Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

End of The Silk Road

From clothes to books to electronics, online shopping has become a means of convenience to get what you want delivered to your doorstep. Prior to last week, there was an online marketplace, which offered that and more. “More,” meaning everything from illegal drugs to weapons to contract killers.

The Silk Road has been called the “eBay of illicit drugs” or the “Amazon of vice.” The site is essentially an online black market that has been around since early 2011.

It operates on a network called Tor.

According to Tor’s website, it serves as a network to “protect your privacy” and “defend yourself against network surveillance and traffic analysis.”

Supposedly–according to its website’s “about” page–it was originally created with the intention of protecting government communications. In actuality, it served websites like Silk Road well. Silk Road managed to continue business due to hidden services provided by Tor, which concealed IP addresses of Silk Road’s servers. It also allowed for users to, more or less, remain anonymous and untraceable.

Despite the popularity of Tor with sites conducting illegal activities, it has justifiable users, which keep it from shutting it down. Tor is completely legal and nothing can be done about it.

In fact, according to The Guardian, “it is a staple of activists avoiding internet censorship or government crackdowns the world over, including in China, Iran and Syria. Indeed, a large proportion of Tor’s funding comes–albeit indirectly–from the US state department’s internet freedom budget.”

On Tuesday, Oct. 1 at a public library in San Francisco, 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht—the alleged mastermind behind Silk Road—was arrested. Ulbricht made mistakes in operational security and was then found through actual detective work.

The site was seized by the FBI and arrests are being made across the globe.

A couple in Bellevue was among the first to be arrested, after the FBI identified them as top sellers on Silk Road. In the last four months alone, Steven L. Sadler and his girlfriend Jenna White allegedly sold more than 2,600 grams of cocaine, almost 600 grams of heroin and 105 grams of methamphetamine, according to the Bellevue Reporter.

USA Today reported that in total, eight people have been arrested throughout Britain, Sweden and the U.S. In light of this, Britain’s Crime Agency warned, “the hidden Internet isn’t hidden and your anonymous activity isn’t anonymous. We know where you are, what you are doing and we will catch you.”

Ulbricht will still be charged with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy.

It also seems as that Ulbricht had attempted to silence multiple Silk Road users, who blackmailed him with threats of exposure, by hiring contract killers on the site.

In one instance, Ulbricht had been in contact with–unbeknownst to him–an undercover agent posing as a drug smuggler who wanted in on the Silk Road. Around the same time, one of Ulbricht’s employees was arrested and, worried the employee would give up information, Ulbricht paid the undercover agent to kill him to prevent exposure. (Oh, the irony.)

The agent staged photos of the supposed victim and convinced Ulbricht the job was done. Ulbricht then proceeded to wire $80,000 to a Capitol One account in D.C.

Later that same month, a Silk Road user blackmailed Ulbricht with the threat of exposure. The user later sent photographic evidence of the hit to Ulbricht, but authorities could find no evidence that someone by the name of Ulbricht’s target even existed in British Columbia, where he was said to be.

There’s no telling whether or not another site will rise from Silk Road’s ashes, or whether or not it will grow to be as big, but Ulbricht is definitely facing a lot of time in court.

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