The FBI announced it has shut down a website that served has an online marketplace for cybercriminals. Dubbed “Silk Road”, the site offered drugs, malware, firearms and even hitmen. Site owner Ross William Ulbricht, a 29-year old San Francisco man, was arraigned on charges of money laundering, narcotics trafficking and computer hacking. He is also facing charges in Maryland for arraigning a hit on a fellow employee he disliked. He hired the alleged hitman on Silk Road for $80,000. While he claims the hit was carried out and the employee killed, there is no evidence to support it yet.
The FBI was tracking the site for several years, but since the site required users to use the Tor browser, which concealed their location and identity, and accepted only Bitcoins as payment, it was difficult for authorities to trace the site owner. That changed when Ulbricht posted on a Bitcoin forum and included his gmail address. That one foolish mistake brought him down.
Silk Road users are being fiercely supportive of their leader, but some have expressed fear for their lives. One user posted that he loaded his account with Bitcoins just minutes before the site was shut down, and that they belonged to “very dangerous people” who had trusted him. He fears he may be killed if he can’t get them back.
Before being busted, Silk Road made over a billion dollars in transactions. Ulbricht’s trial should be interesting indeed!