Tor is a name that is not known to the majority of the world: it is a segment of the Internet that is entirely encrypted and communication is anonymized. There are many legitimate usages for Tor, as it is an extension of the onion routing project, which is a US Naval system. The system was developed so that government communications could be protected from snooping by enemy states.
What the Navy never expected, however, was how Tor would evolve, and who would ultimately be interested in being encrypted and anonymous: criminals. Inside the semi-hidden world of Tor is the darknet, a collection of sites that openly and notoriously offer illegal products and services, from weapons to drugs and prostitutes. All of this is made easy by the anonymous nature of Tor and the pairing of the anonymous digital currency Bitcoin, making it seemingly impossible to trace these transactions to their source.
Or so users of the system believed. A year ago, a darknet marketplace, Silk Road was seized, "cash" was collected and arrests were made. It was always believed that a slipup made the raid possible, but this week may have changed some minds. A multi-nation coordinated attack through Tor ended up with 410 sites being raided and 17 arrests being made. Among the participating nations was the US and 16 European countries.
On Thursday, US officials claimed the first success in the raid: Silk Road 2.0. US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement,
As illegal activity online becomes more prevalent, criminals can no longer expect that they can hide in the shadows of the dark web. We shut down the original Silk Road website and now we have shut down its replacement, as well as multiple other dark market sites allegedly offering all manner of illicit goods and services, from firearms to computer hacking.
They are hoping that this public, coordinated raid will discourage at least some from using Tor and the darknet to trade in illegal materials. While it will certainly not stop the activity, perhaps it will prevent casual users from trying to purchase credit card data or false identity papers.