back to article Digital 'activists' scramble to build Silk Road 2.0, but drug kingpins are spooked

Former Silk Roaders say they are preparing to open new anonymous online drug bazaars after last week's collapse of the illicit Tor marketplace. Meanwhile, drug dealers appear to have taken fright after the takedown of the hidden website. The shadowy online community that formed around the Silk Road has been thrown into …

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  1. DrXym Silver badge

    Sure, activism

    And absolutely nothing to do with spotting a gap in the market and the profits to be had from facilitating the sale of drugs and other illegal activities.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      The Spice must flow!

      > facilitating the sale of drugs

      I'm all for it. Of course, plain decriminalization would be even nicer but the grip of the "no fun allowed" and "keep the prices up" lobbies is too strong.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: The Spice must flow!

        I'd agree with you to a point, but the Silk Road didn't stop at selling weed for personal consumption. It sold hard drugs, poison, malware, lists of credit cards, blackmail information, firearms, bomb making supplies, hit men, money laundering services and basically anything which was criminal in nature. I'm sure any successor isn't going to make the distinction either.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Spice must flow!

          Generally they had a policy that stipulated that items that may harm others were banned. For the last few years a lot of what you listed, they simply didn't sell.

          1. Stilted Banter

            Re: The Spice must flow!

            Says an AC, Generally they had a policy that stipulated that items that may harm others were banned. For the last few years a lot of what you listed, they simply didn't sell.

            Oh, they had scruples! That's alright then. But I'm not at all clear why we should put any more trust in the good will of Silk Roaders and the like than we do in that of, say, the NSA.

        2. Graham Marsden

          @DrXym - Re: The Spice must flow!

          So the Silk Road sold "hard drugs, poison, malware, lists of credit cards, blackmail information, firearms, bomb making supplies, hit men, money laundering services and basically anything which was criminal in nature"

          Many (in fact, most) of which are available from other sources (if they were actually available at all).

          Of course that isn't going to stop calls from the "We must immediately ban this!" Brigade who think that passing even more laws is going to have any effect...

    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: DrXym Re: Sure, activism

      "And absolutely nothing to do with spotting a gap in the market and the profits to be had from facilitating the sale of drugs and other illegal activities." Gosh, you cynic! Any more of that kind of insight and the regular sheeple posters will be calling you a "police-state-loving Facist"!

  2. M7S
    Pirate

    Good night Westly, Good work

    Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The smell of hypocrisy in the morning

    Trying to justify your blatantly commercial operations as some sort of "Libertarianism", or even "Doing God's work".

    Well, that's what Goldman Sachs does, and it looks like these people are taking their cue from the bankers.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: The smell of hypocrisy in the morning

      How does this have anything to do with Goldman Sachs??

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Destroyed All Braincells Re: The smell of hypocrisy in the morning

        "How does this have anything to do with Goldman Sachs??" Don't you know, it's the Nu(t)Labour/Dummicrat stock excuse, opt repeated by anyone slightly Left, that everything is the fault of The Bankers. World hunger, the Downton Abbey plotline, revenge posting of sexts, people "needing" to buy and sell drugs - all due to The Bankers.

        1. Graham Marsden
          WTF?

          Re: Destroyed All Braincells The smell of hypocrisy in the morning

          Oh look, the Matt Bryant Movable Goal Posts(tm) are back out again...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Movable Goal Posts

            Generally he makes no more sense than amanfrommars. Scroll on by...

          2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

            Re: Destroyed All Braincells The smell of hypocrisy in the morning

            "....Moveable Goal Posts...." Oh look, once again Marsbarbrain can't counter the point or think of anything intelligent to post. If you want to suggest I am being unfair then please do supply some reasoning, otherwise people might think you're just having a whining bleat.

            1. Graham Marsden
              Holmes

              Re: Destroyed All Braincells The smell of hypocrisy in the morning

              Oh look, once again Matt Bryant goes for the Ad Hominem attack because he doesn't like being called out on his habit of redefining the argument to something else other than the subject in hand...

              1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                FAIL

                Re: Marsbarbrain Re: Destroyed All Braincells The smell of hypocrisy in the morning

                <Yawn> Oh look, once again Graham posts no argument whatsoever, whilst pretending to complain that others are trying to redefine the argument. Face it, if you had anything of worth to add to the discussion you would have said it by now.

                1. Graham Marsden

                  Re: Marsbarbrain Destroyed All Braincells The smell of hypocrisy in the morning

                  Lol! Matt, I am well aware of the futility of trying to have a reasonable discussion with you. I will, occasionally, post a comment or two for the amusement of watching you doing your utmost to avoid conceding even the slightest point, but this is not one of those occasions.

                  As always, I'll leave the last word to you...

                  1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
                    Happy

                    Re: Marsbarbrain Re: Marsbarbrain Destroyed All Braincells The smell of hypocrisy in the morning

                    So you're admitting you never have anything to add, it's just you so can't stand being proven repeatedly wrong. Thanks, please do carry on whining as it adds even more comedy value than your silly bleats.

                    It's a shame really, considering the topic, as you obviously have a lot of experience of mind-warping drugs which you could have shared, probably as a cautionary tale, but it seems their lasting effects have reduced you to just a bitter, dribbling, once-sheep. Pay attention, kids, it's all sh*t'n'giggles until you end up like Marsbarbrain!

                    I hope for their sake that the people trying to set up Silk Road 2.0 stop to consider the sorry case of Marsbarbrain and what effects their "products" have on the less capable members of our population.

  4. Pete 2

    Go with it

    Possibly the biggest lesson for anyone comtemplating a secure or anonymised internet (dark or light) for any sort of transactions: legal, financial or various shades of naughty, is to design it such that no part of it touches the USA.

    If 5% of the world wants to build a wall around themselves, the other 95% should let 'em.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Go with it

      No, I think the real lesson is if you really annoy someone with the massive resources of the FBI/NSA behind them then your chances of being caught by some minor flaw in any one of your tools are high.

      That is not to say I agree with the USA's "war or drugs" (or terror/liberals/whatever). Personally I think the approach there, and in the UK, is flawed and failing, but that is another issue.

    2. Chris_J

      Re: Go with it

      Trouble is the FBI's jurisdiction (In its eyes) and other three letter agencies doesn't end at their borders.

      I doubt any of the servers were on US soil, to be honest I dont think it matters where the servers are they are still vulnerable to intercept legal or otherwise by Government agencies.

  5. Crisp Silver badge

    Shortage of UK drug dealers?

    Legalise the weed and there'll be hardly any!

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Crisp Re: Shortage of UK drug dealers?

      "Legalise the weed and there'll be hardly any!" Of course, because all those people that CHOOSE to take acid, heroin or cocaine, or any number of alternatives, all do so simply because there wasn't some guy selling weed at the time.

      /If you need sarc tags then you must have smoked a lot of what Crisp seems to have been pushing.

  6. Cliff

    Market Fragmentation

    Break up the market and people go back to wondering where to trust with their illegal substance and other nefarious activities. According to the article 'Sheep' is the largest of the current batch, all that process is that they have a lot of real or imagines accounts.

    Were I the FBI, I'd make darn sure I'd set up and established Sheep and similar alternatives before taking down Silk Road.

  7. Pat 11

    DPR as hero?

    I imagine a lot of the SR customer base is slightly biased towards a view that the assassination charge is invented to discredit him. If convincing evidence came out though, would he still be held up as some kind of libertarian hero? Is bumping off your enemies all just fine, and actually another freedom that the darned gubmint is stopping people enjoying?

    1. TakeTheSkyRoad

      Re: DPR as hero?

      From reading the articles it certainly seems that the first assassination was arranged with undercover FBI agents. They had arranged to ship a large volume of drugs which DPR sent through one of the Silk Road admins who they promptly arrested.

      In my mind someone then clearly decided to see how far DPR would go and the undercover agent started prompting DPR's fears. As a result he asked them to rough up/scare the former admin to remind them not to talk but then changed it to killing him off.

      This is a win/win for the FBI since not only can they then charge him with hiring someone to murder someone they can also turn around to the admin and go "your boss wants you dead now how loyal do you feel ?"......... so yes he asked for the hit but I suspect he was encouraged into it.

      The 2nd hit I'm not so sure about.

    2. Crisp Silver badge

      Re: Is bumping off your enemies all just fine

      Well the CIA don't seem to have a problem with it...

  8. bigtimehustler

    To be honest im in the camp that believes it should be legalized to do away with violent dealers, and i mean legalized at a price that means people wont still be important it cheaper illegally (ie, tobacco in the UK). So everything that happens that makes it look like the current system is failing, all the better!

  9. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Marketing coup

    Let's face it: "the Silk Road" was a brilliant name. Sheep? Meh, would you like mint sauce with that.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Marketing coup

      Yes, but Matt can legitimately call its users "Sheeple". It would be more accurate than any of his other uses of his neologism.

  10. Suricou Raven Silver badge

    TOR

    This actually demonstrates just how effective TOR is. The full might of the FBI was unable to trace just one hidden service through the network - and given how high-profile the user is, they might even have called on the NSA for a bit of deniable help. Yet TOR held. DPR was tracked down not through any technological attack, but by old-fashioned police work. Investigators found some old posts he made promoting Silk Road when it was first launched, without using TOR properly.

    1. FunkyEric
      Black Helicopters

      Re: TOR

      At least that's what they say they did......

    2. pdf

      Re: TOR

      I don't believe that the method that was used to identify the SR servers has been disclosed yet - some outlets claim that the FBI had a dump of the server's disks as far back as June, which strongly suggests that there is more here than we're privy to at this point.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TOR 50% GOOD but was also 50% bad

        the amazing analytical work entitled "Content and popularity analysis of Tor hidden services" by Ralf-Philipp Weinmann et al (met him and he's a good guy) published July 29th 2013 at

        http://arxiv.org/abs/1308.6768

        could have been one item that caused/helped the 'FBI' to act. As well as revealing the bad half of TOR - Ralph-Philipp and his University of Luxembourg colleagues showed that a full half of the onions were being used by journalists, expats, human-rights workers, whistleblowers and other 'net users scared of the 'tin-foil' threat of totalitarian monitoring and possible abuse by nation-states. Tho' my reading of TOR threat model is that a nation-state level attack is not well defended against by TOR on its own.

        is a 50:50 ratio good or bad?

        I have read papers by VeriSign which sought quite a few years ago to end all anonymity online - stuff like http://techliberation.com/2008/09/12/un-attacks-internet-anonymity-verisign-lending-a-hand/

        Maybe there's quite a possibility that VeriSign got this built into the internet CA/SSL/PKI system? as there are other documents from 2005 or so which have bullet-points like:

        ▪ No person or object uses the (internet)infrastructure unless their/its identity is known

        ▪ There is no right to absolute anonymity in the use of public infrastructure

        but who knows....?

        BTW did the 'FBI' arrest any of the GOOD users of TOR yet?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: TOR 50% GOOD but was also 50% bad

          That would depend on your definition of "bad". If it's synonymous with "illegal", than of course they will almost exclusively have arrested "bad" ones.

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: TOR 50% GOOD but was also 50% bad

            "If it's synonymous with "illegal", than of course they will almost exclusively have arrested "bad" ones."

            Wow, an optimist!

  11. Dave Bell

    Is anyone telling the truth?

    It's generally know that drugs sold "on the street" contain many impurities, some of them safe dilutants, some not. That white powder is unlikely to be pure.

    While I have seen recent reports in news media, where a drug was bought through the Silk Road, and was going to be analysed to check it was what it was claimed to be, I don't recall any follow-up reporting of the lab results. The stories were of how easy it all was.

    It might have been worth the dealers supplying a more consistent product. They might have been at a different level in the normal distribution chain, Did the Silk Road have features that allowed them to gain a reputation?

    I don't entirely trust what I have heard, about any of the parties involved. They all have reasons to lie, and we know just how often the NSA and the DEA and the FBI collaborate in lies about how evidence was gathered. It's possible that the NSA found a way of identifying DPR by illicit means, not usable in court, and, once they were pointed in the right direction, the FBI have discovered a valid chain of evidence. We know this happens.

    Did the Silk Road hurt anyone as much as the armed drug dealer on a street corner? How much damage does it do to us all to know that the security of the internet is illusory. Never mind the Silk Road and Bitcoin, can we trust ebay and PayPal?

    1. AbelSoul

      Re: Is anyone telling the truth?

      > "Did the Silk Road have features that allowed them to gain a reputation?"

      As far as I understand it, yes.

      > "It's possible that the NSA found a way of identifying DPR by illicit means, not usable in court, and, once they were pointed in the right direction, the FBI have discovered a valid chain of evidence."

      Indeed. The published version of events does seem a little too "clean" to be plausible.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is anyone telling the truth?

        >> "Did the Silk Road have features that allowed them to gain a reputation?"

        >As far as I understand it, yes.

        Reputation is a purchasable construct, as any search engine optimiser and paid shill knows. If it's a problem the likes of Amazon and Ebay can't fully solve, then it's not one which Silk Rd. version 2 will either.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is anyone telling the truth?

        Anon for ob'v reasons.

        Channel 4 news report showed results and they were of a high quality.

        Anecdotally a friend who mentioned silk road to me a couple of months ago, had tried some bought from there and said it was probably the best MDMA he had tried better than anything he could get elsewhere.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    we know where you live

    Giving your street address for delivery purposes to a bunch of drug dealers operating in a marketplace where illegal weapons are sold and operators attempt to purchase assassinations, and who would therefore naturally treat blackmail and 'protection' rackets as another business opportunity doesn't make sense to me. If I liked happy weed that much, I'd reduce the risk by finding a local retailer. That suggests to me that the kind of customers who are too timid to do the latter are likely to submit to payment demands when their address is sold on to someone more violent than their Internet candyman.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: we know where you live

      FUD, weapons were not sold.

      Why would you blackmail your customers when you can make more money more easily by just selling them what they want?

      Why not just sell a list of random addresses if you want to play that game?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: we know where you live

        "Why not just sell a list of random addresses if you want to play that game?"

        It wouldn't be a list of random addresses. It would be a list of addresses of timid and private criminals whose criminality is known and exposable as such, likely to be earning higher than average salaries earnable by those who (like DPR) imagine they can handle Bitcoins securely (but can't). If I were a professional blackmailer or extortionist I'd find such an address list of greater value than most other selection criteria you could imagine. Extortionists are unlikely to bother with people they can't manipulate, or who are more than likely to get serious law enforcement or more violent criminality than they can organise onto their defence. So they go after the weak and vulnerable. People traffickers go after illegal immigrants who don't want to be sent home in shame to an indebted family. Pimps go after exploited girls who need their addictive drugs to maintain the appearance of sanity. Loan sharks gravitate to where indebtedness can be socially constructed. Extortionists used to go after gays before this preference was legalised, who were in a similar position then to the position Silk Rd customers are in now.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: we know where you live

      Actually from what I have caught from discussions with people who mentioned using this site to me, it seems more likely that its used for various reasons, the quality was much better than anything bought on the street, less hassle, better priced. Local retailers aren't always the best they know they have a local market sown up and can take the piss, and depending on where you live its not always easy to find an alternate source.

  13. Spiracle

    Small flaw

    "From the get-go, we have only made communications with each other through TOR so we all remain completely anonymous, even to each other."

    Or, put another way

    "I can't really tell whether any one or more of the people I'm talking to is an undercover FBI agent."

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: Small flaw

      Or a dog...

      Woof! Woof! I'm changing my username to I ain't Rover.

    2. Pet Peeve

      Re: Small flaw

      This "even to each other" thing has to be overstated, right? Yeah, the buyer has limited knowledge of the seller, but the seller has to SEND YOU STUFF. Maybe you used a PO box, but even that is a huge lead to someone trying to track you down.

      It seems to me that buyers would make great extortion targets.

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Re: Small flaw

        Silkroad had a rating system so theoretically legitimate drug dealers could build up a reputation so that you could "trust" that they weren't feds, blackmailers etc.

        On the flip side, the feds could potentially build up a good reputation selling small quantities of weed or grow supplies to shill accounts and to the odd genuine customer, and once sufficiently trusted launch a sting operation aimed at larger fish.

        Same for scammers. Build up a reputation, switch to selling some large quantities and walk off into the night with the proceeds. Even Ebay can't totally control its scams and I expect the potential to be ripped off on Silkroad was far higher since there is little redress at all. In fact the scammer could even threaten to release names / addresses of people he duped to shut them up if he felt like it.

  14. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Stop

    The denial is strong with these people!

    "....more secure version of Silk Road that will be 100% untraceable....." Nothing involving people is 100% untraceable, unbreakable, or undiscoverable, as shown by the Snowden farce. The Sheep herder must be an ex-Oracle employee to believe in Unbreakable Silk Road 2.0.

    "......From the get-go, we have only made communications with each other through TOR so we all remain completely anonymous, even to each other....." And how do you vouch for each other? The FBI and other police agencies Worldwide have decades of experience of undercover work breaking up drug gangs. And did you miss the recent articles on the attention the NSA and GCHQ have been paying TOR?

    "....He or she wrote: "I can’t help but get the feeling DPR [Dread Pirate Roberts] would be relatively happy...." LOL, at this point the dope would probably be a whole lot happier with soap-on-a-rope for the prison showers!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    drifting OT, but legalised, or normalised

    As a few activists have pointed out, no other natural substance is ever proposed for "legalisation".

    Are cabbages "legal" ?

    I don't want "legalised" government-approved weed. At any price.

    1. Lamont Cranston

      Re: drifting OT, but legalised, or normalised

      On the whole, it's probably a good thing that regulation and legislation can work to keep excessively harmfull additions out of tobacco and alcohol products. I don't see why it shouldn't be able to work the same for other narcotics.

      Mind you, if you can tell us all how you get so high off of cabbages, no one will need anything else.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: drifting OT, but legalised, or normalised

        That reminds me of the (probably apocryphal) letter to the local newspaper:

        Dear Sir,

        I am concerned that my next door neighbour is growing cannabis in his greenhouse. He swears that it's just cabbage, but I'm still worried. What should I do?

        And the answer came back.

        Eat some. If, after a few minutes, you're still worried... Then it's cabbage.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Outside

    If you're in the UK, and you want drugs; pop outside, it's mushroom season...

    (anon for obvious reasons)

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: Outside

      ... just because you can pick 'em, doesn't mean that it's legal to possess 'em.

      "Under Clause 21 of the Drugs Act 2005, it is now an offence to import, export, produce, supply, possess or possess with intent to supply magic mushrooms, including in the form of grow kits."

      Source

      Step away from the downvote arrow, now. I'm just telling it like it is.

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: Outside

        Not only that, they're a Class A now, so according to the government, as dangerous as heroin. Personally I listen to the advice from the government's drugs advisory board, even if the government doesn't.

        I don't think Anon was suggesting it was legal to pick mushrooms, just free and easy.

  17. Alan Brown Silver badge

    As history shows

    When you shut down one popular system on the Internet, dozens more pop up to take its place - whether that system was for good or evil.

    I was wondering how long Silk Road would last and now I'm wondering how many forks will grow out of this event.

  18. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Traditional detective work I think

    "Possibly the biggest lesson for anyone comtemplating a secure or anonymised internet (dark or light) for any sort of transactions: legal, financial or various shades of naughty, is to design it such that no part of it touches the USA.

    If 5% of the world wants to build a wall around themselves, the other 95% should let 'em."

    Not a bad idea to have Internet routes that avoid the US when there's no reason to go there.

    I have no love for the US govt's view they are some world police, and their disgregard for the right to privacy. That said, I don't get the impression there was any sigint (signals intelligence) used to find the Dread Pirate. Just traditional detective work. Plus, after all, 4 out of 5 arrests so far were done by the British on British soil.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: I have no love for the US govt's view they are some world police

      To be perfectly honest, the US has rather often received requests from the rest of the world to do just that.

  19. John Lodge

    Loads of shizz being bandied about here. The guys that run these organisations are not to be confused with Robin Hood and his Merry Men. They are evil. Many would not think twice about terminating with extreme prejudice. And as for drugs being good, that is complete bolloxs, I have lost a few friends to bad Class A's and have a few who, being long term Black Leb smokers, are now deranged and unable to hack life that well. Meantime all my alcy mates are doing just fine and none of the smoker mates have died of cancer yet, though they surely will.

    I know of what I speak, been there, done it and tried it in the 60's and 70's. The stuff available these days is much, much worse.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      "The guys that run these organisations are not to be confused with Robin Hood and his Merry Men. They are evil. Many would not think twice about terminating with extreme prejudice. "

      I'm not sure whether you are referring to the Silk Roaders or the alphabet agencies involved here, so I'll assume you mean both.

      I don't want to live in a world where the law always wins ...

  20. codeusirae

    Another win for the War-on-Drugs©

    "Some drug dealers have simply moved to other anonymous online services to beat the police, with an alternative market called Sheep now listing roughly three times as many drugs vendors as before the demise of Silk Road, according to the administrator of yet another anonymous drugs market, Atlantis."

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