Silk Road 3.1, or SR 3.1, was a darknet marketplace that launched in early 2017. The admins of this DNM, or at least some of them, appear to have launched an exit scam on users in the fall of 2019. While the site’s main URL is still accessible for now, vendors are reportedly banned from their accounts, meaning activity on the platform has come to a standstill. Accordingly, any cryptocurrency henceforth sent the marketplace’s integrated wallets should be considered permanently lost. It’s ultimately unknown whether the Silk Road 3.1’s leadership had any connections to the previous SR 2 and SR 1 markets. When it was last active, SR 3.1 hosted more than 16,000 product listings.
The Silk Road 3.1’s user interface was visually minimalistic compared to other contemporary darknet marketplaces. On the flip side, SR 3.1 was designed to support more cryptocurrencies than most DNMs offer, as it facilitated Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Monero payments. Vendors had to pay a bond worth $200 to use the platform.
While live, this market offered 2FA logins, PGP communications, multisig and escrow transactions, Finalize Early (FE) sales, Autoshop functionalities, account recovery, and PIN features. Another key feature provided by SR 3.1 was stealth shipping, which allowed users to make purchases from vendors without registering for an account.
On the surface, Silk Road 3.1 would’ve appeared to score high on security, a reality that demonstrates just how tricky it can be to safely navigate the DNM arena in considering the site’s exit scam last year. For example, support for stealth shipping and anonymous Monero payments meant SR 3.1 users could undertake extremely discreet transactions. In its heyday, the site also earned a reputation for deploying a robust bug bounty program, which generally improved confidence around the project.
It’s still not clear exactly how the Silk Road 3.1 exit scam played out, but it was clearly related to administrative misbehavior. One side of the site’s leadership accused the admin Walrus of stealing users’ funds, while Walrus alleged that other admins were behind the attack. What precisely happened may never become public knowledge. Yet the episode will serve as a clear reminder for posterity regarding how DNM admins can take advantage of their users even after running what appears to be a solid operation for an extended period of time.