Just five weeks after the shutdown of the Silk Road and the arrest of the man who allegedly ran it, the world's most notorious Internet black marketplace for drugs and other contraband is back online. There's a new Dread Pirate Roberts (the pseudonym and title by which the site's administrator is known), and he has already made some serious changes to the site.
The news arrived via several avenues, most surprisingly from a public Twitter account that appears to genuinely belong to the new head of the Silk Road operation. It announced that the site was live at about noon ET and shortly after reported seeing 1,000 connections per second.
But it's not just the same site copied and pasted onto new servers. In an introductory post on the site, Dread Pirate Roberts listed a number of changes: "a complete security overhaul," for one thing, and insurance against users losing their Bitcoins (the online-only "crypto-currency" in which business is transacted there) should the FBI descend on the Silk Road again. The login page cheekily poked fun at the Bureau's standard seizure page.
It's also a kinder, gentler Silk Road. "We have already committed a large percentage of our revenues to good causes, charities, and organizations who support our cause or have similar interests," read one portion of the post. And while the previous head of the site infamously is alleged to have hired the occasional hitman, the new one made assurances on Twitter that "Silk Road while under my watch will never harm a soul. If we did, then we are no better than the thugs on the street."
While the sentiment might be admirable, one might reasonably question why such communications are being made publicly at all, considering the high-profile demise of the previous site and the guarantee of attention from various law enforcement agencies.
Dread Pirate Roberts has an answer for that as well:
It is up to us to embrace this newfound exposure in mainstream media, rather than hide from it ... it would be impossible for the Silk Road to stay off the radar — it is therefore our responsibility to make sure that our mark on the radar is the right one.
Other posts in the forums by staff and administrators offered advice on keeping anonymous, described ways the site would support the anonymous Tor network that protects it, and enumerated other changes to the way things would operate.
But one thing is the same: You can still select from a large selection of illegal merchandise, from fake passports to pill-pressing machines to, yes, just about any drug you could want.
Whether the new Silk Road will prove more resilient than the old one will only be shown in time, but the new leader and staff certainly don't lack for confidence.
NBC News has reached out the FBI for any comment and will update this story should they respond.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.