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Only weeks after the closure of Silk Road, a “drug market” which authorities claim shipped $1.2 billion of drugs including heroin around the world, a site styling itself Silk Road 2.0 has appeared. Like the original, it is only accessible via the “anonymous” browser Tor.
Alleged founder Ross Ulbricht, 29, was arrested last month, but the new site’s owner has adopted his alleged pseudonym, Dread Pirate Roberts. Under the Twitter handle @DreadPirateSR, the new founder announced the launch in a Tweet, “20 minutes to go. You can never kill the idea of Silk Road”.
There are already 500 listings for drugs including marijuana and cocaine online, according to Andy Greenberg’s report in Forbes.
A site administrator said, “”It took the FBI two-and-a-half years to do what they did…but four weeks of temporary silence is all they got,” according to a report by Yahoo News.
The original site was only accessible via the anonymized Tor network, and dealers sent packages via mail. Payment was made via the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Due to the difficulty of tracing or identifying Tor users, the service is used widely by cybercriminals, and even to host botnets, as reported by We Live Security here.
The charges against Ulbricht allege that the site generated sales totaling more than 9.5 million Bitcoin – around $1.2 billion.
The new site offers improved security, including the option to use PGP encryption keys as an added authentication measure, according to Tweets by the new Dread Pirate Roberts. The Tor Project made clear in a blog post that the original shutdown was not due to “flaws” in Tor.
The site acknowledged the earlier “takedown” with a spoof front page parodying the seizure notices issued by the justice department. The new version is not fully operational. For now, the site is not accepting new members, and only existing members can issue invites, The Verge reports.
Other, similar black market sites such as Atlantis and Project Black Flag shut down in the wake of the Silk Road bust, according to Forges. Black Market Reloaded briefly experienced difficulties, but remains operational.
Many dealers have moved between sites in recent weeks – one said, “After the shocking events on Silk Road yesterday we have accessed our Black Market Reloaded account (which we had made a few months ago for events like these). We are now adding a serious amount of listings and will go online ASAP.”
Ulbricht is to face charges over his involvement, and police forces in the U.S. and other countries such as the UK continue to hunt the site’s most active dealers.
Online debate about the new site has become intense, with a Reddit thread raising questions such as whether the site is a “honey pot” created by law enforcement. “If you’re looking for irrefutable evidence that the new Silk Road is safe, and not run by law enforcement, I’m sorry to tell you it doesn’t exist; not will such evidence exist for any illegal marketplace on the deepweb,” said one user.
Author Rob Waugh, We Live Security