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Feds Catch Alleged Silk Road 2 Mastermind

2014-11-07 08:00

The FBI is claiming another scalp after arresting the man allegedly behind infamous drugs marketplace Silk Road 2.

Blake Benthall, who goes by the online moniker ‘Defcon’, was due to appear in a federal court in San Francisco yesterday, according to a statement from the FBI.

He is alleged to have owned and operated the site, which has distributed hundreds of kilos of illegal drugs and other goods to buyers around the world and effectively laundered the millions of dollars made from these deals.

The site was generating sales of $8 million a month as of September and had 150,000 active users, the Feds said.

The site, which used the Tor network and accepted only Bitcoins for payment in order to stay hidden, was launched just five weeks after the closure of the original Silk Road and the arrest of its admin, Ross Ulbricht.

Initially it was run by a co-conspirator using the same online name as Ulbricht, ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’, but was taken over by Benthall from December 2013.

He is alleged to have controlled every aspect of the site from the underlying code to the hosting infrastructure, terms and conditions and a small staff of admins and forum moderators.

The whole operation was apparently blown when a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agent successfully infiltrated the site’s support staff.

Benthall, 26, from San Francisco, is now facing multiple charges and a life sentence in prison.

“As alleged, Blake Benthall attempted to resurrect Silk Road, a secret website that law enforcement seized last year, by running Silk Road 2.0, a nearly identical criminal enterprise,” said Manhattan US attorney, Preet Bahrara, in a statement.

“Let’s be clear – this Silk Road, in whatever form, is the road to prison. Those looking to follow in the footsteps of alleged cyber-criminals should understand that we will return as many times as necessary to shut down noxious online criminal bazaars. We don’t get tired.”

Craig Young, security researcher at Tripwire, argued that the case proves the FBI is getting better at understanding modern cybercrime tactics.

“The FBI has generally demonstrated in recent years that they can and will go after cyber-criminals operating in the relative anonymity of the Tor network,” he told Infosecurity by email. 

“Although the legality of some of the law enforcement tools has been called into question at times, there is no denying the effectiveness with which US law enforcement has been able to identify and shutdown illegal services provided over the dark web.” 

Lancope CTO, TK Keanini, was less optimistic.

“It is only a matter of time before another pops up in its place,” he told Infosecurity.  “Those who remember this event when Silk Road was taken down, Silk Road 2.0 not only took its place but it was also bigger.”

Source: /dnimretsam-2-daor-klis-hctac-sdef/swen/moc.enizagam-ytirucesofni.www

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