The Dark Web is the Internet’s shady underbelly where you can buy almost anything: drugs, guns, even counterfeit documents. Thanks to research from IntSights Research Group, we can now add “Silk Road knock-offs” to the list.
While monitoring Jabber, the organization noticed a group calling itself “TeamZero” offering to sell licenses (yes, licenses) for their own darknet marketplace software.
According to Ido Wulkan, the author of the Insights report, the software is being retailed for $4,500 in bitcoin. Given it’s a ‘white label’ offering, buyers will have to make significant modifications to make it distinctively their own.
The rise of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) darknet markets is hardly a surprise. The closure of the Silk Road by US authorities created an incredible hole in the market, and opportunities for new players to occupy the space once held by Ross Ulbricht’s effort.
But this news is troubling for law enforcement, for several reasons.
Firstly, it decentralizes the market. A fragmented marketplace makes it significantly harder for police to identify and track the sale of illicit materials on the dark web.
It also means that, should law enforcement shut down a marketplace, it would be trivial for the operator to re-open it. This effectively makes policing the dark web into an even greater game of whack-a-mole.
But perhaps most of all, it demonstrates that the punitive sentence handed down to Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht has utterly failed to act as a deterrent. Ulbricht was sentenced to life without parole (which many feel is wildly disproportionate to his crime), but even that hasn’t stemmed the desire for people to launch their own efforts.