Silk Road probably became over the years the most known of the unknown ones: a website buried deep into the shadows of the Dark Web, suddenly under the media spotlights and the fury of the FBI. Turntable of the drug trafficking on the Darknet, Silk Road  is born, burns and rises from its ashes since 2011,  like a frightening phoenix willing to survive despite everything. Many developers, many pseudonyms, many drugs dealers risked their freedom for a few dollars more on the troubled past of the Silk Road. Cut one head, and look at the hydra while it grows ten more.

The end of Silk Road: a mitigated success…

With the condemnation of Ross Ulbricht, known as “Dread Pirate Roberts” and, also as the creator of the first Silk Road, a new chapter begins. While the FBI is celebrating, a second version of the website, Silk Road 2.0, appears and quickly finds success, until  its closure in November 2014. It didn’t take too long before a third version appears. From Silk Road 3.0, self-proclaimed “professional and peaceful marketplace selling all sorts of goods and services” where “there is no judgement, censorship or repercussion”, to AlphaBay, the Dark Web’s marketplaces are still trying to give the finger to international authorities, in an endless thief and police game.

… allowing us to see the hydra living in the dark.

Multiple successors of the original Silk Road have come to life and have been taken offline over the past years. All this websites had two things in common, aside from organizing drug trafficking and selling illegal goods: they all used the Tor Network and dealt with bitcoins. Well, Silk Road Reloaded isn’t one amongst a lot.

Apart from the name, Silk Road Reloaded has nothing to do with Silk Road. Of course, it’s a marketplace for all kind of illegal stuff, but it proposes a lot more than the previous versions of Silk Road: not only drugs, but weapons or stolen credit card credentials. In definitive, everything that a Dark Web marketplace can propose.

This website was launched on January eleventh 2015 on the little-know “I2P” anonymous network. Wishing to become the first drug trafficking online marketplace and to survive, they used another network than The Onion Router, contrary to every single illegal website until that day. “I2P” stands for Invisible Internet Project. Obviously, the goal is to remain anonymous. Why I2P exactly? No further explanations were officially given, but it quickly becomes clear that the FBI has now tools to hound and delete Tor using websites. I2P works on a garlic routing bases to let users browse websites and messages in an anonymous way. If Tor and I2P are both anonymizing proxy networks, the differences stand in the threat model and the out-proxy design.

Moreover, Silk Road Reloaded opens its sales to other cryptocurrencies than Bitcoin, such as Dogecoin, Anoncoin, Litecoin or Darkcoin, which makes names and identities disappear for every transaction.

Good luck with that!

The Dark Web is a stunning place. Between ideological fights and criminal activities, it seems to be heaven for a few and hell for many. Silk Road, no matter what, became one of its most powerful symbol: a hydra who surely doesn’t want to die. Could Silk Road Reloaded be the next alternative to Tor network? The multiplication of the marketplaces’ form isn’t without risks. Only time will tell us if the international authorities are able to deal with this new challenge.

Thomas Tritsch

A propos de Thomas Tritsch