Silk Road gets taken down

The FBI announced that Ross Ulbricht, also known as Dread Pirate Roberts, was captured “without incident” by agents at a public library in San Francisco on Tuesday and charged with narcotics trafficking, computer hacking and money laundering.

Mr Ulbricht, 29, is accused by US prosecutors in New York of using the site as a marketplace for large quantities of drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD since 2011 to customers paying with Bitcoin, the digital currency.

In an extraordinary 39-page criminal complaint, he is also accused of soliciting a user of the site to carry out a “murder-for-hire of another Silk Road user”, who was threatening to unmask thousands of vendors and customers unless his $500,000 drug debt was cleared.


So Tor
n’stuff aren’t quite as secret as all that then.

Always did rather surprise me that the site stayed up. I rather assumed it was because the authorities didn’t care enough to take it out, rather than that they could not.

28 thoughts on “Silk Road gets taken down”

  1. Be an interesting test of markets. If the site is indeed down, after the capture of “The Pirate” but the need for the services it provided are still in existence, Expect it’s replacement to be along shortly.
    Question is, of course, do the Feds actually have the site – the whole thing, database, user accounts & ratings etc etc? Or just some computer equipment been used to administer it or traffic records. Would have presumed anyone as savvy as this guy wouldn’t be leaving around the evidence to convict him. Running a system, trashable at a keystroke isn’t that hard. EMP “bomb” in the machine’s the favourite.
    Tor never claims to be bombproof. The vulnerabilities are disclosed in the introduction package.

  2. Isn’t it less about Tor’s effectiveness, and more that any criminal activity eventually leads to an exchange of information, money, and/or services, for any of which it’s more a question of ‘how long do you want to spend tracing this stuff?’

  3. from reading the coverage it seems that the solicitation of murder was the trigger for action and up until then the Feds had been happy to monitor the site having pinched a server image from a friendly country where it was hosted.

    Lessons to be learned – be careful about your hosting, don’t cock up your online persona security and don’t do any bad murders.

  4. “the Feds had been happy to monitor the site having pinched a server image from a friendly country where it was hosted. ”

    Difficult to see why they’d be happy. Silk Road’s a retailing site. Anybody dealing shit in quantity knows their suppliers & is plugged into the network. Only thing the Feds’ll get from an image or even monitoring is the ‘for personal use’ buyer end. Supply end is very easy to obscure.

  5. Would have presumed anyone as savvy as this guy wouldn’t be leaving around the evidence to convict him.

    But that’s exactly what he did – he used his real name and other associable identities in connection with the business.

  6. Oh no!–the bloke was involved (so they say) in a murder that the US federal tyranny does not approve of. Because (if there is any truth in the claim) it’s a private murder as opposed to the many thousands of “official”, govt-approved, murders carried out by US govt thugs at home and abroad.
    What a terrible person he must be!.

  7. It’s standard police surveillance activity. Intercept their communications but let them think they’re still secure (or at least unmonitored). Glean all their secrets, then once you’ve learned enough you step in. Same story with Enigma in WWII too.

    Fundamentally, I don’t see how members of Silk Road could have both anonymity and security. The best crime networks (Mafia, etc.) are built on trust and reputation, and you can’t have trust or reputation when your buyers are anonymous.

  8. “you can’t have trust or reputation when your buyers are anonymous.”
    Ebay manages. At point of sale, all the punter has is the seller rating. Silk Road’s key feature was a similar system. It’s that data, lost if Silk Road really has gone down, is the resource of value.
    ” Glean all their secrets, then once you’ve learned enough you step in.” On what? Few tech head kids buying dope on line. Unless Bitcoin transactions can be traced to the recipient, they won’t get a single supplier.
    “But that’s exactly what he did – he used his real name and other associable identities in connection with the business.”
    That’s what the Feds say they’ve got. Let’s wait for the case. A credible claim to have the database kills Silk Road because the database is Silk Road. Doesn’t require them to actually have the database.

  9. I’m thinking, if Silk Road has gone down for the reasons given, but Bitcoin has remained secure this may be very good news.
    We really need a transaction/remittance system that’s free of State interference & SR isn’t a particularly good prototype but is squatting right over the territory, a better one could be born.
    Maybe good riddance.

  10. So Much For Subtlety

    According to some random guy in some other thread on a different website, the DPR was sloppy with his real name:

    Doug October 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm
    Actually just read the arrest warrant. http://www1.icsi.berkeley.edu/~nweaver/UlbrichtCriminalComplaint.pdf

    They certainly were reading snooping Ulbricht’s mail, but they didn’t identify him through TOR. Rather Ulbricht publicly used his email (personal name) on both Shroomery and Bitcoin Talk to solicit an IT specialist. (BTW part of the evidence is that Ulbricht’s Google+ account and Dread Pirate Robert’s Silk Road account both display a fond enthusiasm for Murray Rothbard). From there it seemed quite easy to identify Ulbricht just by tracing a series of IP addresses linked to him and a VPN server he used.

    Frankly given that Ulbricht had used his personal email on accounts that were set up early on to promote Silk Road, this seemed like an inevitability. It took the government two years of massive Silk Road publicity to actually tie together the strings. Which probably could have been done by a decently sophisticated Internet user in a few days of dedicated Googling. Doesn’t exactly inspire much faith in the federal government’s cyber-surveillance prowess.

    – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2013/10/assorted-links-927.html#comments

  11. TOR provides anonymity to a certain degree, but I believe that the main reason he was caught was that the servers in Ireland hosted by “Freedom Hosting” were seized and operated by law enforcement agents for an unknown period of time before the seizure was revealed and acknowledged with the arrest of the owner Eric Eoin Marques.

    http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2013/08/05/freedom-hosting-arrest-and-takedown-linked-to-tor-privacy-compromise/

    During that time the law enforcement agencies modified the hosted websites to include Javascript which would reveal the true location of the user. How many users were identified by this method is unknown. Pretty stupid having Javascript enabled under TOR anyway.

    Wouldn’t surprise me if Ross Ulbricht hadn’t left clues on the captured server revealing who he was.

    For myself, I use TOR to access sites such as PirateBay that are blocked by my ISP.

    Need my Breaking Bad fix…

  12. bloke in Spain,
    eBay isn’t anonymous – the vendor doesn’t know you, but eBay knows you well enough. Also, they aren’t selling illegal items. I can walk into a corner shop and buy a bottle of coke without proving that I’m not a cop, but I can’t buy a kilo of coke from a drug dealer, let alone order a killing, without at least some sort of reputation from another trusted member of the underworld.

  13. “it seemed quite easy to identify Ulbricht just by tracing a series of IP addresses linked to him and a VPN server he used.”
    Ass’ole couldn’t even hack Airsnort (wiki it). Better he’s out the way, let the adults in.

  14. andrew.
    The point is the vendor is anonymous to the buyer. The only reason he’s not anonymous to Ebay is so they can make their cut & graze off the remittances. There’d be an entirely anonymous way to run the service. A bitcoin’d transaction fee.
    Then anyone can sell anything to anyone.
    No-one, to my knowledge, was buying K’s of coke on Silk Road. Why would they? Anyone wants to buy a K of coke knows someone selling a K of coke. That’s why they call it the drug trade.

  15. It occurred to me there might be some “parallel construction” here. Something that has come out of the NSA/Snowden stories is that the NSA’s surveillance is used to find criminals and then the proper authorities work back to find evidence they can use in court.

  16. ukliberty
    “Incidentally, he allegedly arranged for two ‘hits’, not just one.”
    Can we have a whole lot of qualification on that “allegedly”.
    The story is; when trying o cut a deal on an alleged “hit” he is supposed to have said he’d already had one done for 80K. Which could be a bit like saying “Ten quid! The bloke down the road sold me one for five, last week”. And begs the question, why he wasn’t asking a frequent flyer discount off his original, cheap rate, Tom Cruise impersonator.

  17. “Well that was silly. If I wanted somebody murdered, I certainly wouldn’t ask a federal agent to do it.”

    That made oi larf!

    Every few weeks you see some poor schlep being found guilty of arranging a hit with an undercover FBI agent. For the FBI one imagine it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Where do the get these crappy contacts? The personals?

    Wanted: Hitman, GSOH, to kill former colleague. I paid 80k last time so we’re good right? Replies to “Dread Pirate Roberts C/O Starbucks, San Francisco”

    P.S. To any NSA, CIA or GCHQ staff, the above add is a bloody joke so don’t come knocking on my door or renditioning my arse/ass

  18. @UKL
    “get with the nomenclature: those are “targeted killings”…

    I think you may have a point there. Romanians did one, just down the road, couple weeks back. Passed about 4 mags through an assault rifle. Judging by the amount of holes in the surrounding landscape, seems a pretty good benchmark for “untargeted killings”

  19. @matthew
    It isn’t referred to as the Costa del Crime because we get a lot of parking offenses.

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