Since 2011, the Silk Road has been the most popular place to buy drugs online. Despite being very well-known, it operated with impunity up until last night, when the FBI arrested 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, who they say ran it. Krebs Security posted the complaint against Ulbricht, which alleges that the site's generated around 1.2 billion dollars in sales in its lifetime. The FBI also alleges that Ulbricht tried to arrange the murder of a user named FriendlyChemist who wanted $500,000 in exchange for not revealing the identities of Silk Road users.
For its users, Silk Road seemed to promise a way to buy and sell drugs with less risk. Users accessed the site via TOR-anonymized connections, and purchases were made exclusively in Bitcoin. In this case, human error, rather than technological error, brought Ulbricht down. According to the FBI, Ulbricht gave himself away by being sloppy. For instance, he used his own Gmail address on a forum where he was trying to gin up interest in the Silk Road during the early days of the site.
People are scouring Ulbricht's digital trail in the wake of the address, particularly since the FBI included a specific reference to a manifesto on Ulbricht's LinkedIn page:
I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and agression amongst mankind. Just as slavery has been abolished most everywhere, I believe violence, coercion and all forms of force by one person over another can come to an end. The most widespread and systemic use of force is amongst institutions and governments, so this is my current point of effort. The best way to change a government is to change the minds of the governed, however. To that end, I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.