Silk Road was an online black market site on which criminals traded drugs and assassinations for many years. The man behind it who built and maintained it was Ross Ulbricht. Ulbricht’s interests got darker after grad school. And it led to creating and running the Silk Road Market. Even though it was used for illegal purposes, Ulbricht is considered to be a pioneer by many. Let’s know some interesting facts about the mastermind and his dark web, Silk Road.
  1. Ulbricht is a college graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from UT and a Master’s in Material Science/Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. He had a growing interest in libertarian economic theories
  2. Ulbricht founded Silk Road in 2011 and his alleged nom de guerre was ‘Dread Pirate Roberts”, a reference to the movie character in the movie ‘Princess Bride’
  3. His listed interests on LinkedIn were ‘trading, ‘economics’, ‘physics’, ‘virtual worlds’, ‘liberty’. All of those-n bar physics are at the core of Silk Road
  4. He developed the idea of creating an online market place utilizing Tor encryption and bitcoin, which was at its nascent stage at that time
  5. His idea of creating Silk Road was his way to abolish the use of coercion and aggression amongst mankind. He wanted to create an economic simulation to give people a firsthand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without government intervention
  6. Ulbricht was the CEO of Good Wagon Books, a nonprofit organization that picks up used books and junk from your house and donates it to prison libraries
  7. Silk Road gained popularity in a short span of time and its traffic increased exponentially. This made the authorities more vigilant and they made moves to identify the users and to shut down the site. But despite all the efforts, it remained the hub for black marketing and sale of illegal drugs through 2013
  8. Silk Road ran for 4 years and hosted the exchange of $1.2 billion worth of illegal goods/services before getting shut in 2015. The site’s users were kept anonymous by running the site on Tor browser, and underground virtual network. The internet traffic was bounced among many web servers around the world which made pinpointing any one source a tough task
  9. Transactions on Silk Road were completed using bitcoin for the sake of anonymity. Ulbricht has been credited for developing one of the first and largest platforms that used cryptocurrency as a medium of exchange. Silk Road was a pioneering project that followed the fundamental decentralized properties of bitcoin
  10. This revolutionary way of trading allowed people around the world to buy anonymously with bitcoins. It took lots of dealers off the streets and into an online market place. It was a business without infrastructure, other than a few servers and a laptop. He also introduced rating system and it ended up saving lots of people who risked their lives while buying counterfeit and dangerous drugs on street and enabled them to do this in the safety of their homes
  11. Many academics regard it as the linchpin to the business-model innovation, where Ulbricht devised a system to ensure that nobody got fleeced. The site was thriving within months of its start. Sellers posted photographs and description of their products. Post office boxes were urged for buyers, reviews were posted, just like eBay. An inventory taken by the FBI found 13,000 listings for controlled substances
  12. It was claimed that Ulbricht had paid more than $700,000 to have murders carried out, although none of them took place. One of them , in fact, was an elaborate fiction concocted by a federal agent. The site is said to facilitate more than 1.5 million transactions, 95 percent of which involved sales of heroin, cocaine, meth and other drugs
  13. To scoop up information about Silk Road’s administrator, the authorities used a device known as a ‘pen/trap’. After two weeks of surveillance, Ulbricht was arrested on October 2, 2013 at a San Francisco public library, with his laptop still open and logged into Silk Road. Ulbricht got himself arrested by leaving trails. He boasted about running his international multimillion dollar drugs marketplace on his LinkedIn profile. He also used a real photograph of himself for a fake ID to rent servers to run his international marketplace. He even asked for advice on coding the Silk Road using his real name
  14. The FBI claimed to have seized 144,000 bitcoins, the largest seizure of cryptocurrency ever, from his wallet- which belonged to Dead Pirate Roberts. When the Silk Road was taken down, the FBI seized nearly $30,000 bitcoins. In fact, the 174,000 or so bitcoins that the FBI controls now account for about 1.5% of all bitcoins in circulation
  15. Ulbricht was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole after being convicted of drug trafficking, computer hacking, and money laundering in 2014. He attempted to appeal in May of 2017 but the court upheld their original verdict
  16. Ulbricht is hailed as a trailblazer, who has his supporters arguing that Silk Road was no different to eBay and it isn’t his fault that people used it to sell drugs. His family has set up the twitter account @RealRossU, which relays messages Ulbricht dictates from prison. The account has helped get over 55,000 signatures for a petition asking for clemency for Ulbricht and has attracted over 18,000 followers
  17. The Libertarian party has urged President Trump to pardon the Silk Road founder. Twenty organizations have signed onto amicus briefs in support of Ulbricht to have his case reviewed by US Supreme Court