Well, if anyone was wondering whether Silk Road was a sting, it seems to have been affected by the US government shutdown 🙂
The FBI — who evidently *haven’t* been set back by the shutdown —
nevertheless seem to have gone to considerable effort to create a “realistic end” to the project… it looks like the guy in charge is going to get an ass-load of time in an equally pound-me-in-the-ass federal prison.
To complete the trilogy of derrieres, it seems that in taking the site down, said FBI also reamed a hole in the site’s security the size of the Channel Tunnel.
Not only did they successfully unmask the location of the Tor hidden server, but they got an image of the server’s hard drive and completely decrypted everything… gaining access to all the records.
They also decrypted a great deal of Silk Road operator Dread Private Roberts’ private communications on the site, and located him at his San Francisco apartment.
Among Mr. Roberts’ — I mean, Ross William Ulbricht’s — communications were messages of him ordering a hit on a Silk Road user who’d threatend to expose many other users in public if he wasn’t paid off. There was something VERY odd about this, though.
When the FBI tried to track down the murder (Ulbricht had received a picture of the victim as “confirmation”) they found that the Canadian authorities had never heard of the man, despite him having a BC address. And there had been no homicides in his town during the time period in question.
And yes, Ulbricht made a great many mistakes that no doubt allowed investigators to do lots of “parallelling”… including posting an ad for a Bitcoin IT professional to Bitcointalk using the same account he’d used to advertise Silk Road in the very beginning.
Still, the big break in the FBI’s investigation came on July 23, 2013, when they managed to get an image of the main Silk Road server via a mutual legal assistance treaty with an unnamed foreign country.
Three days later, investigators knocked on Ulbricht’s door asking about some fake ID’s they’d intercepted at the border, destined for his apartment and with his photo on them. He declined to answer questions, but said that “hypothetically anyone could have ordered them to frame me on Silk Road.”
One reason for the FBI swooping down on the site now could simply be financial… they siezed some $3.2 million in bitcoins, which will no doubt be very welcome given the shutdown!
In the end, the lesson from all this is clear… “don’t trust anything you don’t understand” VERY VERY much applies to encryption technology. And doubly so to “anonymity networks” funded by — look, don’t take my word for it. Get your hands on a book called “The Mighty Wurlitzer” (I’m assuming you’ve read all the Bamford stuff) and then do your own digging.
No, I don’t think everyone who works for Tor is evil, I’m saying their intentions don’t matter when these kinds of forces are at work.
Just for humor value, everyone’s favorite “guy with his heart *maybe* in the right place but funds from the wrong one” in Switzerland recently…
“Appelbaum: “We give [NSA and GCHQ] a really hard target [in Tor].
Q: when I look at the Tor map there’s a big thick green line going to the middle of the US… what is it..?
A: I’ll answer a related question – does the NSA run Tor nodes? As far as I can tell that’s not the angle they’re going for. But there are people with fast internet who care about freedom of speech.” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/30/privacy-and-surveillance-jacob-applebaum-caspar-bowden-and-more-speak-in-switzerland