ANNOUNCEMENT: Well it has happened! Another Silk Road Darknet Market has spawned after the demise of Silkroad 2.0. The new site is called Silk Road Reloaded and is utilizing different technology than its predecessors therefore a new guide for Silkroad Reloaded will be coming soon. In the meantime Agora Marketplace is still alive and kicking bigger than ever with more listings than Silkroad 2.0.
It is a well-known fact that the greatest joint operation between various world governments to cripple the Internet underworld late last year, Operation Onymous, has done little to dampen darknet activity. This obviously brings up one important issue: what made Silkroad fall into the hands of law enforcers while its peers continued to elude relentless crackdown efforts by law enforcement authorities? More specifically, what technologies led to the Silk Road demise?
1. Digital Currency TechnologyThere is one reason why Bitcoin is the major currency in the Internet underworld – its anonymity. But, as it turns out, bitcoin can also leave a digital trail, which can sometimes be traced until it can reveal the identity of the sender or the receiver. Ross Ulbricht, thecreatorof Silkroad, had a difficult time denying that he was receiving payments in terms of bitcoins from the illicit site.
The government investigators were able to show that Ulbricht received millions of dollars in bitcoin payments from the Silk Road because the said payments could be traced back to his personal laptop. Verifying that the payments from Silkroad were indeed made to Ulbricht was not actually that hard. A simple comparison of Bitcoin wallet addresses from the site’s servers and the addresses from his computer helped make the irrefutable conclusion that the Silk Road payments were indeed made to him.
2. Tor Hidden Service Protocol Technology
Although Tor is remarkable at hiding a site’s identity, including location and information related to people who partake in its construction, there are still loopholes that can be exploited, leading to closure or identification of private information behind Tor sites by law enforcement authorities. The same thing happened with the Silk Road crack down. The FBI was able to penetrate the anonymity barriers that Tor gave to the Silkroad site and identify the location of the Silk Road servers in Iceland. With Silk Road 2.0, the FBI was also able to take down the site by attacking Tor.
3. Centralized Server Technology
Most sites, darknet or not, have centralized servers that hold information about them. This technology resulted in trouble for the Silk Road marketplace since the police were able to track the location of the servers and take the site down in addition to seizing the information needed to link it to its creator, Ross Ulbricht.
4. Email Technology
This may come as a surprise, but Ulbricht’s email account had a lot to do with the seizure of Silkroad. Ross used his email address, rossulbricht at gmail dot com, to post on various forums under the alias of Dread Pirate Roberts. Unfortunately, the email address was also attached to a LinkedIn account and a Google Plus account, which lead to uncovering of Ulbricht’s true identity. The email had records of Ross buying a laptop on Amazon, the same laptop that was seized from him by FBI, and even a photo of himself.
The very technologies that the Silkroad site was founded on eventually led to its demise. For instance, its choice currency, Bitcoin, which offers considerable anonymity to users, left digital traces that linked Ulbricht to Silk Road. Additionally, weaknesses in the Tor network resulted in revelation of the site’s server locations. Other technologies that failed Silk Road include email technology, through which the FBI unveiled Ulbricht’s identity as the mastermind behind the Silkroad marketplace and centralized servers, which resulted in authorities seizing all information regarding Silkroad and several bitcoins.