Silk Road Shutdown Leads to Further International Arrests

Further arrests have surfaced in relation to the recent raid, and shutdown, of Silk Road–an anonymized website existing in the “dark web” that facilitated illegal activity and drug sales.

Only last week the FBI raided the Silk Road website and arrested the alleged founder, 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht (aka the Dread Pirate Roberts.) The raid appears to only be the beginning of a wider operation by authorities across the world.

Brian Krebs from Krebs On Security has cited a complaint in Washington state against Steven Lloyd Sadler, 40, of Bellevue, Washington. His arrest is tied to Silk Road through the nickname “NOD” where the complaint alleges he was among the “top one percent” of sellers. This would place Sadler amidst the top drug dealers on the site and connects him to the sale of high-quality cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

Not too long after this revelation, the BBC published an article outlining the arrests of four individuals–three men in their 20s in Manchester, and one in his 50s in Devon. All of the arrests were on suspicions of drug offenses and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) suggested that many more were to come.

Keith Bristow, the NCA’s director general, tied the arrests to the recent raid on Silk Road by the FBI through making a statement against anonymity.

“These arrests send a clear message to criminals; 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 said, quoted by the BBC. “It is impossible for criminals to completely erase their digital footprint. No matter how technology-savvy the offender, they will always make mistakes.”

Bristow does have room to talk here as this is exactly how Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts, was eventually caught by the FBI–through using his real name some months ago seeking developer help; a mistake that inevitably led investigators to his doorstep.

On top of that, authorities in Helsingborg, Sweden arrested two men (in Swedish)–29 and 34 years old–on suspicion of cannabis. Prosecutors running the show there appear to connect the arrests also to Silk Road.

Information gathered from the seizure of the Silk Road will no doubt lead to further arrests than we’ve seen already. How the FBI and international investigators use this new intelligence to unravel the anonymity of vendors will be very interesting in understanding the role of technology and anonymity–if not because of the cat-and-mouse game of criminals and police agencies, but because of the every evolving nature of privacy of everyday citizens.

About Kyt Dotson

Technology and civilization walk hand in hand and civilization is nothing without the skin of society, brushing up against itself, speaking strange nothings across dimly lit avenues and computer screens. If we're going to understand ourselves in this digital era, it will be through watching the adoption of technology by people to express themselves as people. I am an anthropologist and an author of science fiction and fantasy--and with my technology, I hope to open up new and exciting worlds that will not just enlighten the humanity of my friends and fans but also educate and enhance the expression of their own personhood. Find more of my work on Google+; send tips to @kytsune.