Silk Road 2.0 Shut Down by FBI, Just Like Its Black Market Predecessor

The notice from the FBI showing that Silk Road 2.0 sites have been seized

On the legal front line of the Internet, the scoreboard today reads: FBI 2, online underground 0. A year after the feds shut down the Silk Road, a drug bazaar that had thrived by using the anonymous Tor network and digital currency, FBI agents on Thursday arrested the alleged mastermind behind a copycat market dubbed Silk Road 2.0.

Blake Benthall, a 26-year-old from San Francisco, was named by the FBI as the alleged owner and operator of the second incarnation of Silk Road. The site is described in the announcement as ”one of the most extensive, sophisticated, and widely used criminal marketplaces on the Internet.” The FBI cites some booming business stats: The website had more than 13,000 listings for controlled substances as of Oct. 17, including 1,783 under “Psychedelics” and bountiful offerings for fake I.D.s and hacking tools.

Benthall, also known as “Defcon,” took over after the arrest of the October 2013 original Silk Road creator, Ross William Ulbricht, who used the handle “Dread Pirate Roberts.” A complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court charges Benthall with conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking, computer hacking, and money laundering—offenses that, if proven, would add up to a long, long time in jail. Ulbricht, meanwhile, is set to go on trial in Manhattan some time next year.

The website DeepDotWeb.com has a screenshot of the notice that pops up for those trying to access the site now. The notice says: “This Hidden Site Has Been Seized as part of a joint law enforcement operation,” under the symbols of the Department of Justice and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This may be part of a broader strike at black markets that operate on the “dark net” (sites that are purposely left inaccessible to regular search tools and browsers), according to DeepDotWeb.com. The site noted that several other underground online markets are also down.

The FBI got busy tweeting about the arrests this morning—perhaps in a bid to reach the viewers who might not be old-school enough to find the press release on their own.

The main takeaway from George Venizelos, the FBI’s assistant director-in-charge as quoted in that press release:

“Benthall should have known that those who hide behind the keyboard will ultimately be found. The FBI worked with law enforcement partners here and abroad on this case and will continue to investigate and bring to prosecution those who seek to run similar black markets online.”

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