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Drug dealers' website selling ecstasy and HEROIN doubles its sales to £1MILLION a month... and the police are powerless to ban it

By // World | Drug dealers' website selling ecstasy and HEROIN doubles its sales to £1MILLION a month... and the police are powerless to ban it
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  • The 'Silk Road' website is known as the eBay of the drugs world
  • It allows people to find the best price for their drugs and also rate the sellers
  • Drugs are sent inside packages and then innocently delivered by post
  • The site has increased in popularity and now makes £1million a month
  • Australian dealer became first 'Silk Road' dealer to be convicted in February

By Suzannah Hills

PUBLISHED: 08:23 EST, 23 March 2013 | UPDATED: 06:50 EST, 24 March 2013

An illegal website is selling more than £1million worth of drugs every single month - with many of the banned substances being posted to buyers in the UK.

Visitors to the virtually untraceable 'Silk Road' website can buy ecstasy, heroin, cannabis and cocaine which is then disguised as a normal packaged parcel by the seller and sent through the post.

The website has been shrouded in secrecy since its launch in February 2011 but research tracking its growth in 2012 will be officially published later this year.

It shows that sales on the site doubled over a six-month period in 2012 reaching $1.7million sales - the equivalent of £1million - every single month.

Scheme: The website is set up like an online store, allowing customers to find the drugs they want at the best price

Scheme: The Silk Road drug dealing website is set up like an online store, allowing customers to find the drugs they want at the best price and to give feed back on the sellers

Illegal: Silk Road allows people to buy drugs like this block cannabis online and have it sent to them by Royal Mail via Silk Road - a website known as the eBay for drugs

Illegal: Silk Road - a website known as the eBay for drugs - allows people to buy drugs like this block cannabis online and have it sent to them by post

Dr Nicholas Christin, who conducted the research, said 'Silk Road' continues to grow and is extremely difficult to ban.

He told The Guardian: 'It's not a matter of police locking a few guys up to end this. It is very distributed - we are looking at more than 600 sellers each month.'

Silk Road operates as an illegal replica of online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, with buyers and sellers, dispute and resolution services and feedback ratings.

The website is accessed via a programme called Tor which enables all members to remain anonymous online and uses an 'onion' system to make sure their IP address is always hidden from police.

Tor is free software and an open network that makes identifying the physical location of the computers operating the marketplace – or anyone visiting it – all but impossible.

It protects internet users against a form of network surveillance and state security known as traffic analysis.

Dangerous: This cannabis was being sold but users say it is easier and safer than buying off a street dealer

Dangerous: This cannabis was being sold but users say it is easier and safer than buying off a street dealer

This cocaine was also for sale on Silk Road which is using complicated software to allow people to buy and sell anonymously

Brazen: This cocaine was also for sale on Silk Road which is using complicated software to allow people to buy and sell anonymously

The legitimate uses of Tor make disrupting the service morally difficult for police as it is used all over the world by activists who would otherwise be censored or persecuted in their home countries such as China and Iran.

HOW TOR SOFTWARE WORKS

Tor is a popular internet anonymising tool which can be downloaded for free from the web.

It enables all members to remain anonymous online and uses an 'onion' system to make sure IP addresses - each computer has its own one - are always hidden from police.

It makes identifying the physical location of the computers using the software all but impossible.

Tor

Tor only protects users from being monitored on applications that are properly configured to send their Internet traffic through the programme unless individuals also use it as a browser instead of Google or Internet Explorer.

As well as protecting users from being tracked by police, it also means they are protected from network surveillance and state security known as traffic analysis.

This makes interference with the website difficult on morality grounds as it is used by activists trapped in countries with oppressive regimes to communicate without being tracked by governments.

Prime examples are human rights groups in China and Iran which would otherwise be censored or even persecuted for expressing their views.

A large proportion of Tor's funding comes indirectly from the U.S. state department's internet freedom budget.

Tor only protects users from being monitored on applications that are properly configured to send their Internet traffic through the programme unless individuals use it as a browser instead of Google or Internet Explorer.

A large proportion of Tor's funding comes indirectly from the U.S. state department's internet freedom budget.

Users claim the website is a much safer alternative than meeting drug dealers on the streets. 

Drugs are bought with ‘Bitcoins’, an untraceable digital currency. It is not regulated by any government or company but just by mathematical equations.

The value is worked out by how many Bitcoins are in existence and how many are being traded.

Another knock-on effect of sites such as Silk Road is that the value of a 'Bitcoin' have gone from being virtually worthless to trading at $70 - around £46 - each.

A Bitcoin developer Amir Taaki denies that the currency is mainly used for illegal purposes.

He told the newspaper: 'People want drugs. The drugs war is probably a failed war. I want to get rid of cartels. The way to do that is for people to buy products straight from the producer. That's what's cool about things like Silk Road - you can bypass gangs.'

Australian Paul Leslie Howard reportedly used Silk Road to buy and import MDMA, amphetamine, marijuana and cocaine on 11 different occasions.

But Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officers in Melbourne and Sydney examined mail - most of which came from the Netherlands and Germany - destined for his home.

They found 46.9 grammes of MDMA and 14.5 grammes of cocaine, according to wired.co.uk.

The federal police then raided his house in July 2012 and found digital scales, ziplock bags, $2,300 (£2,000) in cash, 35 stun guns disguised as mobile phones and a money counter.

Howard pleaded guilty to two charges of 'importing a marketable quantity of a border-controlled drug'.

Amphetamine: This seller has piles of speed for sale, which is being sent by Royal Mail and landing on the nation's doorsteps

Amphetamine: This seller has piles of speed for sale, which is being sent by post and landing on the nation's doorsteps

Killer: Drugs like this Crystal Meth displayed on Silk Road is being sent all over the world by dealers

Killer: Drugs like this Crystal Meth displayed on Silk Road is being sent all over the world by dealers


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