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Yes, Virginia Internet Crime Did Exist Before Silk Road

By: , Posted on: December 10, 2013

Silk road IconIn the last few months we have seen a multitude of stories about an online underground drug and gun market. Bitcoins, this market place’s currency has also made headlines. Law enforcement in the United States and around the world have made arrests and more will likely follow. Now we have some robust fools taunting police that they will continue to engage in online criminal behavior and that they can’t be stopped. There is so much focus on Silk Road, Tor, and bitcoins you would think that someone just realized that “real” criminals used the Internet.

The reality is the Internet is not used by just high tech offenders, such as hackers or those who know about Tor, to commit crime. It is used by all manner of individuals for illegal purposes and has been for sometime. Drug dealers have used the Internet before and no doubt will continue. The Farmers Market, which I previously noted migrated from hushmail to Tor in 2010, is one example. Illegal gun transactions have also occurred outside of Tor. Criminals have also used techniques to cover their tracks. I recall many use and continue to use Internet Relay Chats, such as mIRC to communicate and set up illegal activities, which can make it difficult to identify and track criminals. The only really new development is the arrival of bitcoins.

With all the focusing on such exotic sounding cyberplaces as Silk Road, Black Market Reloaded and Tor, you would think that the rest of the Internet was like “Sesame Street”. Somehow only Tor has all of the Internet’s bad actors, like it was a digital “Hell’s Kitchen”. The reality is Internet crime is as close as the next threatening Facebook post. It is near as a Craiglist post which recently lured a victim to his death at the hands of two “thrill” seekers. And yet murderers have use the Internet to lure victims to their demise before. We have to understand that Internet crime is not all hackers and street thugs hiding in cyberspaces recesses. This is how 21st Century crime can look  Law enforcement should not be apprehensive about dealing with this “new” crime. As someone once told me, it is like old wine in a new bottle (not that there is anything fine as wine about crime…sorry that really rhymes!). The only thing that has changed is the packaging.

Investigators must develop the skills to work Internet crimes, whether they occur on Tor, a website, chatroom, or  social media site.  Agencies must support their efforts if we are to make the Internet and our communities safe. Additionally, civil investigators must also learn these skills and techniques as like in the real world, not every injustice rises to the level of a criminal law violation.

Investigating Internet CrimeTodd and I are convinced that investigators and yes including street cops, can learn and develop the skills and techniques to go after Internet criminals. They just need the resources, such as our text, and the support of their agencies. On that thought I left a cigar lit somewhere. Everyone have a safe and happy holiday.

Want to read more on internet crime? You can order your very own copy of Art and Todd’s new book, Investigating Internet Crimes, 1st Edition: An Introduction to Solving Crimes in Cyberspace at a 30% discount.

Just enter discount code “STBCNF13” at checkout.

You can also read other related SciTech Connect posts from Art on Tor, the Silk Road and Internet Crime, including:

About the Author

art bowker biopicArt Bowker (@Computerpo) has over 27 years’ experience in law enforcement/corrections and is recognized as an expert in managing cyber-risk in offender populations. In addition to co-writing Investigating Internet Crimes, 1st Edition: An Introduction to Solving Crimes in Cyberspace, he is also the author of The Cybercrime Handbook for Community Corrections: Managing Offender Risk in the 21st Century.

Art is a lifetime member of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA) having served on its Executive Committee, including as President in 2008. In November 2013, received the Federal Probation and Pretrial Officers Association’s (FPPOA) top award, the Richard F. Doyle Award, for having made the most significant achievement in, or contribution to, the Federal Probation & Pretrial Services System or the broader field of corrections. Additionally, he received the Thomas E. Gahl, Line Officer of the Year Award (Great Lakes Region Award), which is named in honor of the only U.S. Probation Officer killed in the line of duty.  Both awards centered on his contributions and efforts in managing cybercrime risk. In January 2013, Art was recognized by the  American Probation and Parole Association (APPA) with the Sam Houston State University Award for his writing contributions to promote awareness of cybercrime and tools for helping the community corrections field combat computer crime. He is a member of both FPPOA and APPA. You can learn more about Art, his work and interest at his website,


Ahmed, S. (2013, December 8). Police: Newlyweds lure man through Craigslist for thrill killing. CNN.

Bowker, A. (2013, November 14). Law Enforcement is on a Tor Offensive. SciTech Connect.

Greenberg, A. (2013, December 6). New Silk Road Drug Market Backed Up To ‘500 Locations In 17 Countries’ To Resist Another Takedown. Forbes.

Luo, M., McIntire, M., & Palmer, G. (2013, April 17). Bearing Arms: Seeking Gun or Selling One, Web Is a Land of Few. New York Times.

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