Bitcoin was once synonymous with the Silk Road, the notorious dark web trading platform that made it possible to buy and sell illegal products and services. Bitcoin’s association with the dark web was used as an argument towards the viability of digital assets.
In its early years, Bitcoin became the payment method of choice for illegal activities on the dark side of the internet, where censorship-resistant payment systems were highly valued. The Silk Road is considered to be the first online dark web marketplace that relied heavily on Bitcoin for its transactions.
In this article, we will examine the emergence of the dark web and explore how the cryptocurrency played a role in its growth.
What Is the Dark Web?
Usually deep web describes the largest part of internet data that is inaccessible via default web browsers and not indicated by search engines. This hidden part of the internet includes private networks, password-protected pages, and other forms of content that are not meant for open entry.
The deep web is estimated to be several times larger than the surface web, which refers to the portion of the internet that is accessible via search engines. The dark web is a tiny part of the deepweb that is intentionally concealed and needs to be carried out via specialist software, such as Tor, to access.
What Is a Dark Web Marketplace?
The darkweb, initially created for free expression and privacy, has transformed into a criminal haven due to its anonymous environment. Dark web marketplaces facilitate the anonymous sale of illegal goods and services, including drugs, fake documents, stolen credit card information, weapons, and child pornography. The main issue is that the authorities struggle to observe and detect these unlawful procedures.
Drug trafficking is among the most common criminal activities among the dark web. Dark web drug markets provide a wide variety of drugs, from marijuana to heroin, that can be anonymously purchased and shipped to the buyer’s location.
Other illegal goods and services, such as fake documents, stolen credit card information, and weapons, are also readily available on the dark web. These marketplaces usually conduct their services on a peer-to-peer basis, making it hard for the officials to target specific individuals or groups.
Entering the Dark Web
Tor browser is often an essential tool for surfing through the darkweb. This browser is extremely safe as it uses the solution that encrypts and routes traffic via various servers, which makes it almost impossible to detect the source and destination of the data. This technique was named “onion routing,” or Tor, and was made available as open-source software.
However, users should not assume that Tor is entirely safe, as it only renders IP addresses less traceable and does not provide complete anonymity. To achieve solid anonymity, the best VPN for dark web should be used in conjunction with Tor. One unique feature of Tor is the “generate new Identity” option, which deletes all cookies and establishes a new Tor route, unlinking the user’s previous browsing activity from their current activity.
To visualize how Tor works, imagine the standard internet network as the top layer of an onion. When you use Tor, you are able to peel back the upper layers of the onion to reveal the hidden third layer of the internet, which includes the dark web. Tor achieves this by routing your internet connection through a series of servers, causing it extremely challenging for others to trace your online activity back to you.
What is the Silk Road?
The emergence of effective marketplaces on dark websites was not immediate as conventional payment methods like PayPal and fiat currencies made it possible for regulators to trace and apprehend perpetrators. However, in 2011, the Silk Road was launched on the darknet with the aim of changing that situation.
The Silk Road, which took its name from the ancient commerce pathways established by the Han Dynasty, constructed a well-organized platform using Bitcoin as an alternate payment method and added features like a vendor evaluation system, an escrow assistance, and private chat.
In just over two years of operation, the network rose to popularity and acquired over 1 million user accounts, with narcotics apparently making about 70% of the products offered on Silk Road. However, the website was eventually taken down and more than $1 billion worth of digital assets were taken by the FBI, working alongside different criminal justice organizations. This event was all over the dark web news at the time.
The association between Bitcoin and the Silk Road
Consider that the lack of a censorship-resistant payment method contributed to the failure of previous efforts to establish a dark web store. Ross Ulbricht soon profited from the fact that using banks was not necessary for the digital asset when it was created. The Silk Road became the main market on the dark web thanks to Bitcoin since it had embraced an uncontrolled and international payment mechanism.
Who Is Ross Ulbricht?
The creator of Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, built a system that let users purchase, trade, and receive things anonymously from the comfort of their homes. Due to the secrecy of these transactions, the Silk Road became a very popular arena for the sale of illegal products.
Ulbricht was known to have libertarian tendencies, which he expressed in the creation of the Silk Road. However, the platform’s success drew unwanted attention from the FBI, leading to Ulbricht’s arrest in 2013 in the San Francisco Library. The FBI had spent months infiltrating the Silk Road community before arresting Ulbricht. This case is one of the most popular ones related to the dark web arrest.
They were able to convince him to open the Silk Road’s backend, and two law enforcement agents pretending to be a quarreling couple distracted him before grabbing his laptop to prevent him from deleting any files.
Ulbricht was given an eternity in jail without the chance of parole in 2015 after rejecting a plea agreement. Along with additional drug-related allegations, he was accused of money laundering, cybercrime, fake documents trafficking, and reportedly arranging to have two individuals killed.
Ulbricht chose to overhaul Silk Road’s administration and adopted the moniker “Dread Pirate Roberts” based on a character from The Princess Bride, which may have been used by multiple people as the name was first created by an anonymous Silk Road user.
Why Do Bitcoin and the Silk Road Have Such Close Connections?
These two are connected because Bitcoin was the primary currency used on the Silk Road, an online underground market that facilitated the sale of various goods, including illegal drugs, weapons, and stolen items. The anonymous and unregulated nature of Bitcoin made it the ideal payment method for the Silk Road’s users.
Every Bitcoin transaction is saved on the blockchain, which is a public ledger that permits everyone to see the transaction history of any Bitcoin wallet. During the Silk Road investigation, law enforcement used the blockchain to trace the flow of Bitcoin transactions and link them to specific individuals and their associated wallet addresses.
It is worth noting that the pseudonymous nature of Bitcoin can make it difficult for authorities to trace criminal activity. However, if individuals take steps to maintain their privacy, such as using multiple wallets and not linking their Bitcoin addresses to their true identities, it can be challenging to track them.
The connection between Bitcoin and the Silk Road underscores the potential for cryptocurrencies to be used in illegal activities. Nonetheless, it also highlights the transparency of the Bitcoin network and the potential for law enforcement to leverage it to investigate and prosecute criminal activities.
Do Dark Web marketplaces still use cryptocurrency?
The use of cryptocurrencies on the dark web is unfortunately still widespread, but this is not unique to digital assets. However, many still use fiat currencies to trade illegal activities.
The attention on cryptocurrencies and the dark web is primarily due to the perceived anonymity that many digital assets provide users. However, it should be noted that blockchain payment systems can be easily traced unless special protocols are put in place to conceal transaction details. It’s also worth mentioning that only a small percentage of all crypto transactions are linked to the dark web.
Despite these misconceptions, the digital asset landscape is increasingly being regulated, and the likelihood of evading scrutiny for illicit use of cryptocurrencies is diminishing. As a result, individuals should reconsider before attempting to make illegal purchases on the dark web using digital assets.
Users Are Advised
It is important to clarify that we are not promoting or advocating any illegal activities. The purpose of this article is to provide information on the workings of the internet, particularly the Dark Web, to increase public awareness and knowledge. We do not intend to influence or encourage anyone to engage in any unlawful actions.