Silk Road 2.0

Despite the best efforts of law enforcement (and enterprising hackers), the dark Web drug marketplaces simply won’t die. Of course the original Silk Road, allegedly created and ruled by Ross Ulbricht (aka Dread Pirate Roberts, DPR), is no more. But in its place are a half-dozen replacements, none larger than the site apropriately dubbed Silk Road 2.0.

Earlier this month, Internet safety organization Digital Citizens Alliance released a report indicating that Silk Road 2.0 is now larger, in terms of drug listings, than the original Silk Road ever was. What’s more, the collective number of listings across all these competing sites far supasses those at the time of the FBI’s October 2013 Silk Road seizure.

The growth of Silk Road 2.0 has come despite a February hacking that cost the company – and its customers – 4,476 bitcoins, valued at over $2.6 million at the time. The company subsequently promised to continue operations, forfeiting all fees until all users debts have been repaid.

Today, Silk Road 2.0 signaled its improving health, announcing that it has since paid back 82.09 percent of these stolen coins. This after the company reached the 50 percent threshold on April 8 and promised full repayment by June 18.

Silk Road 2.0 moderator Defcon posted to a community forum, writing:

In less than thirty days, I will be drafting an unprecedented announcement that your resilience made possible: the announcement that Silk Road has repaid all victims of our February hack…

We are sending a clear message of integrity and justice, louder than the slander our oppressors can push into the news. History will prove that we are not criminals, we are revolutionaries.

It’s worth pointing out that Silk Road 2.0 hasn’t exactly opened up its books for auditing, and there has been no public comment from its largest customers confirming or denying the accuracy of its repayment claims. In that way, we’re left to take the company, and its shadowy operators, at their word. Defcon claimed in his post that the company cannot reveal details about its users and sales due to “security reasons.”

According to the Defcon post, Silk Road 2.0 is now seeing 68 percent of its pre-attack weekly sales volumes. With the date of full repayment seemingly approaching rapidly, it’s a fair bet that these sales figures will continue to rise.

The state of dark Web marketplaces today is in many ways a consequence of the Streisand Effect. When the FBI seized the original Silk Road and media (including Pando) covered the news exhaustively, the result was an increase in the level of awareness among both potential customers and vendors.

Ross Ulbricht and a few other affiliated bad actors may be stuck on the sidelines at this point, but the dark Web continues to thrive. While law enforcement will continue to play its game of whack-a-mole, this looks like a reality that’s not going away any time soon.