Criminals who prowl the cyber-underworld’s “darknet” thought law enforcement couldn’t crack their anonymous trade in illegal drugs, guns and porn. But a series of arrests this month, including the bust of the black market site Silk Road, shows the G-men have infiltrated the Internet’s back alley.
Computer experts suspect the government simply beat the cyber-pirates at their own game: hacking.
The Silk Road website, which has a customer-friendly electronic storefront that displayed bricks of cocaine as deftly as Amazon displays books, was the cyber-underworld’s largest black market, with $1.2 billion in sales and nearly a million customers. Beyond illegal drugs, the site served as a bazaar for fake passports, driver’s licenses and other documents, as well as illegal service providers, such as hit men, forgers and computer hackers.
FBI Agent Christopher Tarbell of the FBI’s cyber-crime unit in New York called Silk Road “the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace on the Internet today.”