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The Editors

Silk Road’s Villains and Bitcoin’s Threats

The criminal complaint is lurid, describing not just a murder plot but also a den of iniquity in which all manner of illicit substances and services were for sale: cocaine, heroin, LSD, pot, forged legal documents, tools for hacking into computers and a variety of ne’er-do-wells for hire.

And where did all this unlawful activity, detailed in federal court and unveiled Oct. 2, take place? On an underground website , which used a special network to conceal users’ identities and conducted sales using Bitcoin, a virtual currency considered cheap, convenient and (crucially, if you’re buying dope or hiring a hitman) pseudonymous. The site generated roughly $1.2 billion in sales and $80 million in commissions, according to the complaint.