Silk Road shut down, owner indicted
October 2, 2013 9:06 AM   Subscribe

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation has seized the domain of the popular online black market site Silk Road (previously), and indicted the site's owner, Ross Ulbricht, better known as Dread Pirate Roberts (previously).
posted by tonycpsu (291 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Inconceivable!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:08 AM on October 2, 2013 [85 favorites]


I'll be interested to see how their legal theory that you can't just sell people drugs on the Internet fares in court.
posted by thelonius at 9:08 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'M STILL FREEEEEE!
posted by inigo2 at 9:09 AM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


He's innocent before proven guilty, but I admit chuckling at the comment about offering to pay for bail with bitcoins.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:11 AM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's remarkable to me that people really did seem to think they'd just keep getting away with this forever and they could break whatever laws they wanted.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:11 AM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


DirtyOldTown how long have you been saving that?
posted by Wretch729 at 9:14 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guy engaged in transparently grossly illegal activity is indicted. Who couldn't see this coming? Surprised it took this long.
posted by dios at 9:16 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's remarkable to me that people really did seem to think they'd just keep getting away with this forever and they could break whatever laws they wanted.

It’s on the internet, don’t you get it? Duh, it’s totally different.
posted by bongo_x at 9:16 AM on October 2, 2013 [11 favorites]


What's with the "computer hacking conspiracy" charge?
posted by spiderskull at 9:18 AM on October 2, 2013


Dammit I still had credits!
posted by orme at 9:18 AM on October 2, 2013


It’s on the internet, don’t you get it? Duh, it’s totally different.

This isn't patent law.
posted by Artw at 9:19 AM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


What the what?

Dread Pirate Roberts once ordered a murder of a user who was attempting to blackmail him, the complaint alleges. A user named FriendlyChemist wanted $500,00 from Dread Pirate Roberts, or else thousands of Silk Road identities would be published. Dread Pirate Roberts solicited a hitman through Silk Road to "put a bounty on [FriendlyChemist's] head." When quoted a price of $150,000 to $300,000, Dread Pirate Roberts called the price high, saying he had had a hit done "not long ago" for $80,000. The parties agreed on a price of $150,000, or 1,670 Bitcoins, and the hitman reported the job was done. However, the FBI could not find any evidence of a related homicide and Ulbricht was not charged with murder.
posted by sio42 at 9:19 AM on October 2, 2013 [41 favorites]


Wretch729: "DirtyOldTown how long have you been saving that?"

Weirdly, it was spur of the moment. I was looking for the proper snark to express my total shock that selling heroin and other drugs on the internet would get you into trouble with the FBI, the word popped into my head, I realized the Dread Pirate connection, and thought, eh, why not?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:21 AM on October 2, 2013


I should have kept reading because that gets better....

...Ulbricht says on his LinkedIn profile. "Now, my goals have shifted. I want to use economic theory as a means to abolish the use of coercion and agression amongst mankind... I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force."
posted by sio42 at 9:21 AM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


The whole criminal complaint is available at http://krebsonsecurity.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/UlbrichtCriminalComplaint.pdf including details of how they tracked the guy down starting on page 24. Apparently he posted questions about Tor security linking to his email address ("rossulbricht@gmail.com", who could that be?) and other such fun things.
posted by zempf at 9:21 AM on October 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


Dude ran a website facilitating the sale of illegal substances and he lived in Texas?
Dumb doesn't begin to describe it.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:24 AM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


It will be interesting to read exactly how he was caught. I would guess that if someone is running a site like this there's pretty much a zero percent chance that the FBI won't be able to figure out where they are and who they are, even if they are following all of the best practices of encryption and anonymizing. The question is if the FBI can actually physically arrest them and stop them from running it.

It's remarkable to me that people really did seem to think they'd just keep getting away with this forever and they could break whatever laws they wanted.

It’s on the internet, don’t you get it? Duh, it’s totally different.


Ironically it's a lot easier to shut down a major illegal group on the Internet than it is in real life. When's the last time you read a headline that a drug cartel doing over a billion dollars worth of drug trafficking into the US was shut down and the actual leader was arrested? On the other hand though, it's extremely easy for a new upstart to take over and do the exact same thing that the old organization did, except in a way that is slightly harder to shut down.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:24 AM on October 2, 2013


What's with the "computer hacking conspiracy" charge?

I was wondering that too - my guess is that maybe it's an extra charge that can be used for leverage and dropped later, or maybe outdated "hacking" laws are broad enough to cover just about any activity that takes place online.

The complaint is pretty interesting reading - sounds like they've had access to the server for a few weeks at least. I was really surprised to see a .onion site seized like this, which I believe has to involve physical access to the server (rather than DNS tampering that is normally associated with seizures).
posted by antonymous at 9:25 AM on October 2, 2013


I just love the juxtaposition of so-called libertarian ideals with the occasional payment to a hit squad just to make sure the tree of liberty is properly watered.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:27 AM on October 2, 2013 [40 favorites]


What's with the "computer hacking conspiracy" charge?

Law enforcement typically shovels-on any and all conceivable charges, no matter how thin, in order to have headroom to get a conviction on something.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:27 AM on October 2, 2013


So am I still going to get my October delivery?
posted by cjorgensen at 9:28 AM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


zempf: "Apparently he posted questions about Tor security linking to his email address "

Just finished the complaint. It's worse than that - he astroturfed SR after its launch with sockpuppet accounts that were easily traced back to G+ and LinkedIn accounts, the latter of which made some (rather oblique) references to what he was doing.
posted by jquinby at 9:28 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm really glad the US Government still has the resources available for this sort of thing. Given that it's so much more important than, say, climate research or FDA inspections. I wonder if the postal service will have the manpower needed to deal with the wave of unclaimed packages that's coming their way...
posted by R. Schlock at 9:28 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, apparently the FBI managed to take a full image of the site in July 2013. They've been compromised for months...
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 9:29 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It will be interesting to read exactly how he was caught.

Seriously, read the complaint. He promoted a "Bitcoin-related" job using his own gmail address, signed up for sites to promote Silk Road using that address, shipped counterfeit documents to his home address, made some dumb comments on his LinkedIn profile, etc.
posted by antonymous at 9:29 AM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


inigo2: "I'M STILL FREEEEEE!"

Have you considered piracy?
posted by jquinby at 9:29 AM on October 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


I was really surprised to see a .onion site seized like this, which I believe has to involve physical access to the server (rather than DNS tampering that is normally associated with seizures).

Those kinds of seizures where they don't have access to the server are more the result of legal wrangling around a site that is still operating, rather than as part of a general takedown of site. Whenever there are indictments and whatnot like this they always physically take the server(s) at exactly the same time as the arrests, otherwise someone might try to wipe the data/destroy evidence.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:30 AM on October 2, 2013


> ...I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.

Spur-of-the-moment force? That's okay! Totally different!
posted by ardgedee at 9:32 AM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


This actually ties in quite nicely with the part I'm at in Reamde by Stephenson.

Fact/fiction whatever. Cyberpunk is now.
posted by sio42 at 9:32 AM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wonder if there was any interagency cooperation here, given that his email provider is a PRISM program participant.
posted by Vetinari at 9:34 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The parties agreed on a price of $150,000, or 1,670 Bitcoins, and the hitman reported the job was done. However, the FBI could not find any evidence of a related homicide and Ulbricht was not charged with murder.

This would make the best fraud suit.
posted by griphus at 9:35 AM on October 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


More seriously, though, I wonder to what extent the mobs in the US have been cooperating with the feds on this one. Drug distribution -- if not via internet, specifically -- is something they don't want competition on. If they have any beefs with Ulbricht himself, they can settle that once he's in prison without having to draw any attention on themselves. And he's definitely going to prison -- the feds won't let anybody like that get away easily once they have 'em.
posted by ardgedee at 9:35 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Just the opening los Zetas needed to move into online distribution, thanks FBI.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:36 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Holy shit - they pulled in 1.2 billion dollars in revenue over a 6 month period. In the same time period, they were pulling in somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 million dollars in escrow commissions.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 9:36 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm really glad the US Government still has the resources available for this sort of thing. Given that it's so much more important than, say, climate research or FDA inspections. I wonder if the postal service will have the manpower needed to deal with the wave of unclaimed packages that's coming their way...

We get this comment here basically every time the government does anything. I'm glad you took the time to post it, instead of, say, curing cancer or writing a great novel or saving endangered species.
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:37 AM on October 2, 2013 [96 favorites]


What's with the "computer hacking conspiracy" charge?

From the complaint:
From in or about January 2011, up to and including in or about September 2013, ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT, a/k/a "Dread Pirate Roberts," a/k/a "DPR," a/k/a "Silk Road," the defendant, and others, known and unknown, intentionally and knowingly did combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each othre to commit computer hacking offenses in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1030(a)(2).
...
From in or about January 2011, up to and including in or about September 2013, ROSS WILLIAM ULBRICHT, a/k/a "Dread Pirate Roberts," a/k/a "DPR," a/k/a "Silk Road," the defendant, owned and operated an underground website, known as "Silk Road," providing a platform facilitating the sale of illicit goods and services, including malicious software designed for computer hacking, such as password stealers, keyloggers, and remote access tools.
That particular law cited reads:
1030. Fraud and related activity in connection with computers
(a) Whoever—
...
(2) intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains—
(A) information contained in a financial record of a financial institution, or of a card issuer as defined in section 1602(n) 1 of title 15, or contained in a file of a consumer reporting agency on a consumer, as such terms are defined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (15 U.S.C. 1681 et seq.);
(B) information from any department or agency of the United States; or
(C) information from any protected computer;
...
shall be punished as provided in subsection (c) of this section.
So less actual hacking than "conspiracy to commit hacking" by facilitating it.
posted by Etrigan at 9:41 AM on October 2, 2013


I should also note that the counterfeited documents that were shipped to his address in July were discovered during a "routine border search". Totally routine, just normal searching stuff, good luck challenging that in court - Customs just happened to get lucky on this particular search! (that's how it works, right?) I'm a little unclear on the timetable, but it seems like that "routine" search was enough to identify this guy, and much of the corroborating evidence could have been pulled after this event (from Silk Road and 3rd party servers).
posted by antonymous at 9:41 AM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Linked-In? “You sly dog, you got me monologuing!” - This guy was basically a cartoon villain. Arrogant and sloppy. I'd bet anything that the "hitman" he hired was Happy Chemist, happy to get his money one way or the other.

Here's a hint, kids - two laptops. One for when you're Walter, another for when you're Heisenberg. No non-biz web surfing, no using Walter's accounts for anything on the Heisneberg laptop, no using the Walter laptop for anything even remotely unsavory. Also, these two laptops should be in a country with weak law enforcement that can be bribed in a pinch.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:43 AM on October 2, 2013 [16 favorites]


DirtyOldTown:

Incoinceivable
posted by mulligan at 9:44 AM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


had the drugs shipped to New York for analysis. "Samples of these purchases have been laboratory-tested, and have typically shown high purity levels of the drug the item was advertised to be on Silk Road,"

Sounds like they did a pretty good job for a while, there!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:44 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm glad you took the time to post it, instead of, say, curing cancer or writing a great novel or saving endangered species.

On the other hand, the government is actually in a position to do food safety inspections and has the resources to do climate change research, while it is focused on the war on drugs. Whereas most people have neither the talent, time and resources to do cancer research, write books or save near-extinct animals — nor do the things that the government prioritizes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:45 AM on October 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


This guy was basically a cartoon villain. Arrogant and sloppy.

It would be cooler if it was one way, but it was the other.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:45 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assume this is a follow-on to the big child pornography bust in Ireland recently that hinged on a compromise to the Tor encryption? That has to have given them tons of leads on this guy.
posted by Fnarf at 9:51 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's an amazing con - blackmail someone for a huge sum of money, and then accept a deal under an alias to assassinate the "blackmailer" for far less
posted by MangyCarface at 9:52 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


wait why are we all so gleeful about this again? i thought it was kind of cool that this existed, tbh. mostly because it's one of the only ways i could think of that someone like me (no real druggie friends or contacts) could get, for instance, LSD, and have it actually be LSD when it shows up. i never actually ordered from there but my experience just browsing the site was pretty positive and i definitely would have used it when i wanted something.

i mean unless the story about him actually trying to order a hit on someone is true. then he is a bad.
posted by a birds at 9:52 AM on October 2, 2013 [21 favorites]


[A couple comments removed, cool it.]
posted by cortex at 9:52 AM on October 2, 2013


Didn't this guy give an interview to a magazine not long ago? Oh, yes, to Forbes.....

Meet the Dread Pirate Roberts, the man behind booming black market drug website Silk Road

I hate to be conspiracy minded, but given the attention paid to compromising journalism with surveillance these days, there's one way to track back to him, then use the techniques we know they are using to recreate the evidence trail in other cases. Just a thought.
posted by C.A.S. at 9:53 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


If he was a guy that knew how to make good decisions, he wouldn't have started an international online marketplace for illegal drugs.
posted by naju at 9:56 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


If anyone wants to see the Silk Road sub-reddit going full-quantum, the link is here. [Warning: reddit, possibly incompatible with sanity, etc.]
posted by 1adam12 at 9:59 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Didn't this guy give an interview to a magazine not long ago? Oh, yes, to Forbes...

As soon as that article appeared, I figured this guy is not long for this world (in the figurative sense). I mean, it's one thing to be running a multi-million dollar drug exchange, but it's completely different to start bragging about it in the national media. Might as well just paint a target on your back.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 10:00 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


This thread seems to be missing the bigger picture:

This is part of a full-scale assault on Tor and online anonymity. Tor connections have been crippled by a massive, ongoing denial-of-service attack. Numerous sites and hosts have been shut down and/or seized.

From the Ulbricht Criminal Complaint PDF:

During the course of this investigation, the FBI has located a number of computer servers, both in the United States and in multiple foreign countries, associated with the operation of Silk Road.

I'm still reading through this but there's a lot of serious implications in all of this that are going to be felt for years to come.
posted by enamon at 10:05 AM on October 2, 2013 [19 favorites]


Why is the FBI operating abroad again?
posted by griphus at 10:07 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fnarf - no, the Freedom Hosting bust didn't have anything to do with the underlying Tor technology, as far as we know. What happened there is the feds got access to the FH servers, and put in code that exploited the Firefox browser version typically bundled with Tor so that people who went to FH hosted sites reported their IP addresses back to the FBI.

That said, I wonder how true the indictment is, and how much is false and just "parallel construction" for hiding the real way they found him. If Tor was truly broken, they probably wouldn't say so.

I also don't notice any reference to an original founder. As mentioned in the Forbes interview, the story is that DPR bought out the creator.
posted by dragoon at 10:07 AM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


Er, "again" in reference to them raiding the MegaUpload servers in New Zealand.
posted by griphus at 10:08 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if people just window shopped on the Silk Road website is that sufficient cause to get their name on a no-fly list? I know (online-know) a guy who bought six adderalls off Silk Road with bitcoin. He is not a member of the "criminal class". I'm sure the feds have a record of him and I wonder about the ramifications of this being on his permanent record.
posted by bukvich at 10:09 AM on October 2, 2013


Everywhere is America's, Griphus.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:09 AM on October 2, 2013


I had a friend who used Silk Road to buy stuff a lot, and he told me about it. I thought he was lying until read about the site, later. About a month ago his wife left him because he's an all around screw up, and took the kids with her. I had called him up last week to check in and make sure he was still alive, since nobody had heard from him in a while. The conversation was something like:

Him: Who is this?
Me: [Bathtub Bobsled]. What's up? No one's-
Him: Why did you call me on this phone?!
Me: Uh, what? I mean it's your number, right?
Him: Call me on my other number. Don't want them listening in.
Me: Who? What number? Are you on something?
Him: Nothing. Don't talk about that stuff.
Me: Ok, I'm coming over. You need to get it together.
Him: I'm not here *click*

Couldn't argue with him on that. The next morning they raided his house and found he had all sorts of illegal stuff, including guns. So, he was probably not wrong about people listening in on our call, but I learned that it probably wasn't necessary for a deep surveillance measure, since he decided leaving a modified M&P 1522 on his front porch was a good idea. Idiots, the whole lot of them. No sense in going through the trouble of using Tor if you practically leave a trail breadcrumbs and hollow point casings to your front door.

Classic example of a tip my police officer friend gave me: If you're doing something illegal, don't be doing something illegal at the same time.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 10:10 AM on October 2, 2013 [56 favorites]


Dude, I like 'The Princess Bride' too, but if that's where you look for a criminal sobriquet, maybe you're not quite ready for the big leagues.
posted by box at 10:10 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


All the NSA surveillance will massively boost the anonymity networks like Tor, enamon, especially with foreign governments and companies.

You broke the Internet. We're making ourselves a GNU one.

It's just about whether Silk Road gets replaced by individuals like Ulbricht or existing criminal organizations, who might not even need anonymity.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:12 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


FBI file photo of Bathtub Bobsled's friend.
posted by griphus at 10:12 AM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


On first blush I'm not sure this story adds up. The guy they caught is awfully high profile, which means he's either really stupid or this is some very complex misdirection. And WTF is this lame Twitter account with lame spammy "work from home" posts on it? Weird.

Yeah, the smart money's on very stupid, but it seems so hard to believe. Also claims he's cleared nearly $80 million in commissions. Not bad for a couple years' work. But really, that much money? Even given the difficulty of turning Bitcoin into money you can spend, I don't see why you'd choose to do anything other than retire quickly making that kind of money. And live large.

And then there's the claim he hired a hitman to murder someone. And bragged about doing it before. Maybe an elaborate joke? Or maybe really fucking creepy? Crypto-anarchy in pursuit of libertarian ideals of drug accessibility? Meh, maybe OK. Crypto-anarchy in pursuit of assassination markets? Not OK.

This story is going to be interesting.
posted by Nelson at 10:13 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


So that's why your comment is bad.

Also, it willfully ignores the fact that the US Government is in the midst of a crisis without precedent in order to score an easy (and semi-coherent) rhetorical point. Straw man arguments degrade dialogue.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dude ran a website facilitating the sale of illegal substances and he lived in Texas?

That's not necessarily surprising at all. We have a lot of individualists of all political stripes who think laws are dumb and meant for other people. In some parts of the state you get the Tea Party. In Austin, you might get an anarchist drug-selling hacker. /native Texan

What did surprise me was the lame twitter, which is not at all what I expected. Maybe it got hacked after he abandoned it.
posted by immlass at 10:15 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


After Snowden revelations, what can be hidden from the govt?
posted by Postroad at 10:18 AM on October 2, 2013


box: "Dude, I like 'The Princess Bride' too, but if that's where you look for a criminal sobriquet, maybe you're not quite ready for the big leagues."

MAKIN' AWESOME DRUG WEBSITE -- NOTES (pg 2)

POSSIBLE ALSIA ALIASES:
posted by invitapriore at 10:19 AM on October 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


In all honesty, though, I think this is a damn shame. It's unfortunate that the guy turned out to suck at what he did.
posted by invitapriore at 10:20 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Related?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:21 AM on October 2, 2013


Sounds like bad opsec. Just like how the NSA got caught.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 10:22 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't think he said anything publicly about the hit, or the blackmail; I'm guessing the FBI seized his private communications as well, and got him on the hitman thing because of that.
posted by tkfu at 10:23 AM on October 2, 2013


Yeah seriously, like half a dozen other people are saying upthread, he doesn't seem to have been doing this very "smartly."

Hell, based on that 'altoid' account alone he pretty much failed from the start - sorta surprised it took this long.
posted by ish__ at 10:25 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


And WTF is this lame Twitter account with lame spammy "work from home" posts on it? Weird.


That's standard twitter hack spam, either a randomly guessed password or an Oauth DM hack. He didn't post any of that. Many dormant accounts look like that.
posted by neustile at 10:27 AM on October 2, 2013


I'm still reading through this but there's a lot of serious implications in all of this that are going to be felt for years to come.

Yeah, first and foremost, don't trust crypto products given away for free by the U.S. government, or trust math or comp sci research sponsored by the NSA or DoD.

It's actually a huge deal.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:29 AM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Dragoon - put in code that exploited the Firefox browser version typically bundled with Tor

But doesn't that mean that someone who used the compromised Firefox to visit both Freedom Hosting and Silk Road, which I'm assuming is a substantial number of people, would leave the latter vulnerable as well?

I wonder about subsequent arrests here. I don't know if it's even possible for Mr. Pirate to give up names of sellers and buyers or not, but I imagine he's currently undergoing some pretty intense questioning on that subject. Though he can certainly afford excellent lawyers. He's going to need them. And if he's been as stupid about security as it appears, I'm sure a lot of other people have been too -- starting with the Redditors giving details of their own Silk Road transactions.

This thing is going to echo for a while. How's that Bitcoin price holding up?
posted by Fnarf at 10:31 AM on October 2, 2013


How's that Bitcoin price holding up?

I'm not entirely sure I'm reading the chart correctly but possibly not good at all.
posted by griphus at 10:32 AM on October 2, 2013


BTC. Check the 24h graph. Yowza.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:34 AM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't know what I'm looking at there but those graphs look like the kind used to mean "very extra not good" in movies and tv.
posted by sio42 at 10:36 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not that I'd ever buy a Bitcoin, but sounds like now is the time to buy Bitcoins.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:37 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


CAN he afford lawyers ? I thought the feds would freeze all assets as they were earned via the crimes he's charged with ..
posted by k5.user at 10:37 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is the first I have heard of this website. Was it really as simple has having drugs or other contraband delivered to one's front door? Some sort of dead drop? How did this work in practice?
posted by Tanizaki at 10:37 AM on October 2, 2013


That's true. Hmm.
posted by sio42 at 10:37 AM on October 2, 2013


That's true about this being a good time to buy bit coins that is.
posted by sio42 at 10:38 AM on October 2, 2013


This is the first I have heard of this website. Was it really as simple has having drugs or other contraband delivered to one's front door? Some sort of dead drop? How did this work in practice?

Mitch Hedberg: "I love my FedEx guy cause he's a drug dealer and he doesn't even know it."
We miss you, Mitch.
posted by Etrigan at 10:41 AM on October 2, 2013 [14 favorites]


I think the better argument against buying them is that the price can be knocked around like this because hubris finally caught up with a guy who didn't take any measures to (at the very least) offshore his international drug ring.
posted by griphus at 10:42 AM on October 2, 2013


I think the better argument against buying them is that the price can be knocked around like this because hubris finally caught up with a guy who didn't take any measures to (at the very least) offshore his international drug ring.

But he did offshore his international drug ring. The incitement says the FBI seized the Silk Road servers in an unidentified foreign country.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 10:46 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I have absolutely no idea how I would go about finding a hitman if I wanted someone whacked. I guess it's probably easier if you're running an online drug sale site, but still... "Hey, anybody know somebody who will kill somebody for me?"

PLEASE NOTE THAT I AM NOT LOOKING FOR A HITMAN
posted by Flunkie at 10:47 AM on October 2, 2013



Fnarf - But doesn't that mean that someone who used the compromised Firefox to visit both Freedom Hosting and Silk Road, which I'm assuming is a substantial number of people, would leave the latter vulnerable as well?

No, Silk Road wouldn't have to worry about the compromise. An exploited browser isn't going to threaten Silk Road, as it doesn't have any abilities that a regular browser wouldn't have. And as far as I understand, the exploit was only used to have the Firefox browser phone home to the FBI with a real IP address.
posted by dragoon at 10:47 AM on October 2, 2013


I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.

It would be Navy Yard x12.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:48 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wow, that criminal complaint... the guy was dumber than a bag of hammers.
posted by zarq at 10:50 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that the evidence will bear out that the NSA had nothing to do with this.

I don't believe that for a second, but if this guy is as dumb as he sounds, the FBI probably could have caught him on their own.

I hope my one visit out of curiosity doesn't brand me as a criminal for life.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:51 AM on October 2, 2013


First Oink, now this.

:(
posted by BobbyVan at 10:52 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


The incitement says the FBI seized the Silk Road servers in an unidentified foreign country.

Oh, I either misread it or there was some mention to US servers I can't seem to find. I mean, feel free to replace that aspect of the operation with any of the other dumbass shit he did. And it's not like I'm saying I could've done a better job than the guy; but to invest in a currency that is so closely tied to the operations of a drug ring that is, for all intents and purposes, operating in public view doesn't seem to be wise.
posted by griphus at 10:52 AM on October 2, 2013


Wow, that criminal complaint... the guy was dumber than a bag of hammers.

I know a guy who can sell you a bag of hammers. Just email him at-- wait. Shit.
posted by Etrigan at 10:52 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Damn, that bitcoin crash is crazy.
posted by DynamiteToast at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2013


mcstayinskool: "Not that I'd ever buy a Bitcoin, but sounds like now is the time to buy Bitcoins."

Maybe to short them.
posted by jquinby at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2013


Flunkie, memail me. I'll put you in touch with a guy.
posted by DynamiteToast at 10:54 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't think the FBI had any kind of authority to "seize servers in an unidentified foreign country."

I wonder if this was some kind of filter down thing: NSA (can crack/view/store anything anywhere) then "shares" information with (FBI) & other agencies....

...and how long before all sorts of "crimes" start being shared with other agencies.
posted by CrowGoat at 10:56 AM on October 2, 2013


Bit coins have gone down by $10 in the half hour since we first started discussing their free fall.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:58 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you zoom out to 6 months, Bitcoins are still worth more than their historic low at that scale (which is $50, back in April?) And it seems to be recovering now, at least a little.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:02 AM on October 2, 2013


Bit coins have gone down by $10 in the half hour since we first started discussing their free fall.

This whole thing is clearly a setup for Trading Places 2.
posted by Etrigan at 11:02 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I didn't expect what I found at the top of his YouTube account history.
posted by shii at 11:05 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


CrowGoat: "I didn't think the FBI had any kind of authority to "seize servers in an unidentified foreign country." "

They do not, but we have treaty agreements with other countries for this sort of thing. From page 14 of the complaint:

Pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request, an image of the Silk Road Web Server was made on or about July 23, 2013 and produced thereafter to the FBI.

A list of signatories to the MLAT can be found here.
posted by jquinby at 11:07 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bitcoin truly enters the realm of the Dunning-Krugerand
posted by lalochezia at 11:09 AM on October 2, 2013


I didn't expect what I found at the top of his YouTube account history.

The guy is a brostep-loving Ron Paul fan?

Hanging is too good for the likes of him.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:10 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Flunkie: "So, I have absolutely no idea how I would go about finding a hitman if I wanted someone whacked. I guess it's probably easier if you're running an online drug sale site, but still... "Hey, anybody know somebody who will kill somebody for me?""

I've idly wondered about this, and I always kind of figured that the naive algorithm for reaching a person of arbitrary crime level c was as follows:

1. Set current person to you.
2. If crime level of current person is >= c, end.
3. Choose the person with the maximum crime level among all first-degree acquaintances of current person and set that person to current person.
4. Go to step 2.

It omits useful heuristics like trustworthiness, and if there's a local maximum in your acquaintance network of criminess that still isn't at the crime level you want then you're out of luck, but it's probably better than just going to a biker bar or something and asking around for crime people.
posted by invitapriore at 11:10 AM on October 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


Bit coins have gone down by $10 in the half hour since we first started discussing their free fall.

And 15 minutes later they're back up close to where they were this morning. Don't get involved in BitCoin just because the volatility is ludicrous and you could be wiped out at any time by a relatively small number of people panicking or deciding to flood the market.
posted by Copronymus at 11:12 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that the FBI managed to gain access to the Silk Road server on July 23rd, 2013, which is around the time they took over Freedom Hosting. From what I know about TOR, if you can control enough of the exit nodes, you can de-anonymize the traffic. Freedom Hosting apparently ran a large number of exit nodes. I wonder if they managed to extract the physical location of the servers via traffic to the Silk Road routed through the compromised exit nodes...

I didn't think the FBI had any kind of authority to "seize servers in an unidentified foreign country."

The FBI does this all the time. They took over Freedom Hosting and ran it as a honeypot for a month. Freedom Hosting's servers were located in France.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 11:17 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assume everyone has stopped commenting because they're watching the market graphs? They're hypnotic!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:28 AM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, I hope Ulbricht enjoyed his time living like a king in Patagonia.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:28 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going forward with the working assumption that all .onion sites are now hosted in Quantico, VA.
posted by double block and bleed at 11:33 AM on October 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


I assume everyone has stopped commenting because they're watching the market graphs? They're hypnotic!

Indeed. Here's another if you prefer a more neon aesthetic and even more bars that presumably mean something or other.
posted by Copronymus at 11:35 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Samples of these purchases have been laboratory-tested, and have typically shown high purity levels of the drug the item was advertised to be on Silk Road," Tarbell says.

The free market delivers quality!
posted by Theta States at 11:35 AM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


That cracked me up, too, Theta. The FBI going out of their way to assure us the drugs sold online are really pure was a head scratcher.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:37 AM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I seem to recall one of the SA threads on Bitcoin was subtitled, "There is always more and it is always worse."

Never change, Bitcoin!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:37 AM on October 2, 2013


Indeed. Here's another if you prefer a more neon aesthetic and even more bars that presumably mean something or other.

Seems like you should be able to play Missile Command on that graph (with each click simultaneously being a buy or sell order). You could make a killing!

(Gamification; am I doing it right?)
posted by tychotesla at 11:42 AM on October 2, 2013


This can't be the end of drugs on Tor right? There must be other alternatives, I mean yes Silk Road was the biggest but there are competitions just waiting to fill the space... right?
posted by litleozy at 11:52 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That cracked me up, too, Theta. The FBI going out of their way to assure us the drugs sold online are really pure was a head scratcher.

It would have been embarassing to bust a billion-dollar drug cartel to find out that they were just selling oregano.
posted by Theta States at 11:53 AM on October 2, 2013


Dude, I like 'The Princess Bride' too, but if that's where you look for a criminal sobriquet, maybe you're not quite ready for the big leagues.

I assume it's in reference to the fact(?) that he's not the original DPR. The original creator of the silk road has allegedly retired years ago and (it is implied) living like a king in Patagonia.

(And if we actually look at the big leagues, or mafia nicknames at least, it turns out they're things like "Ha Ha", "Jo Jo", "Teets", "Flipper", "Legs", and so on.)
posted by anonymisc at 11:59 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dude, I like 'The Princess Bride' too, but if that's where you look for a criminal sobriquet, maybe you're not quite ready for the big leagues.

I assume it's in reference to the fact(?) that he's not the original DPR. The original creator of the silk road has allegedly retired years ago and (it is implied) living like a king in Patagonia.


If you read the affidavit, it certainly looks like he's the original and any story about a replacement is just a story for the lulz.
posted by ish__ at 12:04 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The interesting thing is, if you read the indictment, is that he really did take a lot of precautions. He used a (currently unknown) VPN service when communicating with the Silk Road, and wiped the contents of the VPN machine before the FBI managed to subpena it. He hard coded that VPN IP address in the Slik Road's source code, so essentially no one could access administrative features unless they originated from his VPN. And at some point in mid-July, someone warned him that his VPN's IP address was some how being leaked from the Silk Road, so he completely changed the way he accessed the site after that.

I think it looks like his biggest mistake was using Gmail. I bet once they managed link him to the Gmail account, they subpenaed Google and got all his access logs and metadata. With that information, along with what they captured when they seized the servers, they can correlate that same person accessing the Gmail account and accessing the VPN are the same. And it looks like that's exactly what they did:
Based on forensic analysis of the Silk Road Web Server, I know that the server includes computer code that was once used to restrict administrative access to the server, so that only a user logging into the server from a particular IP address, specified in the code, could access it. I believe this IP address was for a virtual private server [...]. The IP address for the VPN server resolves to a server hosted by a certain sever-hosting company, from which I have subpoenaed records concerning the VPN server. The records show that the contents of the VPN server were erased by the custom leasing it. However, the records reflect that the IP address the customer used to access the VPN server during the last login to the server, which was on June 3, 2013. This IP address is a Comcast address that, according to records subpoenaed from Comcast, resolves to an internet cafe on Laguna Street in San Fransisco.
They managed to capture him logging into his VPN and his Gmail from the same IP address - boom, busted! It's actually shows you how little metadata you need to de-anonymize someone.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 12:05 PM on October 2, 2013 [33 favorites]


I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force.

To add to my earlier comment, the story itself provides an answer:
Dread Pirate Roberts once ordered a murder of a user who was attempting to blackmail him, the complaint alleges. A user named FriendlyChemist wanted $500,00 from Dread Pirate Roberts, or else thousands of Silk Road identities would be published.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:06 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that the FBI managed to gain access to the Silk Road server on July 23rd, 2013, which is around the time they took over Freedom Hosting.

One straightforward possibility is that Freedom Hosting was hosting one or more Silk Road servers. It's possible that the FBI didn't know that they had captured a Silk Road server until after they examined the images of the servers they acquired during the takedown of Freedom Hosting.
posted by RichardP at 12:12 PM on October 2, 2013


Ulbricht is thought to have made at least $80 million in escrow commissions, yet lived in a rented room in SF with roommates for less than $1,000 per month.

The guy made $80 million he never got to spend. Weird week.
posted by meadowlark lime at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, and it looks like this Stack Overflow question is the one that they used to tie "frosty" to Ross Ulbricht.
posted by RichardP at 12:13 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


My uncle's advice was always, "If you're going to break the law, you've got to think like a criminal."

Obviously, wasn't enough here.

(Still, I'm a little both glad and annoyed that I didn't get around to buying any bitcoins a couple weekends ago because it seemed like a hassle to go through Mt. Gox or whatever. I was hoping to finally get ahold of some real mescaline, but it'd likely suffer from the same, "I'm an adult and don't have enough time to dedicate to drug use at the level I'd enjoy" problem I keep having with acid and molly.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:19 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


an internet cafe on Laguna Street in San Fransisco

The only thing I can find that comes near that description is the Starbucks at the corner of Union and Laguna in Cow Hollow.

Odd to think of the various tourists and mid-level marketing managers and whatnots sitting down with their venti lattes next to a guy running a billion-dollar drug superstore off his laptop. I hope he folded it up and carried it with him when he had to go to the toilet.

This is definitely shaping up to be the best movie thriller ever made. I foresee kettle drums.
posted by Fnarf at 12:20 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


One straightforward possibility is that Freedom Hosting was hosting one or more Silk Road servers.

Excellent point. I bet France is one of the countries on the MLTA.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 12:21 PM on October 2, 2013


a little both glad and annoyed that I didn't get around to buying any bitcoins a couple weekends ago

That unregulated market looks like a great place to make a pretty hefty fortune just on the market swings, but I assume that the thing is being manipulated like crazy.
posted by Fnarf at 12:21 PM on October 2, 2013


At the very least, we can start the scripts for Breaking Bad season 6 now.
posted by Theta States at 12:37 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's the erotic Bitcoin novel the free market deserves
posted by jeffburdges at 12:38 PM on October 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ok, this is really funny.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 12:43 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's the erotic Bitcoin novel the free market deserves

That's fucking hilarious.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:50 PM on October 2, 2013


When I first read the headline, I panicked, because Silk Road is where I get all my delicious spices from... And then I realized this was about drug trafficking and was relieved. Now, I'm off to buy Thai chilis and Tellicherry peppercorns.
posted by xedrik at 12:57 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


xedrik - some might consider those drugs ... tasty, necessary, must have them drugs..
posted by k5.user at 12:58 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


They managed to capture him logging into his VPN and his Gmail from the same IP address - boom, busted! It's actually shows you how little metadata you need to de-anonymize someone.

So it seems like he would have been better off using a dedicated VPN service that promises not to keep logs of user activity, since it was the server host's logs that led to this discovery?
posted by invitapriore at 12:59 PM on October 2, 2013


The interesting thing is, if you read the indictment, is that he really did take a lot of precautions.

It's really not about how many precautions you take and more about how many major security mistakes you make. The indictment skips over some crucial details (such as how they were able to intercept his private conversations and how they found and gained access to the servers) but it's pretty clear that he made a lot of mistakes.

For example, the fake IDs that he ordered from Canada that were intercepted in a "routine" customs search were apparently needed for providing proof to potential web hosts of his (fake) identity. So he didn't even need to physically provide an ID to anyone, he would just be emailing a scan of it to a company on the Internet. And yet he thought the best solution was to have actual physical fake IDs made (rather than photoshop a real ID) and sent to his actual real life super-secret address.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:59 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


So it seems like he would have been better off using a dedicated VPN service that promises not to keep logs of user activity, since it was the server host's logs that led to this discovery?

Or better yet run your own VPN from your own cloud server.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:00 PM on October 2, 2013


From that Reddit thread:

[–] superrambo 14 points 3 hours ago (15|1)
So are we fucked if we had a shit ton of coins in our acct? Would there be any way to pull them off?? Shit
permalink source report give gold reply hide child comments

   [–] ButterflySammy 28 points 3 hours ago
    Gone like yesterday's farts.


All we are is dust in the wind.
posted by jquinby at 1:03 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


The guy made $80 million he never got to spend.

Receiving or spending that amount of money in the US would have been impossible without attracting major Federal attention. He was probably building up a nice nest egg in one or more foreign bank accounts, with the hopes of one day retiring somewhere obscure (e.g., Patagonia).
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:05 PM on October 2, 2013


It's really not about how many precautions you take and more about how many major security mistakes you make.

I try to explain this to my students every semester: It may have taken you three hours to drill into some obscure website to find that paragraph you plagiarized, but since you aren't a very good writer I can tell that it came from somewhere, and it shows up as the first result on my Google search.
posted by OmieWise at 1:13 PM on October 2, 2013 [25 favorites]


I've idly wondered about this, and I always kind of figured that the naive algorithm for reaching a person of arbitrary crime level c was as follows:

1. Set current person to you.
2. If crime level of current person is >= c, end.
3. Choose the person with the maximum crime level among all first-degree acquaintances of current person and set that person to current person.
4. Go to step 2.


Your algorithm is really naive: for most middle class people it would just lead to bank CEOs and politicians.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:15 PM on October 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


Here's the erotic Bitcoin novel the free market deserves

The description ends with the line "All that’s missing is a fedora." FESS UP, DAILY DOT WRITER: YER A MEFITE ARENCHA
posted by ook at 1:18 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just realized that algorithm is exactly what happened shortly before the opening scene of Fargo.
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


This guy lived really close to me, we probably went to the same bodega.

Also, pretty funny that espoused all these libertarian ideals was taking BART to a public library to use the free internet.
posted by lkc at 1:19 PM on October 2, 2013 [20 favorites]


On Wednesday, the FBI announced that they arrested 29-year-old Ross William Ulbricht, the Silk Road’s accused administrator, in the Glen Park branch of the San Francisco Public Library at 3:15 Pacific time on Tuesday.

That's from the article in Forbes.

Glen Park library! In the middle of the afternoon. Who knew it was a hotbed of organized criminality? So awesome.
posted by feckless at 1:21 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


From an earlier article in Forbes, a month ago, there's this:
With the data from just 344 of their own transactions, they were able to label the owners of more than a million Bitcoin addresses. And by making just four deposits and seven withdrawals into accounts held on Silk Road, Meiklejohn says the researchers identified 295,435 addresses as belonging to that drug market.
I think there ought to be a lot of worried Silk Road/Bitcoin users right about now.
posted by Fnarf at 1:40 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Your algorithm is really naive: for most middle class people it would just lead to bank CEOs and politicians.

I don't see the problem there. CEOs and politicians probably have enough sway to get whatever you need done, it's just a question of whether you're able to convince them. Which is outside of the scope of the algorithm.
posted by juv3nal at 1:49 PM on October 2, 2013


The indictment skips over some crucial details (such as how they were able to intercept his private conversations and how they found and gained access to the servers) but it's pretty clear that he made a lot of mistakes.

Actually, I don't agree with this at all. I think he was pretty damn cautious from a technical standpoint, and most of his mistakes revolved around leaving a trail of social media posts while he was building the site and using GMail. I mean, if the FBI really has compromised the TOR network, there wasn't any thing he could do outside just shutting the site down; It was only a matter of time and resources before they tracked him down.

Or better yet run your own VPN from your own cloud server.

Well, the VPN server has to physically exist somewhere. I'm fairly sure he probably was using some 'cloud' VPN service, and that did nothing to stop the FBI from subpoenaing his host and taking an image of his server.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:49 PM on October 2, 2013


I have not read a reasonable explanation of how the Feds were able to take a mirror of the SR server. That is completely glossed over. Anyone?
posted by meadowlark lime at 1:51 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


There is a darker side for Bitcoin here : How many Silk Road buyers bought their coins through exchanges like MtGox? How many used a mixing service? If Silk Road's kept any records, or if the FBI kept records from when they owned the machine in July, the FBI now knows what bitcoins Silk Road obtained for drug deals, so they subpoena the exchange's records. Bitcoins fail anonymity hard.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:51 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think it's worse than that, jeffburdges. They don't have to prove you used the bitcoins for drug purchases. They can just identify likely or at least potential bitcoin-for-drugs users, concentrating on sellers, not buyers, and then use that information to look for other, more incriminating evidence that can be used in court. The bitcoins are the only trailhead.
posted by Fnarf at 1:56 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Are there any links ( audio or video) to copies of the pulled StoryCorps interview on Youtube with this guy?
posted by Bwithh at 1:56 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The guy made $80 million he never got to spend.

That combined with Breaking Bad ending this week are just way too perfect. It's like they waited for this week by design.

(Sad about at least one of these turns of events.)
posted by CommonSense at 1:57 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have not read a reasonable explanation of how the Feds were able to take a mirror of the SR server. That is completely glossed over. Anyone?

I imagine they used the compromised exit nodes on TOR network to decrypt the outgoing traffic. With enough connections and time, you would be able to determine that requests for the Silk Road route to a particular IP address. They would then determine the physical location that IP address maps to, subpoena the host and seize the hardware.
posted by Fidel Cashflow at 1:58 PM on October 2, 2013


They don't have to prove you used the bitcoins for drug purchases.

They'll probably just seize them and make you prove that you didn't earn them from selling drugs.
posted by empath at 1:59 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh man, this is so awesomely horrible. I feel terrible for the deluded souls who thought buying contraband with Bitcoins was anything other than the worst idea since Caddyshack 2.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:02 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I have not read a reasonable explanation of how the Feds were able to take a mirror of the SR server. That is completely glossed over. Anyone?

My speculation, posted above, is that perhaps Silk Road had a server at Freedom Hosting and that when the FBI took down Freedom Hosting in July they also got physical access to a Silk Road server. No TOR shenanigans necessary.
posted by RichardP at 2:02 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I feel terrible for the deluded souls who thought buying contraband with Bitcoins was anything other than the worst idea since Caddyshack 2.

I highly, highly, highly doubt they're going to bust anyone that was buying unless they were buying like huge amounts.
posted by empath at 2:03 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


There was $1.2B worth of deals conducted on Silk Road between Feb 2011 and July 2013, probably not all drug but okay, I'd expect many deals were large enough so that the buyer automatically gets considered a dealer under our perverse drug laws.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:06 PM on October 2, 2013


This may be too late to mention, but Bitcoin provides no anonymity. It is the opposite of anonymous, with a global, distributed, non-reputable log of all transactions ever that every Bitcoin user must have a copy of. What could possibly go wrong?
posted by Nelson at 2:16 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've idly wondered about this, and I always kind of figured that the naive algorithm for reaching a person of arbitrary crime level c was as follows:

1. Set current person to you.
2. If crime level of current person is >= c, end.
3. Choose the person with the maximum crime level among all first-degree acquaintances of current person and set that person to current person.
4. Go to step 2.

It omits useful heuristics like trustworthiness, and if there's a local maximum in your acquaintance network of criminess that still isn't at the crime level you want then you're out of luck, but it's probably better than just going to a biker bar or something and asking around for crime people.


I'm picturing a white-coated Poindexter in the scuzziest Central Casting biker bar you can imagine, crime detector in his hands, little lights blinking, then beeping wildly as it lands on One-Eyed Ernie in his corner table.

"LOCALISED CRIME MAXIMUM DETECTED! INITIATING HITMAN PURCHASE!"
posted by Sebmojo at 2:17 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


So if the FBI seizes bitcoins, what do they do with them? Auction them, as they would property?
posted by dephlogisticated at 2:25 PM on October 2, 2013


empath: "I highly, highly, highly doubt they're going to bust anyone that was buying unless they were buying like huge amounts."

Bust? No.

Watch like a hawk hoping to shake more fruit out of the tree? You may rely on it.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:29 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know- it's reddit, but seriously:


InappropriatePenguin [score hidden] 46 minutes ago
H was the only relief in my life from my soul crushing loneliness. Except for someone I met about a month ago, Kate - the most awesome girl in the universe - who maybe with her love I can actually make it through this. Poor girl though, having to deal with a fuck up like me.

Without her though, and with SR down and no other sources for H I would be looking for the quickest way to end myself.

I know that it is a bad thing to do, but why can't society let me have my crutch? I have been neglected and let down by society in every other way - just let me have this one thing. Please, dear Lord.

posted by xmutex at 2:30 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Nelson: "...Even given the difficulty of turning Bitcoin into money you can spend..."

This was the flaw in his business model, and may be the thing that's keeping regular drug cartels from entering the online delivery market. You can be a Bitcoin multimillionaire, but that won't pay the rent in the real world. And the more Bitcoins you cash out, the more suspicious you look.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:38 PM on October 2, 2013


So if the FBI seizes bitcoins, what do they do with them? Auction them, as they would property?

Just give them back to the NSA (tinfoil hat optional).
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:41 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Murdering a blackmailer is OK to a true libertarian because they "initiated the use of force" by financially threatening you.

Hell, any kind of violence at all is OK as long as you can find a way to claim that someone else *initiated* the use of explicit or implicit force.

Ask Steve Ditko!
posted by edheil at 2:49 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


> I highly, highly, highly doubt they're going to bust anyone that was buying unless they were buying like huge amounts.

Probably not. But now they've GOT something on you, and if they (any "they" with access to this particular db) ever wants to bust you for some other unrelated reason, legitimate or not, all they have to do is trot this out.
posted by jfuller at 2:54 PM on October 2, 2013


There was $1.2B worth of deals conducted on Silk Road between Feb 2011 and July 2013

I may be misunderstanding but this reported estimation seems to be coming from the roughly 10 million bitcoin transaction total multiplied by today's going price. I don't know what bitcoins were going for in 2011 but it was significantly less than today. Still a lot of money, but I'd bet Silk Road sales were low 9 figures instead of over a billion.
posted by edeezy at 2:54 PM on October 2, 2013


First Google Reader, now this.

:(
posted by K.P. at 3:01 PM on October 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


Just give them back to the NSA

On a tangent: what would happen if the NSA decided to leverage some/all of its supercomputing power for the minting of BitCoins? Or if the US Government decided to help balance the budget by mining BitCoins with some of the vast computer power it has (including supercomputers at the NSA and research facilities, and/or spare CPU/GPU cycles on the huge numbers of desktops in its offices)? Would it render BitCoins unmineable by those with more modest capabilities? Could the government cash out in a controlled manner?
posted by acb at 3:04 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bitcoin profitability (with commodity hardware, at least) has gone to shit in the last year. People say the ASIC units can still get a positive ROI, but that won't be true for very long. I doubt the NSA would invest in specialized hardware for mining, and since the government owns the printing presses that print the money, it'd be kind of a Rube Goldberg idea to begin with.

But the comments from Bitcoin fanboys on Reddit would sure be fun to read.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:08 PM on October 2, 2013


"the juxtaposition of so-called libertarian ideals with the occasional payment to a hit squad"

Libertarian anarchism and illegalism are separated by a thin line waiting to be crossed.
posted by Ardiril at 3:14 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So if the FBI seizes bitcoins, what do they do with them?"

Fund undercover stings.
posted by Ardiril at 3:17 PM on October 2, 2013


Ardiril: ""So if the FBI seizes bitcoins, what do they do with them?"

Fund undercover stings.
"

Well, since it's all public, could one trace the coins back to being from the FBI SilkRoad seizure?
posted by wcfields at 3:18 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is bullshit man I already had bought ten heroin and my next heroin was going to be 50% off plus I would get a free bottle opener.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:23 PM on October 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


I doubt the NSA would invest in specialized hardware for mining, and since the government owns the printing presses that print the money, it'd be kind of a Rube Goldberg idea to begin with.

What about someone who doesn't own the printing presses but does own vast amounts of computing power, such as, say, Google or Amazon? Could pressing unused compute cycles into service to produce a steady stream of BitCoins make sense there?

Apparently there exist botnets which hijack machines and use them to mine BitCoins. Given some claims that the world's biggest supercomputer would be a botnet run by organised crime groups, would this be making very rapid progress through the seams of unmined BitCoins?
posted by acb at 3:28 PM on October 2, 2013


acb: "Could pressing unused compute cycles into service to produce a steady stream of BitCoins make sense there? "

Electricity costs real money.

acb: "there exist botnets which hijack machines and use them to mine BitCoins ... very rapid progress"

Stolen electricity helps. But even having a botnet of a million Packard Bell computers doesn't yield very good computation power for Bitcoins since most compromised machines probably are owned by people (or clueless businesses) that have no graphics cards.
posted by wcfields at 3:33 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the NSA put some kind of backdoor in sha-256 then they could win any lottery at anytime. If there is no backdoor and instead they wanted to repurpose their clusters of GPUs specially designed to crack codes to mine coins they could probably overwhelm the mining groups at any given time. The NSA can fab its own chips, has a basically unlimited budget and if they did lack the spare compute capacity it would be fairly easy for them to create the ultimate mining rig and take over.
posted by humanfont at 3:38 PM on October 2, 2013


dephlogisticated: "Receiving or spending that amount of money in the US would have been impossible without attracting major Federal attention. He was probably building up a nice nest egg in one or more foreign bank accounts, with the hopes of one day retiring somewhere obscure (e.g., Patagonia)."

The Verge article says that Ulbricht was making his official living as a Bitcoin (and other currency) trader, so he was presumably attempting to launder the eighty million as profit from his day job. It would take him a long time to get through it all, though... The vast majority of his illegal gains were probably just electrons, and he laundered enough to make a comfortable living. No mansions with private zoos or gold plated AK-47s for him.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:45 PM on October 2, 2013


Local San Francisco coverage with photo of the library. It's mostly the newswire, plus the photo they sent a photographer out to Glen Park to get.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:47 PM on October 2, 2013


""So if the FBI seizes bitcoins, what do they do with them?""

Buy Magic: The Gathering cards, obvs.
posted by klangklangston at 3:50 PM on October 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


We in the library community have been relieved that people are just talking about the bad guy and not "OMG people can commit crimes at the library by using their free internet and comfy chairs!"
posted by jessamyn at 3:51 PM on October 2, 2013 [19 favorites]


Wait, you can commit crimes at the library?

(They took the CD burners out of the library back home, since they were too easy to commit copyright infringement on.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:53 PM on October 2, 2013


empath: "They'll probably just seize them and make you prove that you didn't earn them from selling drugs."

How the heck do you seize bit coins?
posted by Mitheral at 3:55 PM on October 2, 2013


"OMG people can commit crimes at the library by using their free internet and comfy chairs!"

By the same logic they should shut down all the coffee shops. Charles II would approve.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:04 PM on October 2, 2013


Wait, you can commit crimes at the library?

I once photocopied like twenty pages out of a 150-page book.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:05 PM on October 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


"So if the FBI seizes bitcoins, what do they do with them?"

Buy Magic: The Gathering cards, obvs.


Beanie Babies, surely?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:05 PM on October 2, 2013


Another carelses thing from the doc: he left his user/computer ID in the comment of his public ssh key. A keygenerator will put that in by default, but its optional and you can certainly change or remove it. The public key he generated was by frosty@frosty, which he was putting in remote computers to log in. It also matched the name he changed to after he posted this StackOverflow question with his real name asking about curling a TOR site.

Both of those moves were pretty dumb (for someone trying to be so cautious), and I haven't really seen it mentioned in the various dissections. Also, commenting out your old VPN IP, instead of just removing the line is a bit shortsighted. Those were specifically used as establishing his identity and linking him directly to the site, and could have been avoided.
posted by lkc at 4:42 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dumbass.

That's now how an assassination market works. An assassination market assures obscurity *and* murder by taking a betting pool for date of death, knowing that the winner will fix the bet by killing the dude on the date he picks.

Dumbass.
posted by mobunited at 4:57 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


wait why are we all so gleeful about this again?

because libertarian fedora blah blah blah goon opinions
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:57 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


Beanie Babies, surely?

Mt. Gox (the biggest bitcoin exchange) was originally Magic: The Gathering Online Exchange.
posted by EmptyK at 5:01 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have a feeling that this headline could be rendered as "FBI Saves Dumbass From Zetas" without losing accuracy.
posted by mobunited at 5:03 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Beanie Babies, surely?

Pogs.
And don't call me Shirley.
posted by Daily Alice at 5:04 PM on October 2, 2013


I have mixed feelings. I do enjoy entertaining bitcoin related shenanigans, but I also think the drug war is idiotic and this sort of behavior is an unavoidable consequence of it so this can be skipped if we just legalize and regulate. As for the Silk Road themselves, they were allowing people to try and buy murders. So yeah, I am gleeful that market is shut down.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:11 PM on October 2, 2013


Huh? Ulbricht allegedly tried to orchestrate a hit himself, but I don't think Silk Road was in any sense "allowing people to try and buy murders."
posted by invitapriore at 5:13 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think anybody was allowed to sell assassinations or weapons on the Silk Road.

He did it on his own.
posted by merelyglib at 5:15 PM on October 2, 2013


That is not what I have read from other sources but reports like this can often not get the details quite right.

Services for sale at Silk Road included hacking into accounts at Twitter, Facebook or other social networks and tutorials for cracking bank teller machines, the complaint contended.

The legal filing also told of Silk Road offers to sell stolen credit card data, forged IDs, and for "hitmen" in 10 countries.


Either way, not losing sleep over this guy.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:23 PM on October 2, 2013


I live in a San Francisco building with condos, a Library branch, and a grocery store.

Yup, that one. Where Ross Ulbricht was arrested. It's weird seeing your own building splashed all over the news.

(and no, I've never seen him before.)
posted by blob at 5:33 PM on October 2, 2013


"could one trace the coins back to being from the FBI SilkRoad seizure?"

After the NSA launders them? I doubt it. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the NSA was covertly involved in their development. Reread The Puzzle Palace.
posted by Ardiril at 5:35 PM on October 2, 2013


The Wired article on this is really interesting:

Feds Arrest Alleged ‘Dread Pirate Roberts,’ the Brain Behind the Silk Road Drug Site

A choice quote:
In March of this year, a Silk Road vendor known as FriendlyChemist began sending threats to Dread Pirate via private messages stating that he had a long list containing the real names and addresses of Silk Road vendors and customers that he had obtained by hacking the computer of another Silk Road vendor. He threatened to publish the data online unless he received $500,000. FriendlyChemist claimed he needed the money to pay off his drug suppliers.

As proof, he supplied a sample list of usernames and addresses as well as the username and password of the vendor whose computer he allegedly hacked.

Dread Pirate Roberts told FriendlyChemist to have his suppliers contact him directly and when one did, Dread Pirate proceeded to sweet talk him into supplying to Silk Road directly, rather than going through FriendlyChemist. He allegedly wrote the supplier that FriendlyChemist was a liability “and I wouldn’t mind if he was executed.”
posted by Kevin Street at 5:41 PM on October 2, 2013


DirtyOldTown: "Inconceivable!"

I do not think that Tor means what you think it means.
posted by Samizdata at 6:19 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


acb: "I doubt the NSA would invest in specialized hardware for mining, and since the government owns the printing presses that print the money, it'd be kind of a Rube Goldberg idea to begin with.

What about someone who doesn't own the printing presses but does own vast amounts of computing power, such as, say, Google or Amazon? Could pressing unused compute cycles into service to produce a steady stream of BitCoins make sense there?

Apparently there exist botnets which hijack machines and use them to mine BitCoins. Given some claims that the world's biggest supercomputer would be a botnet run by organised crime groups, would this be making very rapid progress through the seams of unmined BitCoins?
"

Been there, done that, had the botware (for about 10 minutes until alerts triggered).
posted by Samizdata at 6:32 PM on October 2, 2013


jessamyn: "We in the library community have been relieved that people are just talking about the bad guy and not "OMG people can commit crimes at the library by using their free internet and comfy chairs!""

Should I be mad my library has some amazingly uncomfortable chairs in the internet section?
posted by Samizdata at 6:33 PM on October 2, 2013


The guy might as well have set up SR in a big box store on the outskirts of DC and painted the whole thing in invisible paint for all the good Tor did him.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:37 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, something I'm idly wondering: Local law enforcement would have nowhere near the resources to shut something like this down. Would local (say, Craigslist-sized) Silk Roads be a way to decrease the risk? Tor's been compromised by the Feds, but the LAPD isn't going to be able to break it, right? Or does something like Silk Road take a global supply network to make effective?
posted by klangklangston at 7:06 PM on October 2, 2013


"Dude ran a website facilitating the sale of illegal substances and he lived in Texas?
Dumb doesn't begin to describe it.
posted by Thorzdad"

Which, him or Texas?

Is it rather strange that he could keep so many identities hidden, but not his own? Or, does that mean the whole thing is really a house of cards?
posted by eggtooth at 7:31 PM on October 2, 2013


Local law enforcement would have nowhere near the resources to shut something like this down.

The Fat Boy's Institute and Serious Sam has jurisdiction in your town, right now. They'd love the rationalization for extra funding.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:36 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Wired article on this is really interesting:

You're totally right....I really would've thought you could read the comments on Wired. Turns out...nope! Same freepers as everywhere else! That's actually very interesting.
posted by nevercalm at 7:38 PM on October 2, 2013


(p.s.) my buddy got lots of good (--) from the site....lost the bit coins he had in the bank there. ...
posted by eggtooth at 8:24 PM on October 2, 2013


Hyphens? TIE Bombers?
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:28 PM on October 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


that was an innuendo....I'm just confirming I know the site was legit.
posted by eggtooth at 8:49 PM on October 2, 2013


[Folks, it will be helpful for us if this thread does not really become a discussion of your personal involvement with the site or discussion of how to set up a similar site. Up to you ultimately, but please be mindful about it.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:51 PM on October 2, 2013


. . . but please be mindful about it.

Given the thread and the means of DPR's downfall, I can't stop giggling at this comment.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:55 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've idly wondered about this, and I always kind of figured that the naive algorithm for reaching a person of arbitrary crime level c was as follows:

Just run A* using crime level as your heuristic and you're good to go.
posted by Jpfed at 9:02 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


For all the snark about this guy's OpSec, most of his mistakes were made well before he was in a position where that becomes a necessity. It's obvious in retrospect that he made some mistakes, but overall he had a better-than-average security posture.
posted by antonymous at 9:02 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


cost/risk analysis: you make hundreds of millions
of dollars in a year..would you risk prison for that?
Dot.com did too....i mean it's almost like robbing
a bank.
posted by eggtooth at 9:06 PM on October 2, 2013


but overall he had a better-than-average security posture.

Which is apparently not enough when you're running the worlds biggest internet drug market.
posted by lkc at 9:06 PM on October 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm genuinely curious what comes next. Because you know there will be a next. Someone's going to follow this case, figure out the mistakes, and build from there.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:09 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


[insert clever...]...absolucking footley.
posted by eggtooth at 9:11 PM on October 2, 2013


lollin at him getting jail time for helping people distract themselves from their shitty lives while the people who destroyed our economy and creepspy on our internet are free to do as they like

if the laws do not serve you, and in many cases are written expressly to screw you (as with the war on minoritiesdrugs), exactly what is your obligation to them
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 9:13 PM on October 2, 2013


Feds: Silk Road boss paid $80,000 for snitch’s torture and murder
[T]he employee came under suspicion of stealing from other Silk Road members after he was arrested by law enforcement authorities, prosecutors said. Communicating with an undercover law enforcement agent posing as a drug smuggler, Dread Pirate Roberts—the online moniker prosecutors say Ulbricht used as leader of Silk Road—first asked that the suspected employee be beaten and forced to return the stolen Bitcoins. Soon, the indictment alleged, the kingpin changed his mind.

"Can you change the order to execute rather than torture?" Ulbricht allegedly asked in January. The employee—who prosecutors said had access to private messages sent by all Silk Road users including its boss—"was on the inside for a while, and now that he's been arrested, I'm afraid he'll give up info." Dread Pirate Roberts, who agreed to pay $40,000 in advance and another $40,000 when the hit was completed, added he had "never killed before, but it is the right move in this case," the indictment added.

On February 4, Dread Pirate Roberts allegedly transferred $40,000 into a bank account controlled by the undercover agent. On March 1, Dread Pirate Roberts had the remainder deposited into the account after he received a staged photo that purported to depict the body of the employee who had died of asphyxiation and heart rupture after being tortured.

"I'm pissed I had to kill him ... but what's done is done," Dread Pirate Roberts allegedly wrote after receiving the image. "I just can't believe he was so stupid. I just wish more people had some integrity."
posted by Rhaomi at 9:20 PM on October 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


wow.....what's the difference between "sting" and entrapment again?

...oh...the money...
posted by eggtooth at 9:23 PM on October 2, 2013


some more details about the arrest from the Glen Park Association newsletter.
posted by blob at 9:34 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's possible to believe that some people were genuinely helped by the drugs they bought on Silk Road AND that the owner of the site was gradually turning into Silicon Valley's answer to Pablo Escobar. Life is complicated.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:39 PM on October 2, 2013 [13 favorites]


some more details about the arrest from the Glen Park Association newsletter.


I like how the library spokesperson snuck in that literary tidbit.
posted by gyc at 9:45 PM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Folks, it will be helpful for us if this thread does not really become a discussion of your personal involvement with the site or discussion of how to set up a similar site. Up to you ultimately, but please be mindful about it."

Sorry, I'm just a bit of crime nerd. An $80 million scheme is a pretty great scheme.
posted by klangklangston at 9:46 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


dear friends...I know the moral issue here is not only that the person
was conducting an illegal enterprise, but that he was willing (?) to commit
murder to further his endeavors. There always has been a black market for
any activities. Some, like selling pot, seem to be morally positive to a lot of people...
murder, not so much. Perhaps, some people legitimately need one of these
illegal substances, and, albeit, more expensive, this type of venue might be a
safer alternative than the street. If there is a need and a possibility to fill that need,
as [insert clever] pointed out, "nature will find a way" as Jeff Goldblum pointed out
in Jurassic Park.
posted by eggtooth at 9:46 PM on October 2, 2013


Hey, think of this: this guy and Dotcom both made
humongous fortunes and survived...will this guy go to prison?
It's not open and shut. And Dotcom has started over, hasn't he?

You think all the Jackal geniuses out the aren't burning up
their keyboards right now? There's gold in them thar
coins.
posted by eggtooth at 10:40 PM on October 2, 2013


Someone uploaded another copy of the StoryCorps interview with the guy
posted by Bwithh at 10:41 PM on October 2, 2013


listening to this video is like listening to pimply
meglomaniacs....it's amazing and wonderful.
posted by eggtooth at 10:55 PM on October 2, 2013


There was a competitor to silk road, Atlantis, but it turned out to be a scam, the owner ran off with all the money.
posted by Iax at 11:00 PM on October 2, 2013


"an upgrade from Chad...Chad 2.0"
posted by eggtooth at 11:08 PM on October 2, 2013


"I'm pissed I had to kill him ... but what's done is done," Dread Pirate Roberts allegedly wrote
"Allegedly" is pretty important. I'm still not convinced this "hit" even happened, or, if it did happen, we're getting anything like the whole story.

Also, I like how it goes from "this guy (may) have set up a hit on someone who was threatening to send him to an American prison" to "lmao look at this nerds fuckin youtube". I don't know what's more depressing: the idea that this is being pushed and we're just going along with it, or that people are doing this naturally.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:47 PM on October 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah I agree it's important to keep in mind all these are alleged crimes and a story so far 100% told by the FBI. The true account may end up being that DPR is as stupid and casually malicious as we're hearing now (seriously, hit men?!) but the FBI has not always proven to be a trustworthy source of information about their suspects.

I'm wondering about the physical nab at the Glen Park library. How does that work? They wait for his laptop to show up online, figure out the building based on the IP address? Maybe he'd used that library before so they knew to watch out for it. They already have a photo of him from the forged identity cards, so I guess finding him in the building didn't require any special effort.

I'm also dying to know who all in the SF computer enthusiast network knows this guy. It's a small town. I've got to think he hung out at Noisebridge or went to cryptoenthusiast Meetups or something.
posted by Nelson at 12:44 AM on October 3, 2013


"So far, nothing about [the Silk Road] case makes us think that there are new ways to compromise Tor (the software or the network). The FBI says that their suspect made mistakes in operational security, and was found through actual detective work."
posted by jeffburdges at 1:23 AM on October 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry about the digression, but for me this underlines how unnecessary it is for the NSA to know everybody's shoe size and how often we call home. You can go after even the most anonymous criminal targets and bring them down using old fashioned detective work. There's no need to break encryption for everybody.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:30 AM on October 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, I have absolutely no idea how I would go about finding a hitman if I wanted someone whacked. I guess it's probably easier if you're running an online drug sale site, but still... "Hey, anybody know somebody who will kill somebody for me?"

MeMail scarabic?
posted by jaduncan at 3:17 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heh, this headline just showed up in my RSS Feed. It really had me for a second.
posted by gman at 3:51 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also from Texas and in trouble with the Feds: Ladar Levinson, of LavaBit, who, it turns out, had been ordered to hand over private keys but had resisted, finally shutting his site down.

I wonder what they'll charge him with. (Aiding The Enemy/some form of treason?)
posted by acb at 4:09 AM on October 3, 2013


"Allegedly" is pretty important. I'm still not convinced this "hit" even happened, or, if it did happen, we're getting anything like the whole story.

I would guess that the arrested-employee-turned-FBI-informant was instructed to tell Ulbricht he had struck a deal where he, the informant, would go free in exchange for giving the FBI information on Ulbricht. This would have been accompanied by significant encouragement from the FBI undercover agent to Ulbricht that he could take care of the problem, via a beating of the informant, for a fee. Ulbricht, panicking, agrees, and then the undercover agent upsells him from a beating to a murder.
posted by kithrater at 5:12 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


They've locked down /r/silkroad as private, it was a pretty interesting read last night.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:40 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, I appreciate a healthy amount of skepticism for criminal complaints. On the other hand, there's no need to create an elaborate, alternative narrative - a narrative which does not do a better job of explaining anything, but seems to exist only to morally absolve Ulbricht of soliciting a hit.

This new narrative is especially unbelievable when such a narrative 1) requires many additional facts not in evidence, 2) requires us to believe that an FBI informant was blackmailing Ulbricht, 3) requires us to believe that the FBI agent pretending to be a hit man was only offering a beating at first, and it was only as a result of the agent's hectoring that Ulbricht stooped so low as to accept a hit instead of a beating, despite the fact that 4) there would be no legal benefit for the FBI to omit the alleged upselling, as it would not constitute a legal defense for Ulbricht, and 5) the full chat logs would show this communication anyhow, so it would be useless to pretend otherwise.

Why is it so unreasonable to believe that Ulbricht would call for a hit? I mean, if Ulbricht was a someone more stereotypically associated with organized crime - if he was someone other than a white, well-educated engineer from the Bay Area who posts an-cap screeds - would there be the same amount of doubt that such a person would do such a thing?
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:40 AM on October 3, 2013


They've locked down /r/silkroad as private, it was a pretty interesting read last night.

The anarcho-capitalism subreddit was quite a roller coaster as well. The most interesting were the people saying that murdering a blackmailer would not violate the non-aggression principle.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:43 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, there's no need to create an elaborate, alternative narrative - a narrative which does not do a better job of explaining anything, but seems to exist only to morally absolve Ulbricht of soliciting a hit ... if he was someone other than a white, well-educated engineer from the Bay Area [...] would there be the same amount of doubt that such a person would do such a thing

Irony abounds.

More seriously, I'm engaging in some idle speculation on what might be untold - I've no problem finding Ulbricht morally reprehensible for attempting to arrange murder, unless there are some truly otherworldly circumstances behind it (and my theory comes nowhere close to justifying it).

In pursuance of speculation: law enforcement routinely engages in hitmen stings. The FBI routinely encourages would-be criminals to commit increasingly dangerous activities, as per numerous foiled "terrorist" plots. The FBI's deal with the employee-turned-informant may prevent them from releasing these details at present. And the FBI may be withholding information now to better win the media battle to put further pressure on Ulbricht to plead guilty and avoid the need for a trial.
posted by kithrater at 5:52 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Irony abounds.

No, but I don't want to derail the thread over this.

In pursuance of speculation: law enforcement routinely engages in hitmen stings.

Yes, agreed.

The FBI routinely encourages would-be criminals to commit increasingly dangerous activities, as per numerous foiled "terrorist" plots.

Yes, and the reason wee find out about it because the FBI releases that communication. It hasn't been kept secret. You are speculating that this escalation had existed in this case, but the FBI had then, for this case, omitted any reference to it. It doesn't fit past behavior from the FBI, it doesn't make sense for the FBI to do, and it doesn't explain anything about the case.

The FBI's deal with the employee-turned-informant may prevent them from releasing these details at present.

This is irrelevant. The alleged informant wasn't the hit man, whether or not the hit man was an undercover agent. You don't need to breathe a word about the informant in order to say that the hitman was an undercover agent.

And the FBI may be withholding information now to better win the media battle to put further pressure on Ulbricht to plead guilty and avoid the need for a trial.

This objective isn't being achieved, nor would a reasonable person believe that this would have achieved that objective. Ulbricht has quite a mountain of evidence against him for all sorts of things. Whether or not he personally had initiated "execution" talk is not going to sway the public, nor will it sway Ulbricht. Nor would this kind of gamesmanship fit past FBI behavior, which had consistently exposed that would-be terrorists were typically responding to escalating offers from undercover agents.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:31 AM on October 3, 2013


Ulbricht has quite a mountain of evidence against him for all sorts of things.

And he was being blackmailed with logged information. The takeaway is that public exposure is an information fingerprint.
posted by Brian B. at 6:48 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Couple of links from the reddit thread, which I can still see (because I'm logged in, maybe?).

The first "hit" that DPR ordered was a setup with an undercover agent. This is the one for 80K.

Raids on various vendors may be underway.
posted by jquinby at 6:58 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, and do you know the reason why you know about this? We find out about it because the FBI releases that communication. It hasn't been kept secret.

I said it wasn't being released now, not that it would be kept secret forever. For example, in the case of the Newburgh Four, the initial indictment's description of the role of the informant is significantly more passive than later descriptions of the informant's role.
posted by kithrater at 7:05 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


"and then the undercover agent upsells him from a beating to a murder."

That's just good customer service.
posted by klangklangston at 8:19 AM on October 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


If anyone's still interested, I found this to be an interesting analysis of some of the many different angles brought up by the complaint.
posted by antonymous at 8:39 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good link, antonymous.

This part really caught my attention:

And then, guess who gets "referred" by FriendlyChemist as the "vendor" owed the money? [SilkRoad user] "redandwhite", which as anyone will likely know, is a not-subtle reference to folks who would NOT use such a name in such a situation. Ever. In a billion, billion years. But one might assume, if one were creating such a sting, that DPR - not being "of that world" - would not know that, and with a bit of Googling would think "oh, wow, I see, yeah that makes sense... now I understand." It's all put there on a plate, ready to be devoured by a hungry man. With hook carefully hidden inside.
...
If DPR buys the bait that redandwhite is who he will, inevitably, think it is - I'm not spelling it out, and please don't do so in this thread - the he's likely to let his guard down. This was not a "SR vendor" we're talking about here... not at all. Based on that reputation, and on the "hit" he's just successfully executed with them - he never hears from (the nonexistent, sham vendor) FriendlyChemist again, and concludes the hit must have been successful - he's going to be far more likely to trust in this deal.


...
Further, nobody would use that alias falsely - nobody with half a fucking brain. So, to someone inexperienced, that gives it a whiff of authenticity. It'd be like walking into a boxing gym and claiming to be Mike Tyson, or something - you are not going to like the results of falsely "fronting" that name.



Anybody know who he is referring to? Who would "redandwhite" be a reference to?
posted by meadowlark lime at 9:59 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


That poster followed up with a few more links that clarify things.

From wiki: In the United States and Canada, the Hells Angels are incorporated as the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation. Common nicknames for the club are the "H.A.", "Red & White", and "81" (H and A being the eighth and first letters of the alphabet).
posted by meadowlark lime at 10:05 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


And here I was typing out my theory on how the Russian Civil War was a metaphor for the goings-on.
posted by griphus at 10:09 AM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The FriendlyChemist/redandwhite dialogue, with the handoff and all, reads a bit like a more clever version of a 419 scam.

It may be excess paranoia but I agree with much of that cryptostorm analysis. DPR seems to have had an enormous disconnect between his real-world personality and what he was capable of as an Internet drug kingpin. The FBI would have loved milking that for everything they could before shutting the site down.
posted by shii at 10:22 AM on October 3, 2013


His roommate had no idea what was going on.

"On Saturday nite we went to the beach and later we jammed. He played his Djembe drum while I played piano and my friend sang. Everything seems really surreal right now," Jef wrote."

In real life Ulbricht seems exactly like ten thousand other young people hoping to make their fortune in San Francisco. He just had a different life online.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:54 AM on October 3, 2013


In real life Ulbricht seems exactly like ten thousand other young people hoping to make their fortune in San Francisco. He just had a different life online.

Which makes him just like those ten thousand other young people.
posted by Etrigan at 10:56 AM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh, I knew this guy in high school.
posted by zbsachs at 11:52 AM on October 3, 2013


Dish.
posted by meadowlark lime at 12:00 PM on October 3, 2013


Did he talk about the UN?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:14 PM on October 3, 2013


Not very well, mind you. (Also the other fellow in the Youtube video.)

If Ross had politics back then, which I doubt, I got no whiff of it. Typical Austin slacker. Wouldn't hurt a fly, etc.
posted by zbsachs at 12:21 PM on October 3, 2013


Perhaps to the Dread Pirate, a "FriendlyChemist" seemed considerably less real than a fly.

And, as it turns out, probably was.
posted by zbsachs at 12:24 PM on October 3, 2013


The FriendlyChemist/redandwhite dealio reminds me a little of Blood Simple's first act. What's easier than a hit? Faking a hit. In Blood Simple, the hit man faked the hit and then killed the mark; here, the "hit man" may have "killed" someone who never existed in the first place.

Good work if you can get it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:59 PM on October 3, 2013


For the price sensitive shopper silk road may not have been the best deal:
Silk Road Vs. Street: A Comparison Of Drug Prices
posted by 26.2 at 2:42 PM on October 3, 2013


Pretty sure Silk Road's draw wasn't beat the street pricing.
posted by Mitheral at 3:15 PM on October 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it was more that you didn't have to risk getting beat on the street.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:18 PM on October 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, like, the FBI alone has literally killed people by stalking them to suicide, so uh...
The anarcho-capitalism subreddit was quite a roller coaster as well.

Ain't the guy who owns that site you go to a libertarian
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:23 PM on October 3, 2013


Anybody know who he is referring to? Who would "redandwhite" be a reference to?

Is he not from Canada? The same speculator also seem surprised as to why someone would use their own photo in a fake ID, as if any photo would do.
posted by Brian B. at 5:58 PM on October 3, 2013


Well, if the fake id is just to secure web hosting then actually any picture would do.
posted by Iax at 7:10 PM on October 3, 2013


Yeah, it was more that you didn't have to risk getting beat on the street.

Wasn't the merchandise on Silk Road also more likely to be pure than some random shit bought from some guy on a street corner?
posted by acb at 1:41 AM on October 4, 2013


Also, that comparison uses a fixed conversion rate of US$140 = BTC 1, which is the highest rate I've seen for ages - for most of the last 6 months it's been closer to $105ish. And for a big chunk of Silk Road's existence it was far lower.

At the very least, pick an average rate, if you can't convert each transaction to $ at the current rate.

But yeah, there were a lot of other reasons someone might want to use it other than straight price comparison.
posted by wilberforce at 3:32 AM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Silk Road Trackers
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:32 AM on October 4, 2013


The implication in that blog post is that redandwhite is a reference to the hells angels.
posted by pixie at 7:07 AM on October 4, 2013


Someone found the blockchain containing all the coins seized from SilkRoad (~$3.5m worth).

Here is the address: https://blockchain.info/address/1F1tAaz5x1HUXrCNLbtMDqcw6o5GNn4xqX

The hilarious thing is that some anti-fed people are sending more BitCoins to the address -- one guy sent .1337 BTC. And they are adding public notes to the transaction: "Members of the FBI, are you more interested in control or in justice?", and some links to Wikipedia articles about CIA drug trafficking, etc.
posted by meadowlark lime at 8:20 AM on October 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the government should load the bitcoins they seized on to a USB stick and have NASA launch it into the sun.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:17 AM on October 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you do that, it'll only drive the price up!

I notice that the market seems to have recovered from the crash earlier this week.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 9:30 AM on October 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: "I think the government should load the bitcoins they seized on to a USB stick and have NASA launch it into the sun."

It'd be worth it just to watch thousands of Shruggalo heads exploding.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:32 AM on October 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Almost all the bitcoins are controlled by only a couple people anyways. Just identify those coin holders from their IP addresses, hack their servers, and take their coins. Or take their coins using an NSL if they're kept offline. Or blackmail them with CFAA charges. etc. Voila U.S. gains control over the de facto central bitcoin bank.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:50 AM on October 4, 2013


I've never looked at a blockchain before yet I am unsurprised that it has spam in it. If rule 34 is for porn, then rule 35 must be for spam.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:24 PM on October 4, 2013


"Though he can certainly afford excellent lawyers."

...and where would a seemingly unemployed, low-rent slacker get the money to do that?

Something tells me that right about now, his Bitcoins are somewhat less useful to him than, say, Monopoly money.
posted by markkraft at 5:00 PM on October 4, 2013


They have Monopoly inside now? I was thinking like...matchsticks. I don't think they can even smoke anymore. What will be the new unit of currency, chocolate puddin cups?
posted by nevercalm at 6:11 PM on October 4, 2013


The government could just add the bitcoins to the same vaults that hold foreign currency reserves and gold. If the bitcoin groupies are right then we've got another asset backing our currency, if they bitcoin people are wrong it is a couple million dollars at the moment, so not really much in the grand scheme of things.
posted by humanfont at 6:07 PM on October 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually, it's about $1.5 billion, humanfont. Not "big money" in government spending terms, but not a rounding error, either.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:11 AM on October 6, 2013


tonycpsu I think that chart is the total value of all bitcoins, not just the ones taken by the FBI when they arrested DPR.
posted by humanfont at 11:29 AM on October 6, 2013


Oh, I thought you were suggesting the feds start buying up the entire market. My apologies.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:31 AM on October 6, 2013


The feds doing anything but sitting on the bitcoins sure would add legitimacy to the market.
posted by Mitheral at 11:33 AM on October 6, 2013


According to at least one source, the feds haven't seized DPR's bitcoins yet, estimated at 600K, or close to 80 million dollars.
posted by Brian B. at 11:56 AM on October 6, 2013


Bitcoin Seized From Silk Road Is In A Highly Prankable FBI Wallet
Apparently refers to Silk Road's escrow wallet, not wallets holding DPR's take.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:30 PM on October 6, 2013


Schneier : Silk Road Author Arrested Due to Bad Operational Security
posted by jeffburdges at 3:27 PM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gee... I thought he was arrested because he was a criminal.

The fact is, he was going to go down anyway, no matter how good his security was. I suspect he knew this, even though he was willing to have people killed to delay the inevitable.

He really didn't make a lot of mistakes, considering how long he got away with it. It's really easy to slip up, but even if you don't, it's not necessary to bust the ringmaster. You only need to turn someone important enough to have trusted access to the ringmaster. Your security is no better than that of the least careful person who you'd drop your guard for, even marginally, even momentarily.

Really, if I were doing something illegal on TOR, I would stop immediately. It's less safe and a more obvious target than all sorts of other alternatives, where it's easier to hide in plain sight.
posted by markkraft at 7:33 AM on October 8, 2013


First British Silk Road suspects arrested by new National Crime Agency
posted by tonycpsu at 8:28 AM on October 8, 2013


FBI Director Uses Appearance At International Police Convention To Complain About FBI Budget Cuts
posted by jeffburdges at 12:28 PM on October 24, 2013


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