Writing on Gizmodo Australia, Kate Knibbs acutely observes that there are three things you can count on in life: Death, taxes, and people buying drugs on the internet. Two days ago, the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies shut down Silk Road 2.0 and other online drug markets, and arrested tens of people. Of course, there is already a Silk Road 3.0, and it seems likely that other Silk Roads will follow.
The news about Silk Road 3.0 were first reported by Business Insider and shared on Reddit yesterday, but without revealing the address of the new online crypto market. Gizmodo has the address – https://qxvfcavhse45ckpw.onion – but the link won’t work if you are not using Tor. Like its predecessors and most online crypto markets for drugs and other illegal items, Silk Road is a Tor Hidden Service that only works within Tor. There is the possibility that law enforcers may have found ways to crack the privacy of Tor, but it seems more likely that they exploited human errors instead. As the Tor documentation says, anonymity online is difficult, and Tor alone isn’t sufficient.
It turns out that Silk Road 3.0 is not a new market, but an existing one re-branded to capitalize on the interest triggered by the Silk Road news. Before the re-branding, the service was called Diabolus Market and billed itself as a “cannabis only” marketplace, a “peaceful, simple and professionally run service with an expert development team,” the Daily Dot reports.
The new operators claim that they are actively working with a member of the team from Silk Road 2.0. Of course, there is no way to confirm. It appears that the new service is much less sophisticated than the old, which may indicate that it’s just a publicity stunt. Of course, time will tell.
However, Knibbs is likely to be right in that Silk Road 3.0 is not the future of online drug markets. She reports that a prominent online drug dealer who goes by the pseudonym “Carlos Lopez” says that, at this point, he will not take seriously any marketplace that is not decentralized.
OpenBazaar, the open source software platform for distributed and decentralized online markets, still in beta, seems a promising alternative to centralized markets, with or without Tor. Despite the Crypto Anarchist persuasion of some of its original developers, OpenBazaar is not specifically meant as a platform for illegal markets – rather, it’s intended for distributed general-purpose marketplaces like eBay – but when it’s operational it seems likely that it will be used for illegal operations as well, which the decentralized nature of the platform will make very hard to shut down.
What do you think of Silk Road 3.0? Is OpenBazaar a good alternative? Comment below!
Images from Shutterstock.