Thursday, October 03, 2013

Exclusive: Inside the World of a Silk Road Drug Dealer

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The Internet's most popular drug marketplace is down for the count.

The FBI seized and shut down Silk Road and arrested its alleged founder, Ross William Ulbricht (previously known as "Dread Pirate Roberts"), on Tuesday. Prior to that, Silk Road operated in relative plain view for more than two years. The site used privacy software like Tor, which allows for anonymous Internet browsing, and the virtual currency Bitcoin in an attempt to make its users' transactions and identities untraceable.

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Over the past few months, Mashable communicated with several Silk Road vendors to gain an understanding of the site's inner workings. Most dealers we contacted did not respond — all but two. One told us in great detail about his or her experience with Silk Road but would not let us quote from the interaction. The other, a user named "Angelina," agreed to an online interview.

We communicated with Angelina using Silk Road's internal messaging system. For the purposes of this interview, we will refer to Angelina as a female, although she declined to answer questions about gender. Even within the site, which is supposedly secure, Angelina insisted we encrypt our correspondence.

Angelina was rated as a five-star dealer on her user page, with approximately 1,000 postings from buyers who gave overwhelmingly positive feedback. One user called her the Silk Road "angel" for the quality of service she provided. Angelina made nearly 10,000 transactions over the course of a year and a half, selling marijuana and other drugs.

In the exchange with Angelina, we learned about her past business experience, privacy tactics and her approach to selling drugs (it's just like any other online retail venture, she says). Below is a lightly edited transcript of the interview.

Mashable: Where are you based?

Angelina: I won't reveal this directly, but will answer that we are a number of people and operate from several locations including out of country (we are multinational!). In a sense, we are an importer, manufacturer and pack-and-ship retailer.

How old are you?

Ages range between mid-20s and late 30s.

How were you introduced to Silk Road?

I discovered the site accidentally while perusing a message board where it was mentioned. [I was] very curious about the technology in use (Tor and Bitcoin) and the open nature of commerce available, so I jumped in.

Read more: Mashable
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