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

Man on computer. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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.