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Dozens of websites selling illegal drugs and guns were shut down by law enforcement authorities across the United States and Europe last week, The Wall Street Journal reports. One California man was arrested and charged with owning and operating Silk Road 2.0, one of the largest illegal online marketplaces.
Officials said they were able to pierce the anonymous shield offered by Tor, a network that uses encryption tools and thousands of servers to conceal online activity.
“As illegal activity online becomes more prevalent, criminals can no longer expect that they can hide in the shadows of the ‘dark web,’” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York said in a Department of Justice news release. “We shut down the original Silk Road website and now we have shut down its replacement, as well as multiple other ‘dark market’ sites allegedly offering all manner of illicit goods and services, from firearms to computer hacking. In coordination with domestic and international law enforcement agencies, we will continue to seize websites that promote illegal and harmful activities, and prosecute those who create and operate them.”
Silk Road 2.0 and other similar sites advertised goods and services including illegal narcotics, firearms, stolen credit card data and personal identification information, counterfeit currency, fake passports and other identification documents, and computer-hacking tools and services, according to the Justice Department. The sites accepted payments in the virtual currency known as bitcoin, which is designed to be anonymous.
Last year, the FBI shut down the website Silk Road, which sold illegal drugs. Six months later, a report found the site had reopened and sales had bounced back. The report, by the group Digital Citizens Alliance, found the new version of the site, Silk Road 2.0, had 13,648 listings as of April 2, just slightly more than the 13,000 listings before the arrest of Silk Road’s founder in the fall of 2013.