The Darknet: Just Name Your Poison

A little while back, I discussed the idea of Niche Markets, and their very successful performance on the internet. Well, another very popular Niche market until recently was, of course, the Silk Road.

The only difference between your regular niche markets and the Silk road is that, firstly, the Silk Road is located on the Deep Web, and secondly, Anything was available on the Silk Road.

As discussed by Neal, the majority of internet users frequent the Surface Web (basically anything accessible through search engines such as Google), whereas a small percentage of users can be found on the Deep Web (2013). The Deep Web, as Neal states, is “content hidden from these indexes… meaning they could be accessed only via Tor(2013). Located on this Deep Web was the notorious Silk Road.

So what exactly was available on the Silk Road?

PHOTO: Screenshot of Silk Road on the Deep Web.

PHOTO: Screenshot of Silk Road on the Deep Web.

Of the 10,000 or so items that were readily available on the Silk Road, more than 7,000 were illegal drugs (ranging from MDMA, Marijuana, Cocaine, Heroin ect.). Dubbed the ‘Amazon.com of drugs’ (NPR 2011), the site also sold various items from high-powered weapons and armor, to tutorials on hacking ATMs, counterfeit goods, child pornography and even hitman contracts (Ball 2013).

How were goods bought and sold?

Items available on the Silk Road were tradable with the very controversial Bitcoin, a internet-based currency.

As revealed in the video above, Bitcoin is essentially the world’s first global currency. It is stateless and therefore uncontrolled. Although the use and ownership of Bitcoins is legal, as the currency of choice by Deep Web users, it has concerned many government and law enforcing agencies globally. However the use of Bitcoins is not only restricted to the Deep Web. In fact, sites including WordPress, Reddit and Wikileaks all trade in Bitcoins (Ball 2014).

Despite the Silk Road shutting down last year, DarkNet markets are still a booming business. There are subreddits dedicated to providing subscribers the latest Deep Web site to buy certain goods and items, such as DarkNetMarkets. As well as Explain Like I am 5 (ELI5)  posts that detail how to get on the Deep Web in less than 10 minutesFurthermore, the arguable news site, DeepDotWeb provides the latest news regarding DarkNet Markets, as well as various tutorials and guides informing internet users about the Deep Web.

With a global consumer market, sellers/dealers located globally, as well as a global and uncontrollable currency, I don’t see the FBI shutting down the Dark Network anytime soon. Particularly when the hackers the FBI hope to hire would benefit from the Dark Net Market.

Sources:

Ball, J 2013, ‘Silk Road: the online drug marketplace that officials seem powerless to stop’, 23 March, The Guardian, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/mar/22/silk-road-online-drug-marketplace>.

Ball, J 2013, ‘Silk Road 009’, Image, The Guardian, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2013/3/22/1363967178098/Silk-Road-009.jpg&gt;.

Estes, AC 2014, ‘The FBI Is Struggling to Hire Hackers Who Don’t Smoke Weed (Updated)’, 20 May, Gismodo, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://gizmodo.com/the-fbi-is-struggling-to-hire-hackers-who-dont-smoke-we-1579183208>.

Neal, RW. 2013, ‘What Is Silk Road? 4 Things You Need To Know About Underground Black Market Shut Down By FBI’, 2 October, International Business Times, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://www.ibtimes.com/what-silk-road-4-things-you-need-know-about-underground-black-market-shut-down-fbi-1414042>.

NPR 2011, ‘Silk Road: Not Your Father’s Amazon.com’, NPR, 12 June, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://www.npr.org/2011/06/12/137138008/silk-road-not-your-fathers-amazon-com>.

Swearingen, J 2014, ‘A Year After the Death of Silk Road, Darknet Markets Are Booming’, The Atlantic, 2 October, viewed 24 October 2014, <http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2014/10/a-year-after-death-of-silk-road-darknet-markets-are-booming/380996/2/>.

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4 thoughts on “The Darknet: Just Name Your Poison

  1. Gotta love an academic post about a recreational drugs online market. It’s good to see someone go in an alternative and creative direction from the lecture material. I’ve never used Bit-coins but didn’t their value plummet with the fall of Silk Road? Or am I getting them confused with something else. Although it would have been good to see you incorporate some of the weeks material in your post. Never the less another interesting post well done.

  2. Do you agree with the removal of the Silk Road? I remember listening to an episode of Hack on Triple J about it not too long ago, a common argument among those calling/texting in was that the Silk Road was actually a much safer means of acquiring illegal drugs, due to the (relative) transparency of the user and the product – no baggies full of pinata pills, you got exactly what you paid for. Although in saying that the sale of child pornography and assassins isn’t probably the safest thing to leave unchecked, but maybe this could pave the way for a safer means of digital drug trade?

    • Hey JayRated. I understand that argument, and it is brought up numerously within a few of the sources I quoted. Considering the overall scale of Silk Road, I think it was a good idea it was shut down. The site may have been ‘safer’ but nonetheless it provided a far easier method of acquiring illegal items, which are all harmful in their own manner. I think this argument could apply to many of the items available. For instance, Silk Road was a ‘much safer’ means of buying guns than off the streets. That doesn’t mean it is better.

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