The operator of the new Silk Road website, which sells illegal drugs, says he has distributed encrypted portions of the site’s source code to 500 locations in 17 countries. He claims this will allow the site to be relaunched immediately if law enforcement shuts it down again.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation shut down Silk Road in October, and arrested the operator in San Francisco on narcotics and money-laundering charges. Silk Road could only be accessed by using encryption software called Tor, which shields computers’ IP addresses, allowing people to make purchases anonymously. Silk Road facilitated more than $30 million in sales annually. It had been online since February 2011.
In November, a new online marketplace that sells illegal drugs opened. It also calls itself Silk Road. The new website looks the same as the shuttered Silk Road. It lists hundreds of ads for drugs including marijuana, cocaine and Ecstasy, and uses bitcoins, the anonymous digital currency used by the old site.
The new site says it includes measures to keep users from losing bitcoins if the site shuts down. Like the old site, the new Silk Road can only be accessed by using Tor encryption software.
Last week, the new Silk Road operator said the new backup scheme also includes distributing portions of the site’s cryptographic keys, to decrypt pieces of the site’s source code, to locations around the globe. According to Forbes, “the backup system may be a first step towards a decentralized system without a single point of failure for law enforcement to attack.”