Silk Road-alike "Utopia" dark-net market seized by Dutch police

Filed Under: Featured, Law & order

Man on computer. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.Dutch police have shut down Utopia, the Dutch Public Prosecution Service said Tuesday.

The dark-net market, staffed by the former administrators that ran Black Market Reloaded (BMR), was supposed to replace BMR and evolve to become the biggest competition for Silk Road 2.0 - the reincarnation of Silk Road that opened in November - according to DeepDotWeb.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) shut down Silk Road in October.

The two markets sold the same type of merchandise: illegal drugs, firearms, stolen bank account information, forged identity documents and more.

According to the International Business Times, Utopia didn't last nearly as long as Silk Road, though: it was shuttered within one week of opening, the news outlet reports.

Though it was, like other dark markets, only accessible through the Tor anonymity network, Utopia already had a sizable inventory list when it was taken down.

DeepDotWeb took screenshots of the now-closed site that showed that within the first hours of opening, Utopia was already offering over 1,200 products.

In contrast, Silk Road had more than 13,000 listings for controlled substances, including cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine and LSD, as well as firearms, stolen bank account information and forged IDs.

Public Prosecution Service spokesman Wim de Bruin said in a statement seen by International Business Times that more information about the shutdown will come later in the week.

The news outlet reports that Bruin refused to say how the hidden website had been seized or if anyone had been arrested.

Almost immediately following the Silk Road takedown, the Tor Project blogged that as far as they could tell, Tor wasn't compromised.

Rather, as the FBI said at the time, suspected Silk Road mastermind Ross Ulbricht got sloppy with operational security and was found "through actual detective work."

PCWorld noted that a Silk Road forums moderator posted a message saying that Utopia’s seizure “is a serious blow to the darkweb marketplace community.”

The moderator called on users of the hidden market places to regroup and give it another go, if not two or three or, well, how many heads does a hydra grow?

Show them that you, we, are a hydra—cut off one head and ten more spring up.

In light of yet another dark-net market shuttering, those who use Tor should bear in mind that it doesn't promise anonymity in all situations.

As the Tor Project stressed at the time of the Silk Road shutdown:

Tor does not anonymize individuals when they use their legal name on a public forum, use a VPN with logs that are subject to a subpoena, or provide personal information to other services.

It's good to remember that there are lots of people, such as political dissidents, for whom anonymity can be a life-or-death situation.

Best for such persons to pay heed to how the law can peel away the Tor onion to find the people it wants to find.

Image of man on computer courtesy of Shutterstock.

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6 Responses to Silk Road-alike "Utopia" dark-net market seized by Dutch police

  1. Martijn Grooten · 566 days ago

    The Dutch public prosecutor says five people have been arrested as part of the case.

    They had been followed for months (in fact, one person who was arrested had already been in prison since October) as part of an undercover operation. I assume it was the arrest that led to the takedown rather than the other way around.

  2. If they had found a way to exploit tor (cough NSA cough) do you really think they would come out and admit it?

    • Anonymous · 564 days ago

      Tor is not very secure at all, just start up a node and run wireshark on the egress traffic, stupid stupid users.

      • Anonymous · 563 days ago

        Sniffing an exit node doesn't reveal the source node.

  3. Blake · 565 days ago

    It is like how in the movies they pretend that tracing calls takes 30 seconds or whatever when in reality it doesn't matter how long you are on the line they can trace it. Deception plays a key role into fooling criminals.

  4. Anonymous · 556 days ago

    Firearms are not and were not sold on Silk Road 1 or 2. They went against the written statement of Silk Road and DPR.

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.