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Arrests of Silk Road Users

Following the arrest of Ross William Ulbricht and the seizure of Silk Road's servers on October 1, 2013, arrests on users of Silk Road have begun. Reports indicate that four men from the United Kingdom, deemed “significant users” of Silk Road by the UK's National Crime Agency (NCA), have been arrested in connection with their involvement with the deep web marketplace, as of October 9, 2013.

According to the source, one man in his 50s resides in Devon, and the others are in their 20s and are from Manchester. In a cryptic warning, the NCA has apparently said that “other people in the UK suspected of being 'significant users' of Silk Road will be arrested over the coming weeks.” 1) Keith Bristow, NCA director general, said, “The hidden internet isn't hidden and your anonymous activity isn't anonymous. We know where you are, what you are doing and we will catch you.” He went on to say that, “These latest arrests are just the start; there are many more to come.” 2)

According to the Independent, all four men were arrested in connection with “supplying controlled drugs” and have been bailed out of jail. While the Coindesk article cited above indicates that the NCA may be targeting Silk Road users who simply purchased goods on the black market, there is no indication at this time that this is the case.

According to NPR, eight people have been arrested in connection with the Silk Road, following the original arrest of Ross William Ulbricht and the seizure of the site's servers. The article goes on to suggest that law enforcement officials are “unraveling the network of drug dealers who made fortunes peddling illicit substances through the site” on an international basis. The NCA has apparently seized “millions of pounds (dollars) worth of bitcoins.” 3)

Law enforcement authorities in the United States have charged two people in Bellevue, Washington, after they allegedly identified one of them as a “top seller” on Silk Road's marketplace. The aforementioned suspect was arrested on October 2, and his supposed accomplice turned herself in shortly after.4)

Two people residing in Helsingborg, Sweden, were also arrested in connection with the sale of cannabis on Silk Road, as reported by the Helsingborgs Dagblad.5)

According to bitcointalk user meanig, the Devon man who was arrested by NCA is known as PlutoPete; he has supposedly been posting on the Silk Road forums about his arrest, and has said that “he never sold anything illegal on the site - only seeds and growing accessories.”

The arrests highlight the inherent danger of using a centralized black marketplace such as the Silk Road to deal in illegal goods and services, while using publicly traceable currencies such as bitcoin. Some bitcoin users have also remarked that the Tor protocol itself, being a distributed system which can be highly monitored with implanted relays, and being funded and developed by the United States government, may not be safe to use in the case of illegal crimes. On this subject, bitcointalk user Cryddit had this to say:

"If you're a Tor user, you probably have an NSA rootkit on your computer. Not because Tor put it there or because Tor is flawed, but because Tor is typically used with a browser, and browsers have insecure implementations. Tor traffic is used to identify targets for rootkit attacks via exploits in their browsers. These rootkit attacks are carried out via MITM systems in place on the Internet backbone where they can intercept most traffic."

Read about the shutdown of Silk Road and its effect on bitcoin.

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