Silk Road 2’s Trouble (and Appelbaum/CatFitz, cutting keys, mass spying doesn’t stop terrorism)

The new Silk Road (“Silk Road 2.0”) was supposed to be proof against all government attacks. Back in December — in a move that I missed, but should cover anyway — the administrator of the new drug marketplace (“Dread Pirate Roberts”) said he was going to make an announcement about the platform NOT being compromised.

Instead, said administrator disappeared.

The deputy administrator stepped in and as far as I can tell from press coverage is still running the site, claiming the Dread Pirate had not been arrested… but that nobody could say any more for security reasons. WTF?

Something’s rotten.

(Don’t trust anything you don’t understand, kids.)

Pro-government blogger Catherine Fitzgerald makes some interesting observations on Appelbaum, as usual gets things narrowly wrong.

Appelbaum was indeed tremendously nervous when he came to Berlin, to the point of lying in one of his public addresses (about not having been to Hawaii before). But his emotional tenor at that moment was, to my eye, identical with his attempts to over-inflate the NSA tech at 30C3. In other words, driven by the desire to take something essentially true but which he was afraid wouldn’t be believed.

This interpretation is clear enough going off the 30C3 talk that I feel somewhat confident concluding he’s not consciously an informant. Not because of any particularly logical chain of reasoning, but more based on the “Orson Welles” way of interpreting human behavior I linked to yesterday.

Specifically, given that Appelbaum’s talk had been shadowed by accusations against his person before the conference, I would have expected to see traces of a “Philby press conference” reaction. What do I mean by that?

Have a look at this video, and you can see KGB spy Philby barely able to hold back his grin:

The psychological logic here being that Philby had just “beaten the system” and been falsely cleared. I didn’t detect any of that same swagger on Appelbaum’s part.

This all still doesn’t mean I trust the guy. First, in the past he’s exhibited the shade of smiling coldness I associate with people who betray.

Second, when we’re talking FBI/CIA/NSA (which is what the anonymous person accused him of), split-personality spies where the person you see is not the personality doing the spying are to be expected.

In other words, the individual known as Jacob Appelbaum could be an informant even if the Appelbaum on stage knows nothing about it, thus the on-stage Appelbaum’s reactions being those of an innocent man.

At least, that’s my analysis. Quite a mind-fuck, eh?

Caveat: This is meant as a scholarly analysis of a public figure. I don’t intend to accuse or imply anything about him as a person, cast aspersions on his character, etc.

Cutting keys to code with a manual mill.

Mass spying doesn’t actually help prevent terrorism.

“The new iteration of Silk Road, a popular online black-market bazaar for drugs and other contraband, returned from a scheduled week of holiday downtime Saturday — but without its former leader.

Silk Road’s operator, who goes by the alias “Dread Pirate Roberts” or “DPR,” has been noticeably absent from the site’s forums since three of his top lieutenants were arrested in a global sting on Dec. 20. A new administrator “Defcon” has assumed temporary control of the site, and confirmed that Dread Pirate Roberts has taken an indefinite leave of absence.

See also: As Major Silk Road Competitor Shutters, $100M Vanishes With It

“This past week, our ship suffered major damage,” Defcon wrote in a Silk Road forum post Saturday night. “Three of our crew were lost, and our Captain was forced into exile.”

The relaunched Silk Road, often referred to as “Silk Road 2.0” or “SR 2,” opened for business on Nov. 6, about a month after the FBI seized the original Silk Road, and arrested its alleged owner Ross William Ulbricht, who is believed to be the original Dread Pirate Roberts.

In the weeks leading up to the launch of Silk Road 2.0, the new DPR granted Mashable an exclusive interview, during which he or she was ambitious that his or her site would surpass the original Silk Road’s two-and-a-half-year run.

The new Dread Pirate Roberts has only posted on Silk Road’s forums once since three of the site’s top moderators were arrested for their roles as employees of the original Silk Road. In the post, the new DPR addressed a rumor that the FBI had access to the new Silk Road’s servers.

“Silk Road has not been compromised even if the allegations are true,” the new DPR wrote on Dec. 20. “I will make an announcement later to address the concerns this has raised.”

However, the new DPR never made that announcement, and the last we’ve heard from the masked digital drug lord was in a private message on the forums on Dec. 21, through which he or she did not reveal any sensitive information or plans to depart. Now, Defcon is steering the ship, and it appears he or she will not take the “Dread Pirate Roberts” moniker like his or her two predecessors.”

%d bloggers like this: