Bitcoin is often touted as a currency for the ‘deep web’ (the underground web of hidden services such as illicit markets). For example, the Bitcoin news site DeepDotWeb published an article entitled ‘The Darknet and Bitcoin Mixing’, which describes how it is possible to mix bitcoins and the deep web, and how it is possible to purchase illicit substances with Bitcoin.
There is evidence that the deep web exists and that it is used by criminal elements. It is a shame that Bitcoin is often associated with the deep web, because it gives the impression that Bitcoin is a tool for criminals. Also, the majority of the deep web is not criminal. It is where people express their political views and engage in political activism. The deep web is also used by people who want to avoid surveillance by their governments. The deep web provides a place where people can speak without fear of persecution.
However, there is a lot of evidence that Bitcoin is used by the criminal element. For example, the digital currency news site Coin Fire published an article entitled ‘Former Drug Dealer Arrested for Selling Narcotics on the Silk Road’, which quotes a DEA agent as saying “The Silk Road has been an ongoing investigation for several years and it began with a single source of information that led to a multi-agency task force.”
The article also quotes an FBI agent as saying “A recent seizure warrant on the Silk Road website, which was hosted in Iceland, suggests the value of the illegal drug deals was in the millions of dollars. The website collected commissions on every transaction and the commission structure was set up so that the administrators of the website received the bulk of the revenue. This means that they had strong incentives to maintain the secrecy of the website, to include the use of sophisticated methods to protect the identities, locations, and activities of the administrators. The seizure warrants in this case will help the FBI dismantle the website and identify the administrators, vendors and customers.”
It seems clear that there is a strong relationship between the Silk Road, Bitcoin and the DEA. The DEA agent is quoted as saying “There are also indications that the operators of the website were involved in the distribution of illegal narcotics and were using the ‘anonymity’ of the dark web and bitcoins to further facilitate the sale of illegal drugs. I believe the dark web is a growing and disturbing trend where cyber criminals around the world can go to avoid prosecution and conduct illegal activities. This is a new problem for law enforcement and we must work together to find solutions to fight these criminals.”
The Silk Road is a particularly interesting case because Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road, is at the moment awaiting trial for drug trafficking and money laundering. However, Ulbricht is not charged with using Bitcoin for anything. It is interesting that the DEA is talking about the ‘dark web’ and ‘anonymity’ of the deep web. This is because the Silk Road was not a dark web site and it ran on the normal web. It is also interesting that the Silk Road used Bitcoin, not Tor and not I2P.
The fact that the DEA is talking about the ‘dark web’ and ‘anonymity’ suggests that the organization is not well informed about the dark web. The dark web is not synonymous with the deep web and the deep web is not synonymous with the dark web. The deep web is where people engage in activism and whistleblowing, while the dark web is where people engage in illicit activities.
The Silk Road is not the only example of the criminal element using Bitcoin. For example, in an article entitled ‘Bitcoin’s Growing Role In Crime’, the news site Fast Company published an article entitled ‘How Bitcoin Facilitates Crime’. It describes how a Bitcoin exchange was used by the people who hacked into the computer of the Sony Corporation. It quotes Justin Fier, director of cyber intelligence at security firm Darktrace, as saying “Bitcoin is not anonymous. Bitcoin is more traceable than cash. That’s the great myth about it. And that’s why it has gained traction for these illicit transactions.”
The Bitcoin news site Coin Fire also published an article entitled ‘Bitcoin Exchange BTC-e Involved in $4 Billion Worth of Illicit Activities’, which quotes Eli Dourado, a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, as saying “The large amount of cash exiting the bitcoin system into real currency seems to be the most damaging, since it is the hardest to hide. As an economist, I would be worried if the Bitcoin exchange rate was highly volatile and that the volatility was caused by factors that were hard to understand; this could indicate that people were making money in bizarre ways that could easily stop.”
The fact that the criminal element is involved in Bitcoin is not surprising. It is not surprising because Bitcoin is not regulated and because Bitcoin is global. The criminal element has no problems with unregulated markets. The criminal element is able to use Bitcoin to transfer money from one place to another and to move money across borders. The criminal element is able to use Bitcoin for money laundering or for the purposes of tax evasion. This is something that the governments of the world really do not like.