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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Silk Road, Bitcoin-Fueled Drug Marketplace, Still Eluding Authorities

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 12:22 PM


Thanks to the Internet, buying drugs is as easy as buying a pizza.

Provided you use Bitcoins and buy them from online illegal drug superstore Silk Road. The website -- hidden on the Deep Web and accessible only using anonymity network Tor -- made headlines on Gawker way back in 2011. Users reported buying acid from Canada and real Afghani hash -- and being quite satisfied with their purchases.

Such fun attracts law enforcement, of course, and in this case, Silk Road also drew the ire of U.S. Sen Charles Schumer (D-NY). A Silk Road competitor, Atlantis, shut down last week. New York-based media reports say that the DEA and other officials are "investigating" the OG online drug emporium, but the record stands for itself: the marketplace is still open.

We know only slightly more about drugs than we do about computers, which is to say we know where the on/off button is on our vaporizers. That said, anyone can use Silk Road: after downloading the Tor software, the URL for Silk Road is accessible, and drugs can be bought and sold using Bitcoins, which are also encrypted, to a degree.

One of the Bitcoin authors told Gawker that transactions with the currency are traceable, albeit with a lot of work.

In the meantime, law enforcement sources told that investigators are "keeping tabs" (hah, get it?) on Silk Road, with local and state police in New York State joining in with DEA agents.

No charges have been brought on anyone -- and it's highly likely Silk Road's operators are overseas, away from the Justice Department's jurisdiction -- but another anonymous source told Newsday that there are security weaknesses in emails and other communications used by Silk Road members, and cops are "exploiting" those and other ways to de-encrypt the drug bargaining.

But is it working?

"So far, unfortunately, their system has been somewhat successful," the source told Newsday. "Our goal is to make sure that doesn't continue to be the case."

In other words, Silk Road's winning. For now.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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