Online black marketplace Silk Road may be re-launched, while other similar sites continue to pop up on the internet as the alleged founder faces criminal charges.
Silk Road was worth over US$1.2 billion, which was generated by the illegal sale of hacking tools, drugs and weapons. The original website required a program called Tor to access it and was so successful that several “copycat” websites emerged around the same time. Silk Road 2.0 emerged after the original site was shut down and was also raided by the police and later shut down. Rumours have emerged that a new upgrade “Silk Road Reloaded” is on its way to carry on from its predecessor.
Former Eagle Scout Ross William Ulbricht was charged with running the site over a year ago and the authorities are now targeting the operators of imitator sites. According to Dan Palumbo, the Research Director of Digital Citizens (a Washington organisation that studies internet security issues and darknet marketplaces), when Silk Road was operating from 2011 to 2013 there were only a few other such sites operating whereas there are at least a dozen copycat sites today. That estimated figure also does not take into account the sites which have already been shut down.
Silkroad’sEvolution Marketplace and Agora Marketplace Still Active
The two biggest dark net sites are Evolution Marketplace and Agora Marketplace which combined have over 46,000 listings of illegal drugs. The operators of these sites make it increasingly difficult for the authorities to shut them down, and it has become an ongoing trend that when one such site is shut down by authorities, another one opens up. Although the sites are identical, brands like Silk Road are well-known and attract the most users.
The police are primarily targeting the operators of the darknet sites. Buyers and sellers have a lower risk and usually just find another similar site if the one their listings appear on is shut down. These websites are cheap to put up and highly profitable, according to Kevin Epstein, the vice president of Advanced Security for Proofprint, a cyber-security firm based in California. “Until a Silk Road-type site gets taken down in minutes to hours, versus months to years, it will be profitable, and criminals will continue to put those up,” he added.