Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Let’s be clear – this Silk Road, in whatever form, is the road to prison. Those looking to follow in the footsteps of alleged cybercriminals should understand that we will return as many times as necessary to shut down noxious online criminal bazaars. We don’t get tired.”
Besides Silk Road, the authorities have closed other virtual marketplaces, such as Pandora, Hydra, Cloud Nine and Blue Sky.
The FBI seized $100,000 in cash from Benthall’s apartments in San Francisco and alleged that monthly sales accounted for $8 million.
Under the official estimates, the original Silk Road conducted $1 billion in sales and included more than 100,000 users.
Many people are still offering their items on the new Silk Road. As of Friday morning, there were around 250 listings for illegal or prescription drugs.