The original Silkroad and Silkroad 2.0 – these two sites may have avoided the authorities for quite some time, but now the two sites are demise – shut down by the FBI.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.
So, how did the authorities caught the people behind Silkroad and Silkroad 2.0? In this article, we are going to explore that question.
Before we address the main question, it’s best that we cover a few important details. Otherwise, you could end up backtracking on some information you might need to get grasp the entire picture.
At its core, the Silkroad was basically just like any other online store. However, what mainstream online stores can’t do is sell illicit merchandise or services.
There are basically two major problems when selling or purchasing items online. Let’s tackle the first one.
The first problem is identity. The mainstream internet is being monitored by the authorities. Everyone knows this. Hence, selling or purchasing illegal items may prove to be tough. Then, the solution came.
At some point, the Tor network was invented. The exact mechanism how the Tor network system works is beyond this article.
Yes, it can be very complex. For now, let’s just say that Tor can help you surf a special network, which is known as the Dark Web, anonymously.
With anonymity, you can free yourself from the worry of someone monitoring your surfing history. But here’s the second problem.
Money trail! Whenever you do a transaction, there’s always a money trail. This is particularly the case with digital money that came from the bank.
Even if you are anonymous when you purchase something illicit, the money can be traced back to you. That means that you could end up with a new cellmate. Then, the breakthrough came along.
Bitcoins! Bitcoins was the last piece of the puzzle that allowed Silkroad 1 and 2 to flourish.
Bitcoin is a form of online currency that allows anonymous currency transaction. After these two issues were solved, Silkroad was born, and the rest is history.
Now the question is – if the Tor network and Bitcoin currency provided the security by being anonymous, how did the Silkroad founder get busted?
Silkroad and Silkroad 2.0 Bust
First of all, nothing in this world is completely secure. Even the most secure network in the planet can be hacked.
It’s just a matter of allocating enough time and resources. Once we have that on the table, we can tackle the question a bit further.
The man behind the Silkroad was Ross Ulbricht a.k.a. “Dread Pirate Roberts” (DPR). He was the genius or the mastermind (depending on how you look at it) that married the idea of anonymous surfing and anonymous currency, thus creating an anonymous marketplace.
With Silkroad, one can actually sell anything. It’s just that the site was popularly used as a marketplace for illegal merchandise.
The idea of an anonymous currency and an anonymous network may be impressive, but the real reason Ross Ulbricht got busted was the plain old human error.
Months before Silkroad got popular, Ross Ulbricht was trying to spread the news of his new site; which was Silkroad. He did it by visiting forums sites.
In the forum posts, he left his email so anyone can contact him if anyone is interested. Here’s the thing – he publicly left an email with his name on it! This was the initial scent that the authorities followed, which eventually led to the fall of Silkroad 1. Now, how about Silkroad 2?
Silkroad 2.0 officially went up a month later after the shutdown of the original Silkroad. The man supposedly running Silkroad 2.0 was Blake Benthall, also known as “Defcon.” Here’s the thing – someone obviously didn’t learn their lesson.
When Silk Road 2.0 went up, the site can be traced to an anonymous server. In the server details, the authorities found out that the server was registered to a [email protected]! From then on, it’s Silk Road 1 all over again.
There is no such thing as a 100% secure network on this planet. Even if you can create something that is truly secure, which is close to impossible, you still need humans to access it.
And that is the biggest security hole – human error. Just like Silk Road 1 and 2. Everyone thought that it would be a supercomputer doing complicated stuff to crack the site’s security.
When in fact, it’s actually a human error, like leaving an email unintentionally that will cause the first domino to fall down.