Tuesday, October 08, 2013

What a modern drugs raid looks like

So Silk Road bit the FBI dust, and with it the preciously harvested bitcoins of thousands of users keen on sourcing narcotic goods in an online rating environment reputed to insure quality and reliability. I don’t know enough about the mechanics of the bust to work out how the little people’s 26,000 BTC has been impounded while they still can’t get at the founder Dread Pirate Roberts’ 600,000 BTC ($80ishm).

But as CoinDesk suggests one thing is certain: this type of deep web, crypto-currency-fuelled and highly encrypted virtual marketplace is not going to go away. Nor will it hasten the demise of Bitcoin. The arrest of DPR (Ross Ulbricht) was due to an inability to control his non-deep web footprint - a key issue this year after all the NSA revelations - and claims of extra-curricular activities that closed the net around him. The Silk Road set-up, though it would be naïve to suggest it was impenetrable to law enforcers, had been resilient for more than two years.

Though users and transactions had been growing steadily, it was still a niche for tech-savvy users willing to go through the hassle of changing money (and living with wild fluctuations in the BTC rate), learning the set-up and paying a bit extra for drugs through the front door. Yet all the feedback suggested it was a powerful, self-policed and effective prototype, and a glimpse into the type of site that would operate in a future world of drugs decriminalisation.

Imitators are benefiting from Silk Road hitting an impasse, though they are said to lack the rigour of SR in terms of an anything-goes approach to what they sell. Yet while police forces worldwide place scrutiny on these sites vendors and buyers will no doubt question the viability of such operations.

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