The arrest, trial and conviction of Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht — and his sentence of life in prison — was a stark reminder that 21st century policing is a different game. And judging by the shitshow that was the Silk Road investigation, it’s one that the police need to get better at.
Interpol is trying to help with preparing police forces for online crime by offering a training course in policing ‘the Darknet’. During the five-day course, officers from around the world got to play with a virtual online drug marketplace, acting as buyers, sellers and admins to get a better understanding of how Tor and Bitcoin, two fundamentals of illegal online marketplaces, actually function. They also got to practice seizing and taking down websites, a popular option for law enforcement trying to shut down online drug trades.
Given the decidedly global nature of online crime, it probably makes sense for police forces around the world to be learning from a similar playbook. But it’s also worth not freaking out about online drug markets just yet: during Ulbricht’s trial, it was revealed that The Silk Road was about five times smaller than prosecuters first alleged, with total sales of $200 million, rather than the billion dollars initially quoted.