A new anonymous Internet marketplace for illegal goods has been opened, featuring the same name and design as the Silk Road but offering better tools to protect users’ anonymity.
A little more than a month after the original Silk Road was shut by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, its successor emerged, enabling users to sell and purchase illegal goods such as marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and other drugs from independent sellers paying with the anonymous Bitcoin digital currency.
Like the original Silk Road, users access the new site using a no-cost, anti-surveillance service, known as the Tor network, instead of traditional Web browsers. The newly introduced improvements include better protection of the users' Bitcoins in case the site is shut down again.
"It took the FBI two-and-a-half years to do what they did ... but four weeks of temporary silence is all they got," a site administrator wrote under the nickname 'Dread Pirate Roberts'. The nickname was previously used by Ross William Ulbricht, the alleged mastermind of the first version of the Silk Road, who was arrested at the beginning of October when FBI took down the original site.
"The Silk Road has risen once more. Open communication with your old suppliers and customers, let this wonderful news be taken to all corners of the Tor Network and beyond," the new Dread Pirate Roberts has written.
The FBI declined to comment on the new version of the Silk Road. Senator Tom Carper, a top lawmaker on the Homeland Security committee, who plans to hold a hearing on digital currencies this month, said the new Silk Road site shows that government needs to adapt to fast-moving technology.
"Rather than play 'whack-a-mole' with the latest website, currency, or other methods 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," Carper said in a statement.
The re-launched Silk Road will soon hire staff to handle marketing for the site, the site's administrator mentioned in his post.
A week after authorities shut down the Silk Road, British police said they arrested four men accused of being significant users of the site.
Two weeks ago, federal prosecutors said 144,336 Bitcoins were discovered on Ulbricht's confiscated computer, adding to more than 30,000 Bitcoins previously seized.
With the digital currency trading at an all-time high on Wednesday, those Bitcoins were worth close to £31m, according to the Mt Gox trading website.