One of the more secretive and dark alley ways of the Internet is the Silk Road. Called the Dark Amazon, this is the marketplace where anonymity is as common as the @ sign and where illegal material, from drugs, to unlicensed firearms and bomb making components are exchanged There is a lot of secrecy here, with encryption at its highest. The common exchange is Bitcoin, the digital currency, which is untraceable even to the ?best of the codebreakers government has. While there have been many attempts to shut down its operations, like a Hydra other market places come to fore, like Utopia and other URLs that create this market for terror.
The Purveyors of Terror
The purveyors of this marketplace are not hardened individuals of war, they are as it was found out in this Newsweek article, are post graduate degree holders, technical wizards and even online geeks who have found their niches in this underbelly of the Internet. One of them is Ross Ulbricht, a bright Penn State post grad student who by the influence of anarchists, has become the poster boy of this marketplace. He worked online, operating a multi million dollar drug operation with just an Excel spreadsheet and a Bitcoin account. Upon discovery by federal agents, the Bitcoin ?wallet? had USD18 million dollars.
Unlike real world drug operators who do it for the money, others like Ulbricht called operating in the Silk Road as a ?political act?. In a blind interview with Forbes magazine, he chose to do business as a way to ?get around the regulation of the state.?
He boldly proclaimed in one of his pronouncements on the Silk Road, ?Silk Road is about something much bigger than thumbing your nose at the man (the government) and getting your drugs anyway. It?s about taking back our liberty and our dignity and demanding justice.?
He is but one which used the Silk Road to sell drugs, but there are many others who sold other more terrifying things online anonymously.
Agents Get in on the Action
While there were agents that infiltrated the Silk Road operations, there were others who got tempted with the anonymity of the marketplace. Just recently released federal documents showed that two federal agents were found to have in their possession confiscated Bitcoin in their personal accounts. The former agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency and the US Secret Service decided to pocket some of the Bitcoin confiscated from Silk Road operations. Now, the two former agents are facing charges of wire fraud.
One of the agents is identified as Carl M. Force, a former special agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency. Allegedly, while under the guise of the Force who infiltrated the Silk Road operations that brought down Ulbricht, he committed wire fraud, theft of government property, money laundering and conflict of interest. The case is set to go to trial.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons Contributor Gwydlon M. Williams.