Yesterday, we learned that The Silk Road 2.0 has a new, Fed-shaped landing page. But the FBI isn’t just stopping at hitting one illegal online drug market: it looks like it’s taking down everything it can get its hands on.
Other popular drug markets have also been targeted, with Cloud9, Hydra, and the Cannabis Road forum seized so far. That might not be the end of it, either: according to Wired, the FBI has seized “more than three” markets, and will be revealing its full collection of scalps on Friday morning.
It’s unclear at this stage exactly how the FBI managed to seize so many marketplaces simultaneously: whilst Silk Road 2.0 seems to have been taken down by a combination of undercover agents and basic mistakes by the administrators, it’s not clear yet how Cloud9 and Hydra (and any other markets that mysteriously vanish overnight) have been seized. Someone posting as Cloud9’s admin on Reddit’s Dark Net Markets subreddit says that just one Cloud9 server was seized (and, presumably, not them with it), so it doesn’t seem that the feds have uncovered some underlying weakness in TOR or Bitcoin, which are the only technologies that link the various sites.
Either way, this coordinated takedown of several popular sites at once is fairly clear proof that the FBI (and its international partners) is slowly but surely winning the war against underground online drug markets. Silk Road and the like all rely (to an extent) on mutual trust and reputation, plus a perceived low level of risk. If the FBI is consistently taking sites offline before they have had a while to flourish, it will be much harder for buyers and sellers to trust each other — not to mention the obvious dangers of getting locked up. [Reddit, Wired, FBI]