A billion dollars worth of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin is reportedly being transferred out of a digital wallet, according to cryptocurrency analysis firm Elliptic. That alone would probably be noteworthy due to the amount of money involved, but this particular sum of bitcoins is thought to have ties to Silk Road, the "dark web" black market that allegedly facilitated illegal transactions online.
Silk Road was closed down by authorities back in 2013, and its founder Ross Ulbricht sentenced to life in prison in 2015. Dr. Tom Robinson is Elliptic's Co-founder and Chief Scientist, and in a blog post on the transfer of funds he speculated about the money's ties to Silk Road and/or Ulbricht:
"The movement of these bitcoins today, now worth around $955 million, may represent Ulbricht or a Silk Road vendor moving their funds. However it seems unlikely that Ulbricht would be able to conduct a bitcoin transaction from prison. Alternatively, the encrypted wallet file may have been real, and the password has now been cracked – allowing the bitcoins to be moved."
That's speculation of course, and due to the anonymous nature of cryptocurrency transactions, we may never know for sure exactly what became of the money, who transferred it, or for what reason. But Robinson says that should there be any links to illegal activity authorities may be able to detect the bitcoins if and when they're exchanged for cash:
"Either way, the funds are now on the move, and whoever now controls the bitcoins may want to cash them out. Exchanges should be on alert for bitcoin deposits originating from these wallets and use blockchain analytics tools such as Elliptic's to monitor for this activity and fulfil their compliance obligations."
More than 69,300 bitcoins were withdrawn from the online wallet in question, which previously had been the fourth-highest balance bitcoin wallet in the entire world.