Three men have been arrested in Manchester over their alleged role in the online black market ‘Silk Road’ – notorious for the sale of drugs and guns.
All the men are in their early 20’s and, along with a man in Devon, were arrested on suspicion of drug offences.
The arrests come after a crackdown that saw the site’s mastermind Ross Ulbricht detained by the FBI in San Francisco last week.
The UK’s National Crime Agency’s (NCA) Director General Keith Bristow believes the arrests show that the authorities can combat purported online anonymity and put an end to digital black markets.
“These arrests send a clear message to criminals; the hidden internet isn’t hidden and your anonymous activity isn’t anonymous,” he told the BBC.
“We know where you are, what you are doing and we will catch you.”
“It is impossible for criminals to completely erase their digital footprint. No matter how technology savvy the offender, they will always make mistakes.”
More arrests are expected in the coming weeks as authorities seek to put an end to the site that operated on ‘Tor’ – a version of the web that offers anonymity to websites and users.
While users were able to purchase a range of items on the site it is best known for the sale of illicit items like drugs and weapons.
Users were able to purchase drugs through a format similar to eBay – with sellers rated by their performance – and transactions were made using ‘bitcoins’.
However, the sale of weapons and drugs are not the only things that the NCA are worried about.
The head of the NCA’s National Cybercrime Unit, Andy Archibald, said: “These criminal areas of the internet aren’t just selling drugs.
“It’s where fraud takes place, where the trafficking of people and goods is discussed, where child abuse images are exchanged and firearms are traded.”