There have been several high profile and technical busts, targeting users, dealers, and administrators of some websites operating on the dark web. In one such recent case, the German police tracked down a person who had used the original Silk Road marketplace for buying cannabis, a few grams at a time.
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Gwern Branwen, an independent researcher, reportedly said that the authorities recently fined this person from Germany, who ordered cannabis seventeen times on the Silk Road and another darknet market, more than 3,000 euros. In one of the Reddit posts, he noted that he was directly contacted by the buyer to inform the same. Gwern even uploaded a letter addressed to the apparent user.
Motherboard pointed out that as the names, as well as other information contained in the letter written in March 2016 by the law authorities, were redacted, they could not contact the recipient of the letter. However, the letter indicated that the customer made 17 purchases – quantity varied from 1.5 grams to 7.4 grams of cannabis during the period January 2013 to October 2013.
Law enforcement authorities have punished many dark web users who purchased drugs from darknet markets like the Silk Road in the past. They have even tracked down people who bought weapons, poisons, and drugs such as methamphetamine or MDMA from websites operating on the dark web. Additionally, a few cases involving marijuana purchases have also been reported.
However, what makes this particular case notable is the fact that law enforcement is still keen on tracking down buyers years after the Silk Road was closed down by the federal agents in 2013. According to reports, the customer was identified after the German police busted a seller of cannabis who had maintained a record of all of his customers. The customer reportedly told Branwen that he always ensured that his address was encrypted whenever he provided it to vendors.
Based on this information, Branwen believes that the police might have sifted through the records available on the server used by the Silk Road to find out more about the purchases made by the customer as he used only one username consistently. However, it is not entirely clear as to how the authorities have managed to find one of the orders he placed on the Outlaw Market, which continues to operate on the dark web. The letter, however, noted that the communications between him and the Silk Road have been used.
Branwen also pointed out in the Reddit post that it is not sure as to how a buyer could get into any trouble or be prosecuted if he/she is not charged with possession of illegal drugs or packages addressed to the person has not been intercepted. He observed that the answer to this question seemed to be in the positive, at least in this case, in Germany.
Ultimately, this particular case goes on to show that even those people who have only used darknet markets briefly should be worried because law enforcement authorities could eventually track them down.