by Pedro Do Amaral Souza
The Silk Road, an online black market, was closed in the beginning of October when the FBI arrested Ross Ulbricht, the 29-year-old American responsible for operating the website’s servers. During its two years of existence, the Silk Road was responsible for roughly 1.2 billion U.S. dollars in transactions.
The website operated on the “Deep Web,” an alternative internet accessible only through the usage of Tor, a software program that allows internet anonymity by protecting the user’s IP address.
Users logged in through the program and browsed an online market that offered a variety of products such as apparel, arts, cigarettes and jewelry. But most users went to the Silk Road to sell or purchase drugs, which accounted for more than 70 percent of the sales on the website.
The purchases occurred through the use of Bitcoins, a decentralized digital currency that adapts itself to inflation and can be exchanged for dollars.
With the Silk Road’s closing, the Deep Web was deprived of the largest online black market to ever exist.
But does it actually make a difference? The website started a trend, with many similar unregulated markets popping up in the Deep Web that use the same Bitcoin system. Websites such as “Sheep Market” and “Black Market Reloaded” are quickly growing to fill up the void left by the Silk Road.
Users across the globe claim these markets are easily accessed and used. While the Deep Web requires the Tor browser to be accessed, the program is available for free and takes a few minutes to download. Most of these sites resemble Amazon, with a menu displaying items separated by categories and user reviews of products and sellers.
The fact remains that anyone with internet access and a credit card can purchase drugs online. The popularity of these markets is steadily increasing as drug users realize that they can get drugs that are purer and often cheaper than what is being sold on the streets. With concerned authorities seeking for ways to stop them, the future of such websites is still uncertain. But as the use of Deep Web markets become more widespread, expect to hear more about them.