How OSINT Took Down the Dark Web’s Silk Road

Though the Dark Web has been around since the early 2000s, it entered the lexicon of mainstream popular culture in 2013 after the high-profile FBI bust of a Dark Web site called Silk Road, an anonymous narcotics website run by 29-year-old Ross Ulbricht, code name “Dread Pirate Roberts.” 

This was the FBI’s first major interaction with infiltrating the Dark Web and federal agents involved in the case described working with it as “uncharted territory.” It required a different investigation approach: collecting evidence from Silk Road over time and then trying to identify individuals rather than starting with probable cause for an already identified individual. To do this, investigators used a combination of open source intelligence (OSINT) and traditional investigation tactics to arrest Ulbricht and take down the site. 

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