Thomas White, a 24-year-old Liverpool resident, has been sentenced to five years and four months for running Silk Road 2.0.
Just after the fall of the infamous Silk Road darknet market back in 2013, other markets bearing the same name sprouted in a bid to take its position.
One of them was Silk Road 2.0, which was launched by former members of the original Silk Road.
Silk Road 2.0’s founder, 24-year-old Liverpool resident Thomas White, launched the site using the same alias as the founder of the first Silk Road, calling himself Dread Pirate Roberts 2 (DPR2).
The new market, however, befell the same fate as its predecessor and was seized by authorities through Operation Onymous, which took place in November 2014.
Following the crackdown, there have been a series of court processes in the past five years which were all hidden from the public, and just recently a U.K. court sentenced White to five years and four months in prison for his role in running Silk Road 2.0.
White’s Arrest & Charges Against Him
Authorities arrested White and his accomplices in November 2014, coinciding with the shutdown of Silk Road 2.0.
Since then, details about his case have remained underground because the U.K., unlike the U.S., has strict court rules which do not allow the media to report on matters before they conclude.
Last month, White pleaded to guilty money laundering, drug trafficking and providing a platform used to circulate images of minors.
The Link Between White, Silk Road & Silk Road 2.0
Among the key pieces in the investigation involved a PGP private key found in one of White’s computers, which connected him to the DPR2 profile on Silk Road 2.0.
This fact was revealed to Motherboard by Paul Chowles, an investigating officer drawn from the National Crime Agency (NCA).
By using the private key of DPR2, the NCA officer says it was evident that indeed White was behind the marketplace.
In PGP, the private key is used to decrypt incoming data and can only be possessed by the receiver. As such, having the key in one’s possession can reveal their identity.
Chowles further revealed White was the chief mastermind behind Silk Road 2.0, as he was the one responsible for making crucial decisions about the market.
Previously, White used the alias “StExo” to offer his services on the original Silk Road, which was later dropped only for him to adopt the name DPR2.
The Life of White
White, an accounting dropout from Liverpool John Moores University was released on bail, and since then his name has been well known within the security circles in the U.K.
Even though he was a dropout, the NCA reveals that White learned about computers by himself, paying around £35,000 for equipment.
He reportedly spent his evenings gaming until later hours of the night.
It is believed that when he was arrested, he had 50 Bitcoins which were seized by U.K. authorities.
He was, however, active on Twitter, and used the handle @CthulhuSec (deleted earlier this month), which he adopted after working on Silk Road.
White ran a website that covered details about hacks of different magnitudes that have hit companies such as MySpace and Ashley Madison.
In addition to that, he ran a website and hosted several mirrors and hidden services.
During his arrest, officers who searched his laptop also discovered he had data hacked from government agencies like the FBI, NASA, the database of the U.S. Fraternal Order of the Police, among other targets.
His dedication towards the Tor Project was notable, running several nodes through the network.
Law Enforcement Tighten the Grip
After the fall of Silk Road, when it was thought that the situation was contained, other darknet markets sprouted up to take its place.
Law enforcement struggled to keep up while the darknet ecosystem continued to grow, even as it faced new threats.
However, and in some instances, these markets tend to have links in one way or the other. Silk Road 2.0 was inevitably linked to Silk Road since top members of the site started it post-seizure.
A later iteration, Silk Road 3, also came up and recycled the brand.
For the case of Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0, the top individuals who were involved in running the darknet markets have been apprehended, prosecuted and sentenced.
Ross Ulbricht, founder of the original Silk Road, was handed two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
He just surpassed his fifth year in jail last October.
These law enforcement takedowns were the result of collaborative efforts by authorities operating in the U.S., Europe and Asia to tackle illegal activities on the dark web.
Another notable arrest of an individual linked to Ulbricht and White is Gary Davis (Libertas), who pleaded guilty last year to facilitating sales on Silk Road as an administrator.
In late-2014, one of Silk Road 2.0’s operators, going by the alias “Defcon,” was arrested and prosecuted by U.S. authorities.
Another member of Silk Road 2.0’s staff, “DoctorClu,” pleaded guilty to drug charges back in 2016.