While Amazon and eBay enjoy the profits of their business by supplying their customers worldwide with a variety of above-board products, there is also an underground market that supplies anything illegal.
Guns, drugs and hit men are available for the right price through a sophisticated underground website known as Silk Road, aka the “Darknet.”
What is Silk Road?
Silk Road website, a customer-friendly storefront that displayed its drugs, heroin and cocaine like Amazon and eBay would display their more conventional products was available to whoever needed anything illegal.
As described by Donna Leger of USA Today, Silk Road was the largest cyber-underworld black market. It made $1.2 billion in sales, with 1 million customers. Aside from the illegal drugs, heroin, cocaine and LSD, marijuana, and hashish, the site also served as a bazaar for other illegal items, such as fake passports, drivers’ licenses, stolen credit card numbers, counterfeit currencies.
Criminals and wanna-be lawbreakers could even get hacking tools and log in credential for hacked accounts, and other documents along with service providers who could be contacted for hit men, forgers and computer hackers. Drugs are the product of choice and it is delivered straight to the customer’s door through regular mail services, locally or internationally.
How Does the Online Black Market Work?
The secret to Silk Road’s membership, according to Katherine Jacobson of CS Monitor, was through the most recent URL at silkroadvb5piz3r.onion. To log into Silk Road, users would create a user name, a password and provide the country where they were located, then they would browse the site like any online store – except with significant levels of encryption.
Looking at The Dollar Factor
Nicolas Christin of Carnegie Mellon University did a study on Silk Road and their users and calculated that the black-market-commerce site created $1.2 million in revenue per month. Silk Road sales resulted in $92,000 per month in commissions for the Silk Road operators who collected a share of every transaction – just like Amazon, but in bitcoins.
Online Crime: Why The Internet Works So Well For Criminals
The reason the Internet has become such a haven for domestic and international criminals is because the use of computers and smart phones allow the criminals to conduct illegal activities from anywhere in the world, and maximize their profits quicker than on the streets, while being anonymous.
Prior to the underground market place, criminals conducted business on an individual basis, this limited their amount of potential illegal transactions. In today’s world, however a few criminals have built vast enterprises via computer technology.
The most sophisticated of these operations so far was Silk Road, whose creator was a chemical engineer. According to Interpol International, though the crimes they are committing over the Internet are not new (drug sales, gun sales, theft and such like) the market is evolving in line with opportunities presented online. Organized crime on the Internet is becoming more widespread and damaging.
Bitcoins: Currency of Choice for Criminals
Criminals are using bitcoins as a safety mechanism when buying and selling their merchandise because the bitcoins are untraceable. Unfortunately for the criminals, there appears to be little ‘honor among thieves’ – the anonymity of the currency works for and against the criminals.
Approximately two weeks after Silk Road was shut down by the FBI, Silk Road 2.0 was born. According to News Week, Silk Road 2 had software to protect them from attack, but they were hacked anyway. In a matter of days of its rebirth, Silk Road 2.0 was completely wiped out. According to Joe Biggs of TechCrunch, all the bitcoins valued at 4474.26 ($2, 747,000.00) were stolen from the site’s escrow account.
Unless several underground markets are hacked simultaneously and their bitcoins completely wiped out, expect the bitcoin trend to continue. On the street, if a drug dealer loses his drugs due to law enforcement confiscation or enemy rip-off, he doesn’t stop supplying. Why? Because the demand is there. So it is in the underground black market.
More Underground Sites?
Silk Road is not the only underground black market website around, but it was one of the most sophisticated. Despite the advanced technology, the criminals got busted due to simple mistakes. In addition, Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 have made the FBI aware of the cryptography and other technology the criminals are using for these illegal activities. The authorities have now been successful in shutting down a few more sites.
Illegal Activity and Law Enforcement
Though there seems to be some progress, when one is shut down, another pops up – in this way, illegal activity online is not much different from the on-the-street activity. Law enforcement will organize stings and go undercover to apprehend all involved. Using the ‘net subjects all involved to being traced and possibly prosecuted for criminal activity.