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Silk Road: Then and Now

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During the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) trade routes, connecting Asia to Africa and Europe, were developed over land and sea.

The purpose of these routes was to connect the three continents, through trade, and allow the peoples of the time to revel in new found spices, food, and garments. The rise of silk trading led to the naming of these routes as The Silk Road.

Today, the term Silk Road holds a different meaning, though trade is still incorporated.

Today's Silk Road is a web-based buying and selling depot for those searching for illicit drugs or other black market contraband.

Silk Road, according to its mantra and one of our clients, will allow buying and selling of anything that does not directly hurt another human being. For example, you would not be able to purchase people, hit men, or weapons through this site, but almost anything else is free game. One could, however, purchase marijuana, prescription pills, heroin, and grow operation materials, just to name a few items for sale.

Today's Silk Road is run by a person known as "The Dread Pirate Roberts." For those of you familiar with The Princess Bride, you will also remember "The Dread Pirate Roberts" was not one specific person, the title being handed down from one pirate to another. It is uncertain if this is the case for this website, but it would not be outside the realm of possibility.

Some of you would ask, "If this website is known, why is it not being shut down?" That is a very good question and we hope this lends some help in understanding why this site exists and could exist for possibly many more years.

In order to access Silk Road, one must first download Firefox to their computer. Firefox is a web browser, such as Internet Explorer (IE). While Silk Road will operate on IE, it operates best on Firefox.

Once Firefox is downloaded, one would search for and download TOR, an encryption program first developed by the US Navy as a means to securely send and receive classified information or maneuver orders. This piece of encryption software is so advanced, it is rumored it would take the world's fastest computers decades to decipher the code and allow a hacker access to the information.

Once TOR is downloaded, one would need to search for the hyperlink to Silk Road. For purposes of not adding to an already existing problem, that hyperlink will not be shared in this blog.

Silk Road is like an onion. While there are many layers of encryption attached through TOR, users can add as many new layers of encryption they like. Each new layer of encryption, in order to hack the site, would need to be deciphered. Each user holds their own encryption key and some of these keys can be 20 or more pages in length, if printed out.

Users are able to, though TOR, disguise their IP address and "bounce" messages around the world in seconds.

Buyers and sellers, on Silk Road, utilize a currency called Bit Coins. Bit Coins are currently a valid form of currency, being used to purchase many items, though the use is primarily in Asia and Europe, at the moment. An example of the exchange rate, as of April 2013, is $300 USD = 65 Bit coins. Bit Coins are traded daily and values rise and fall, much like stocks. Interestingly, there can only be so many Bit Coins in rotation, so the value is expected to remain high.

Buyers, when first starting out, are best served by making small purchases, here and there. It is understood law enforcement is trying to tap into this market, so a new buyer, spending $1,000 USD will attract too much attention and the seller will back out. Buyers will receive higher ratings, over many buys, and the higher the buyer rating, the better the chance of securing larger and larger orders. Sellers, on Silk Road, reserve the right not to sell to those they do not trust.

When a transaction is being made, payment is held in an escrow type of account and will release to seller when the buyer acknowledges receipt. Shipment is made to whatever addresses the buyer supplies and most sellers will use Priority Mail as it is flat rate and no need to go to a post office counter.

By all rights, this form of trading relies on the users. If problems arise, moderators are available to help settle disputes and each person using the site is bound by an unwritten honor code to resolve all issues through the site. Whatever the moderator decides, Silk Road users will adhere to. It is unclear who the moderators are, site managers or other users, but in any case, the site runs smoothly and with few problems.

Shutting down Silk Road is up to law enforcement. Based upon the clouds of secrecy, encryption, and a close knit community, Silk Road has the potential of lasting as long as "The Dread Pirate Roberts" exists or the next pirate is crowned and law enforcement may never reach their goal. As defense attorneys working with individuals addicted to drugs, we will work with law enforcement as much as possible in order to help stop this free trade of drugs.