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Silk Road’s rival offline, another black drug mart mulls shutdown

Published time: December 02, 2013 18:25
Photo by Zach Copley / flickr.com

Photo by Zach Copley / flickr.com

Sheep Marketplace, one of the leading anonymous websites, after Silk Road’s closure, allegedly selling drugs, has gone offline claiming it was robbed of $6 million worth of bitcoins. Another dark net, Black Market Reloaded, announced it may also quit.

The Sheep Marketplace website – which allowed people to anonymously buy narcotics and other illegal items - went offline over the weekend, blaming the theft for the closure. The dark net claimed that it was robbed of 6 million dollars’ worth of bitcoins after one of its random sellers managed to find a bug in the security system.

The website’s administration left a short message for users, which reads: 

We are sorry to say, but we were robbed on Saturday 11/21/2013 by vendor EBOOK101. This vendor found a bug in the system and stole 5400 BTC – your money, our provisions, all was stolen.”

After the FBI closed Silk Road in October - a black market bazaar where illegal goods, including drugs, and other illicit services were bought and sold – the void left was soon filled by a similar website. The Sheep Marketplace quickly grew into a replacement of the popular bazaar. The dark mart managed to keep many users even after Silk Road 2.0 – an exact copy of the closed website – resurrected in November.

However, now users allege that Sheep Market place was just a “scam”. The owners of the site used the theft to justify the closure without returning the bitcoins stored in the market by users, despite assuring that they would redistribute the virtual crypto currency to users’ “emergency addresses”, wrote Forbes.

According to Sheep’s users who have been briskly discussing the topic on Reddit, the black market had been acting strangely for at least a week prior to going offline. First concerns were raised by the administration’s decision to stop allowing vendors to withdraw their bitcoins from the market. Users suspect that the illicit virtual drug mart folded potentially absconding with as much as 44 million dollars. They point to a movement of 39,900 bitcoins visible on Blockhain – a website that tracks bitcoin transactions.

The current largest player in this illegal online business, the Black Market Reloaded (BMR), responded to the developments by announcing that it may also go offline - at least temporarily. The administrator of the site, known as Backopy, said in a forum post the site would not be able to guarantee anonymity to its customers with the influx of new users since Tor – software that hides the identity of the site’s users and owners – is not designed to handle a large user base.

“SR is down, The Black Flag ended up as a scam, Atlantis ended up as a scam and now The Sheep Market follows that dark path. This puts BMR at the edge of the blade. Tor can't support any site to be too big,” Backopy wrote.

The drug market then blocked new registrations, closed access to inactive accounts and announced the site “will remain for a while until the deals and escrow complete, at least most of them, following which it will go to a complete shutdown. Without competition the wisest thing to do is to shut down the market, doing it in a timely and orderly manner,” he said, adding that an alternative would be “to smash the market into tiny bits that could spread the load between nodes and servers, but that would take a while to do”.

According to Forbes, the closure of Sheep and BMR are only the latest events in the “widening crisis” of the dark web drug industry. Earlier, Atlantis market folded citing security reasons.

And that was followed by the arrest of the alleged owner of the infamous Silk Road dark marketplace - Ross Ulbricht - with authorities seizing cocaine and approximately 26,000 bitcoins worth about 4 million dollars. The website was shut down and Ulbricht was accused of engaging in money laundering, drug trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking, and also for placing contracts for six murders.