Shocking online black market revealed
It might be still illegal, but those wanting to obtain illicit goods and services no longer have to find back alley black markets to obtain the contraband.An online alternative is now making breaking the law almost entirely anonymous and all on the web.
A new Website is allowing users to purchase practically anything without having to scour the streets for a seller. It’s called Silk Road, and the site bills itself as an anonymous marketplace. If you’re willing to go through a few hoops to cover your e-tracks, near-complete anonymity is achieved, revealing an arsenal of weapons, jewelry, hallucinogens and illegal services that can be ordered right from your fingertips.
Hundreds of illegal drugs and weaponry can be ordered from users, many offering to ship their goods all over the world. Though Silk Road prohibits the selling of a few over the top items—including weapons of mass destruction or ordering an assassination—the anonymity the users take advantage of might make such transactions eventually available elsewhere.
On Silk Road, users leave feedback on sellers a la eBay and many merchants boast that they are willing to ship worldwide and within 24 hours of payment. Bitcoin, a crypto-currency developed in 2009 by an anonymous programmer, is the only way to barter for goods, which are broken down into categories of cannabinoids, opiates, ecstasy, weaponry and more. From there, bitcoins—which its developers call the first decentralized digital currency—can buy your way to bliss.
While law enforcement might be able to eventually trace users down, it would require a decent amount of sleuthing. Silk Road’s actual URL is a jumble of characters that isn’t quite easy to remember, allowing for users of shared computers to cover their tracks to a degree. Access can only be obtained by browsing through a program called Tor, an anonymity client that claims it was originally developed to aid in protecting government communications. Once logged onto the actual marketplace, bitcoins are the only currency accepted, and the exchanges are purportedly untraceable.
On the site, thousands of users browse the marketplace and a series of message boards, where they can chat about the quality of a half gram of synthetic mescaline or request that sellers start advertising their stashes of meth. People dish on the quality of other user’s stealth shipments, ask how to acquire a grenade and ponder the age-old question: Clean urine: what would you pay?
Two years after its release, many are already pondering the eventual outcome of the bitcoin market. The Launch conference has dubbed the currency as the most dangerous thing they’ve ever seen, and one critic has predicted that the monetary system, which he calls a political statement perpetuated by technological libertarians, will be the most dangerous invention since the Internet and will change the world.
Media attention directed toward Silk Road in recent days has already caused an influx of new users—and presumably law enforcement presence. Transactions are continuing to be made, however, and with many users satisfied with the security of bitcoins and the anonymous exchanges, there is no telling where the web’s black market will go from here.