Silk Road 2.0 goes online

As announced by well-known Silk Road user named “The Godfather”, who has been doing business on the infamous underground market for the last few years, another Silk Road has been resurrected from the ashes of the old one.

Whether this user is behind it all is impossible to tell, although the new operator of the market is obviously known to several highly regarded users of Silk Road who apparently put their trust in him (her?). Beside using the same name for the market, the new operator has also taken over the same online handle as the (alleged) previous one: Dread Pirate Roberts.

“The Dread Pirate Roberts is more a title than a name The Dread Pirate Roberts is more a title than a name,” he shared in an interview for Mashable. “It may be passed from person to person as each must step into the role, whether voluntarily or out of necessity.”

The new website looks almost identical to its previous incarnation, and went online on Wednesday. No trading of illegal items has begun yet, as the site is scheduled to reach full functionality on Saturday, November 9.

Registering to use the site is possible only via invite, and so far 12,500 people have registered (according to DPR).

The users will, as before, pay a fee – between 4% and 8% – for each transaction they do via the site. Apparently, the money earned thusly will go to DPR and his staff, and will also be used to fund more anonymity technology research.

As the previous incarnation, Silk Road 2.0 is also accessible only through Tor, and money for the transactions is exchanged via Bitcoin. The site offers the option of PGP-enabled two-step authentication, but according to DPR other security measures are in the works, and some of them will be revealed soon and others but others will be kept secret to “stay ahead of the game.”

On the site’s forum, users are encouraged to report vulnerabilities, and will purportedly be rewarded for keeping the site secure.

Time will tell if the new DPR’s confidence is justified – especially when it comes to keeping his identity secret and the site online and secure. One thing is sure: the market does not seem to lack sellers or buyers willing to take the risk of doing business via it.

Some doubts have been expressed about the real nature of the new site, and there’s speculation that it might be a honeypot operation set up by the US authorities in order to catch users.

I suppose only time will tell what is the truth. In the meantime, US Senator Tom Carper, Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, commented thusly on the launch of Silk Road 2.0:

This new website – launched barely a month after Federal agents shut down the original Silk Road — underscores the inescapable reality that technology is dynamic and ever-evolving and that government policy needs to adapt accordingly.

Rather than play “whack-a-mole’ with the latest website, currency, or other method criminals are using in an effort to evade the law, we need to develop thoughtful, nimble and sensible federal policies that protect the public without stifling innovation and economic growth. Our committee intends to have that conversation – among others – at our hearing this month on virtual currency.

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