Silk Road is the name of an online anonymous marketplace or black market website that trafficked illegal goods including drugs, guns, personal data and malware.
To operate, Silk Road ran on Tor (also see “onion routing“), an Internet network that is designed to make it nearly impossible to locate the computers that are used to host or access websites on the network. The Tor network takes a random pathway through several servers that cover your tracks so no observer at any single point can tell where the data came from or where it’s going. This allowed Silk Road users to browse the website anonymously without fear of being tracked or monitored.
The Silk Road URL
The Silk Road URL directed users to a username and password screen. After providing a username and password to sign up, users would then be redirected to a site which has been compared to an illegal version of Amazon.com. Purchases were made using Bitcoin virtual currency. The URL to access Silk Road (and Silk Road 2.0) changes. Many online user groups and forums will post the Silk Road URL, which would require users to have the Tor Browser installed to work.
Ross William Ulbricht: Arrested, Charged and Sentenced
Ross William Ulbricht, of California is the alleged owner of Silk Road. He was arrested in October 2013 and the Silk Road website was shut down at that time by the FBI. Ulbricht has since been charged with drug trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering. There are also allegations of murder-for-hire. Wikipedia reports the names of people arrested who purchased illegal items from the Silk Road anonymous marketplace.
Later, in May, 2015, Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to two life sentences in prison. As reported on ArsTechnica, Ulbricht was found guilty on seven counts including a “drug kingpin” charge that carries a 20-year minimum sentence. In addition to drug charges, he was convicted of money laundering, along with facilitating the sale of fake IDs and computer hacking tools.
Silk Road 2.0
In 2014 online tech sites reported that the new Silk Road 2.0 is much larger than its predecessor, attracting more drug listings than ever seen before. The new Silk Road is believed to be led by a group operating under the name Dread Pirate Roberts. Admins of the new site have also been arrested. According to Wikipedia a new admin (“Defcon”) has since taken over the site.