The FBI has arrested a man believed to have created the notorious Silk Road cyber black market, which has now been shut down as a result of the arrest.
The arrest and shutdown was revealed in a court filing against 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht in the Southern District of New York. Believed to be the notorious "Dread Pirate Roberts", the filing charged Ulbricht with conspiring to traffic narcotics, hack computers and launder money.
"From in or about January 2011, up to and including September 2013, the Silk Road Hidden Website... has served as an online marketplace where illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services have been regularly bought and sold by the site's users," read the court filing.
"The complainant further alleges, in part, that the Silk Road Hidden Website is designed to facilitate the illicit commerce hosted on the site by providing anonymity to its users, by operating on what is known as The Onion Router or Tor network... and by requiring all transactions to be paid in Bitcoins, an electronic currency designed to be as anonymous as cash."
Silk Road is a deep web black marketplace only accessible through the Tor network, known to facilitate the trade of illegal substances, such as class A drugs. The site also offered tutorials on a variety of illegal activities, such as how to make explosives and hack bank machines. It also offered contact information for a variety of illegal services, including listings for hitmen.
The site took payments for services rendered in the cryptographic Bitcoin currency. The filing said the website generated sales of more than 9.5m Bitcoins (£739m) before being shut down. Silk road is one of many illegal cyber black marketplaces to begin taking Bitcoin payments. In May, Webroot researcher Dancho Danchev reported uncovering a cyber black market accepting Bitcoins as payment for a keylogger.
McAfee CTO Raj Samani told V3 that while this is positive news, it is likely that a new similar marketplace will appear to fill the gap left following the takedown.
F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen recently reported that criminals' interest in Bitcoins has grown and that many are using machines connected to Botnets to run illegal Bitcoin-mining operations. Bitcoin mining refers to the way Bitcoins are earned, and works by paying users Bitcoins for running an algorithm on their computer to authenticate transactions on the Bitcoin platform.
Hypponen's claim was backed up by security firm Symantec, which reported rescuing 500,000 of the 1.9 million zombie machines enslaved by the infamous ZeroAccess Bitcoin-mining botnet at the end of September.
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