Numerous reports indicate that the Silk Road – a Dark Net black market that allows anonymous trade in drugs, criminal services and illegal merchandise – is back online with a new and improved version.
Silk Road 2.0’s new features include the ability to use PGP based two-factor authentication, which is definitely designed to give users some additional sense of security.
Although the new Silk Road site is not yet open for orders, the marketplace already offers 486 drug listings, 18 listings for forged documents, and a surprising number of apparel items. One user is even offering high school or college level essay writing services for ฿0.55738875, which converts to approximately $150.00 USD.
The re-emergence of the Silk Road raises a few red flags for some security experts. When the initial ‘take down’ of Silk Road occurred, the FBI was named as the instigator. However, the Department of Justice, which includes the FBI, initially denied their involvement. Later, the FBI changed their tune to take credit for the operation.
And while millions of dollars in Bitcoins were seized by the FBI, about three to four times that amount have simply gone missing and can not be accounted for by authorities.
“There is a lot of back-channel speculation that the take down of Silk Road was a ploy to steal millions in Bitcoins, and that the 25% seized by the FBI may have been sacrificed to cover up the embezzlement of the other 75% of the funds,” said Dwayne Melancon, chief technology officer for Tripwire.
In addition to these issues, it is difficult to understand why the FBI would allow the relaunch of ‘Silk Road 2.0’ so openly, especially after the arrests of so many Silk Road participants.
Some security researchers are speculating that the re-launch might have happened with the tacit agreement of the FBI, either to build up to another profitable seizure of Bitcoins, or so the new site can function as a ‘honeypot’ to attract and later prosecute participants.
”Despite several recent takedowns of similar sites, there’s no shortage of people willing to risk site administration to resume black market operations,” said Craig Young, security researcher for Tripwire.
“The obvious question of course is whether these are individuals looking to continue providing the services and philosophy of Silk Road, or if it a law enforcement honey pot designed to identify and prosecute the sites users.”
When it boils down to it, anyone using a site like this to conduct illegal business should not expect to remain anonymous forever.