It is Complicated. It is a thriller.
As crazy as it is, the Silk Road story is perhaps one of the greatest deep/dark web stories you’ll ever come by. The unrealism and the secrecy is what really makes this story more of a thriller; not a news report.
Dread Pirate Roberts. Not really the everyday username of a 30 year old boy who earned a masters degree in material science from Penn State. Ross Ulbricht grew up in Austin, Texas. He was a well off school boy who later studied at University of Dallas before receiving a full aid into Penn State. He was an entrepreneur; he never considered working for someone. After he failed his first two startups, and shutting down a third company, he went on to revolutionise the use of the anonymous internet for the sale of drugs and other illicit items.
Silk Road was Ross’s creation. His idealistic idea that the world needed a marketplace where people could trade completely anonymously grew into the birth of the largest drug marketplace in the world. The origins of this idea can be traced back to Ross’s introduction the online currency BitCoin (that is cryptographic money that has no material counterpart; essentially “online money”). Ross developed the Silk Road website using his own computer skills - much of what he had learnt off the internet. He coded everything of the website - from the user database to the BitCoin payment gateway. Ross launched the website anonymously in February 2011, and went undercover about the marketplace thereafter.
Eventually, Dread Pirate Roberts (DPR) was born - the username of the administrator of Silk Road. Silk Road absolutely boomed as a marketplace, with sales hitting 10 grand a month within an year. Hundreds of drug dealers from around the world used Silk Road as a means to sell their products to hundreds of thousands of Silk Road customers. Wikipedia states "In October 2014, there were 13,756 listings for drugs, grouped under the headings stimulants, psychedelics, prescription, precursors, other, opioids, ecstasy, dissociatives, cannabis and steroids/PEDs.” Silk Road was also a marketplace for legal items like apparel, and its sister site sold guns and ammunition.
The most interesting part was the fact that these drugs were delivered using the pre-established, legal mail system. Silk Road, or DPR, had written guidelines on packaging of the drugs in order to protect them from electronic scanners or sniffers. Moreover, the package was delivered to the actual address of the receiver, and if the receiver was ever questioned about why he is receiving the drugs, he/she could simply answer that they had never ordered it (because there is absolutely no trace of Silk Road left on the real person’s records).
When the US mail system began transporting too many drug boxes, they realised there was an issue - a hidden secret that was allowing for the illegal trade. Naturally, many organisations and people had taken up the mission to bring down Silk Road. One such was the Baltimore based DEA agent Carl Force.
Curtis Green (username: Chronicpain) was one of DPR’s assigned workers at Silk Road. He managed the transactions on Silk Road and closely administered with DPR. The 47 year old was greeted by a package of cocaine at 11 PM one noon. He hadn’t realised that in a few minutes, everything was about to change.
Read Part 2 here.
1. Wired: Silk Road 1
2. Wikipedia: Silk Road (marketplace)
3. Wikipedia: Ross Ulbricht