Tag Archives: Silk Road 2.0

List of Hidden Marketplaces (Tor & I2P)

Silk Road 2.0

Silk Road 2.0

Silk Road 2.0 Url:  silkroad6ownowfk.onion
Forum Url: silkroad5v7dywlc.onion
Sub reddit URL:  http://www.reddit.com/r/SilkRoad/ & http://www.reddit.com/r/SilkRoadTwo (this one is very new and not so active yet)
Note: Good luck.

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Both Of The Men Accused Of Running The Silk Road Made The Exact Same Mistake

Blake Benthall and Ross Ulbricht

The FBI arrested 26-year-old San Francisco tech worker Blake Benthall on Wednesday, accusing him of running the infamous deep web marketplace the Silk Road.

But Benthall wasn’t the founder of the site. Instead, his version of the Silk Road was often dubbed “Silk Road 2.0” to reflect the fact that it was a relaunched version of the original site.

The first incarnation of the Silk Road was shut down by the FBI in October 2013, after alleged founder Ross Ulbricht was arrested in a San Francisco library.

Court documents for the seizure of both the original Silk Road and the Silk Road 2.0 show that the site’s two alleged operators made the same error that enabled authorities to link them to the site.

Ross Ulbricht, the San Francisco resident accused of creating the original Silk Road, allegedly used a Silk Road user account which was registered to his personal email address.

The rossulbricht@gmail.com email account was also posted on the Bitcoin Talk forum as contact information for a poster looking to hire “an IT pro in the Bitcoin community.”

Ulbricht was caught in part due to the links between his personal Gmail account and other online accounts. It was trivially easy for investigators to string together usernames and IP addresses, with the help of information and IP logs obtained from Google.

The records show that Ulbricht regularly logged into a VPN service in a San Francisco internet café. On the same days he was allegedly using the VPN to mask his web traffic to the Silk Road’s administrative dashboard, Google’s records showed that he also checked his personal Gmail account.

After learning of the demise of his predecessor, surely the man behind the Silk Road 2.0 would take better care? It seems not.

The FBI briefly took the Silk Road 2.0’s servers offline in order to make a copy (known as an “image”) of the site. Because of the way the hosting account was set up, it fired off a series of emails to a pre-determined address in order to detail the site’s downtime.

Those emails, the FBI claim, went to blake@benthall.net, the personal email account of the San Francisco web developer accused of running the site.

Benthall used his personal email account to manage the web hosting account that the FBI says was used to keep the Silk Road 2.0 online. Additionally, he used that email address to create an account on a US-based Bitcoin exchange, and received his first transaction on the very day that the Silk Road 2.0 came online.

As the Daily Dot reports, Google again turned over IP logs and account information, this time for Benthall’s personal email account, to the FBI, revealing Benthall’s name and location information. It was obvious who owned the account: The email address was blake@benthall.net, it was registered to “Blake Benthall,” and IP logs show that it was accessed from Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe hotel rooms reserved under the name “Blake Benthall.”

There’s no denying that Ulbricht and Benthall were clever men, after all, the FBI accuses them both of running a complex deep web marketplace. Both men are alleged to have used modern anonymity services, and took care to anonymize their currency movements online.

But it was the simple mistake of using their personal email accounts for activities related to the Silk Road that made the FBI’s job easy, and likely led directly to their capture.

The Silk Road 2.0 is now bigger and better than ever before: What’s the FBI to do?

You have to give it to shadowy, corporate-funded lobby groups: You can get some seriously cool data when there’s big money on the line. This week saw the release of the newest report from a DC-based activist group called the Digital Citizens Alliance, an anti-piracy organization that is often accused of astroturfing for large media conglomerates. The report focuses on the current state of the Deep Web drug market and how, despite the shut down of the Silk Road last year, Silk Road 2.0 is already bigger than its predecessor. If the FBI or other law enforcement agencies want to put a real dent in the Deep Web, it will have to try a lot harder.

The overall aim of the Digital Citizens Alliance is to create panic among those less informed about the internet — arguing, among other things, that joining a BitTorrent swarm can grant total computer access to hackers, and that YouTube and Google intentionally host videos promoting or even selling drugs and prostitution. Its main goal seems to be to exaggerate every bad thing about the internet, scaring people out of supporting things like net neutrality and an internet free from censorship. All that said, however, its latest report on the state of Deep Web drug markets is interesting even without the hackery of their analysis. The raw data speaks for itself — and happily for the froth-manufacturers at the DCA, requires no extra spin to be interesting. The core insight is that, following the Silk Road shutdown last year, the Silk Road 2.0 has risen to attract more drug listings than we’ve ever seen before.

silk road chart 1

It’s not just the Silk Road that’s grown, either. In the wake of the Silk Road’s temporary demise users naturally ran to alternatives, and though most of those quickly fell under the weight of scams and thievery, the basic diversification of the user base remains. Though SR2.0 is by far the largest dark market, it still only accounts for about 41% of all listings — down from more than 70% last year. Competitors like Agora and Pandora collectively hold the majority now, and that’s as assessed by a report which openly admits that it excluded a further 25 small dark markets of which its authors were aware.

While it’s true that the Silk Road is bigger than ever before, that’s mostly a result of the fact that the Deep Web is bigger than ever before, as well. The Silk Road bust was the single best thing to ever happen to the Deep Web — a criminal Streisand effect seems to be at work here, as the Deep Web makes its way into everything from political speeches to House of Cards. After the bust several new high-profile markets sprang up to sell drugs, hacking, assassination — though of course we have no way of knowing how legitimate most of it really is.

The perhaps justifiably mocking face of Ross Ulbricht, alleged creator of the first Silk Road.
The perhaps justifiably mocking face of Ross Ulbricht, alleged creator of the first Silk Road.

People seem to have forgotten that immediately after the raid, conventional wisdom warned against ever again buying from any vendor who was active at that time; anyone selling during the bust could now very easily be an FBI plant. (Read: How to use Tor and get on the Deep Web.)And that’s the problem. For every user exalting the rise of a new Silk Road, there’s another addressing the rampant scamming and theft it now hosts. Many users on the official Silk Road 2.0 forums are worried that drug vendors are being added regularly despite vendor registration having been closed for months — a sign many take to mean the site’s mods are instating fake vendors. Are they cops? Bots? Russians?

Ross Ulbricht’s arrest sparked interest in super-security, but that rush has ended. Now, popular Silk Road vendors like “weedgirlz” start Twitter accounts and “clearnet” websitesadvertising their illegal businesses. There’s simply no institutional or individual memory here — a fact that makes individual busts very easy for police, but overall victory almost unimaginable. Just as in “real life” crime, Deep Web rings are intractable, dynamic populations that resist the kind of social engineering these arrests aspire to be. As long as the technology to do illegal things online even might exist, people will use it.

The Silk Road bust is probably at least partly responsible for the extended Tor-talk on Netflix's House of Cards.
The Silk Road bust is probably at least partly responsible for the extended Tor-talk on Netflix’s House of Cards.

The best chance to really hurt the dark markets has already passed. If the Silk Road 2.0 has in fact been a honeypot all along (and many still suspect that to be the case), that would be a major and above all long lastingblow to the Deep Web. Not because of the arrests or the convictions, but because of the method by which they were acquired.

The Deep Web’s true strength is not in encryption or anonymity, but in confidence. The FBI needs to imbue this community not with fear of prison, but with fear of theirfriends. If it can’t, then law enforcement will simply never get a handle on Deep Web criminals, and the markets will keep growing as they have been for years now. The occasional, aimless bust won’t change that.

In search of Utopia in the Deep Web

utopia.jpg (1440×720)

The following article contains content and images that may be NSFW.

Since the fall of Silk Road, there has been no rest on the Deep Web. Some sites disappeared, others like were mothballed with the promise to reopen again. Considering the latest charges brought against the alleged Silk Road founder, Ross Ulbricht, who is now risking a potential minimum prison sentence of 30 years, times seem grim for the Internet’s black markets.

And yet, there early signs of progress and promise. A new drug market, called Utopia, opened this week. With a sleek design and a green earth as a symbol, it promises to be a “bright star in the shadows of the darknet.”

Screengrab via Utopia

In just a matter of days, the market has collected a staggering number of listings: 1700 in the Drug category; 62 under Service, which includes hacking and gambling; 24 in the Weapons section; and 88 in the Ebook category. Utopia’s forum, which has been online for a while on a separate address, counts over 3000 users and a growing number of posts and topics.

How is such rapid growth possible? The new bazaar appears to have strong connections with an old one, Black Market Reloaded (BMR). Some people from the BMR’s staff moved there, and the market has been developed “with some help and inspiration from Backopy,” wrote Swim, Utopia’s admin, in the same forum.

Backopy, who is well-known and respected within the Deep Web community, is the founder of Black Market Reloaded, which appeared at one point to be the heir apparent to Silk Road. It had a turbulent end to 2013: first by having some of its code leaked, then by being hacked—although its vendors were refunded of eventual losses. After being briefly shut down and then opened again in October, it closed for good in December for security reasons, claiming it was not able to cope with the influx of new customers. Many old BMR vendors appeared to have moved to the new market.

“All BMR vendors names are protected on Utopia market and can only registrar (sic) if they confirm their PGP key,” explains one forum post. “Also the feedback reputation will be imported and available to keep doing business.” Utopia also promises to automatically encrypt users’ personal messages, and to add convenient search filters.

So is Utopia the new BMR? Apparently not. Backopy is still reportedly working on his own project for a new version of BMR. But it’s a promising sign for the future of the Deep Web.

In fact, there are a number of new marketplaces, each vying to capitalize on Silk Road’s disappearance. The site DeepDotWeb, a sort of TripAdvisor for the black markets, has reviewed around 15 of them. Here’s what you need to know.

Silk Road 2.0

The new version of the infamous bazaar, led by a new Dread Pirate Roberts, opened just a month after the original site was seized by the FBI; however, it has faced a lot of problems since its launch. Two of its alleged moderators, who had moved from the first Silk Road, have been arrested. At the same time, Dread Pirate Roberts temporarily disappeared, leaving his second-in-command, named Defcon, at the helm of the ship. Today, the site lists over 12,000 items.

Agora Market and Outlaw Market

Both of these markets are considered at least relatively stable. The Agora Market has a spartan layout, lists roughly 2,400 drug-related items, has got a popular Information category that includes hacking how-to guides, and a Counterfeit section that’s full of watches. The Outlaw Market shows a funny Old West-style design, and it takes a very international approach: Its interface can be configured to use different languages. Apparently, judging from its login page, it’s even looking for admins for different countries and regions.

Screengrab via Outlaw Market

The Blue Sky Marketplace and Pirate Market

Blue Sky Marketplace is small and drug-oriented (mainly selling cannabis) that kindly advises its visitors to disable Javascript in their Tor browser, in order to surf more safely. Pirate Market was formerly known as RoadSilk. It’s a niche market that trying to siphon off customers from larger enterprises. Apart from marketplaces, vendors’ shops also appear to be increasing, likely because some of Silk Road’s old top sellers have decided to start independent operations.

The WhiteRabbit Marketplace

The WhiteRabbit Marketplace is one of the more prominent markets operating with an I2P address, an anonymous overlay network, which is basically a network within a network. It provides strong anonymity and a distributed platform that’s meant to deflect attacks. For the paranoid types, there’s also The MarketPlace, which also has already created a considerable hub on Reddit.

Taken together, the Deep Web appears to be recovering in the wake of the Silk Road closure. There’s still cause for serious concern, obviously. These are illegal markets we’re talking about, where the risk of being scammed runs deep. Just consider the meteoric rise and fall of Atlantis, a marketplace that went so far as to publicize itself on YouTube, only to suddenly fold for “security reasons” suspiciously close to the feds’ seizing of Silk Road, or Sheep Marketplace, which shut down after a suspicious “hack” that stole at least 5,400 bitcoin, worth about $4.6 million at the time.

At least now customers know full well the risk of doing business in the Deep Web.