Posts Tagged ‘dark web’

Whilst headlines and fund-raising efforts have been concentrated on Ross Ulbricht, accused of being Silk Road mastermind Dread Pirate Roberts, three other men have been stuck in limbo awaiting their fate outside of the limelight. But the three have been spending that time very differently indeed.

In December last year, three arrests were made concurrently in three different countries under the same indictment. Andrew Jones, USA, was accused of being Silk Road administrator “Inigo”; Gary Davis, Ireland, of being administrator “Libertas”; and Peter Nash, Australia, of being Silk Road forum moderator “Samesamebutdifferent” (SSBD).

Of the three co-accused, one has been in prison the whole time. One is under house arrest. One is basically a free man. But their fates seem to have little to do with the roles they allegedly played in the drugs marketplace.

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‘This could be it. This could be the killer application for bitcoin’ – Free Talk Live host, March 2011

Old School Silk Road... it came a long way

Old School Silk Road… it came a long way

Whilst researching the early days of Silk Road for my book, I came across a wonderful little piece of history: a radio show by Free Talk Live which ran a comprehensive piece on Silk Road on 17 March 2011 – around six weeks after Silk Road had launched and a good two-and-a-half months before Adrian Chen’s Gawker article. At the time, Silk Road had 151 registered users, 38 listings and 28 transactions to date. By the time it was shuttered in October 2013, it had just shy of a million registered users.

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VICE is onto the documentary, yours truly is bringing a book out. But who would’ve guessed that the most notorious online black market in the world could be coming to a theatre near you?

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Emerging playwright Alex Oates plans to bring his one-man play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. Like many young writers, he’s hoping to raise the funds for it – at least GBP11,000 – via crowdfunding. But his approach is a little different.

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SSBD had no role to play in the Silk Road marketplace where drugs were bought and sold.  He was a moderator of the Silk Road discussion forum, which had its own URL and was hosted on a different server to the marketplace. So why is the US so determined to extradite someone who may or may not be him?

Peter Philip Nash has been sitting in a Brisbane jail cell since 20 December 2013.

He is facing extradition to the United States to face allegations of narcotics conspiracy (maximum sentence of life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years); conspiracy to commit computer hacking (maximum 5 years) and money laundering conspiracy, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

scales-of-injustice

According to the US Indictment, Nash was known online as “samesamebutdifferent”, better known to Silk Road members as SSBD. SSBD was a well-loved moderator of the now defunct Silk Road discussion forums (new forums, colloquially known as SR2, have replaced the old). His job was to answer questions, explain the rules, move posts to their proper forum (with over a million posts, many were bound to wind up in the wrong place) and generally attend to banal administrative tasks.

In any event, Nash may or may not be SSBD.  But even if he is. What exactly was SSBD’s crime?

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As my book deadline closes in really really fast, there are a few people I was having email correspondence with who used Tormail addresses and I’ve now lost contact. I really would like to hear from them again. And a few others to boot…

Help me get this Silk Road book finished!

Help me get this Silk Road book finished!

The rub is, I don’t want to name the three I most want to hear back from, because I promised I wouldn’t out them by username. So… if you think there’s any chance you might be one of the people I’m talking about, please get in contact soon! Think money laundering, security, moderating…

And it’s a long shot, but if Atlantis’s Loera and/or Vlad, or EnterTheMatrix or Tony76 (assuming you haven’t really been contract-killed) would care to get in touch with me I’d love to hear from you too. :)

Anyone else who has anything unique to share – especially ex-SR mods/admins or No.1 vendors or anyone who got arrested etc – who would care to get in touch, please do.

I’ve had an overwhelming number of SR buyers and sellers tell me their stories or offer to help and have tried to respond to them all, but if I missed you, please accept my most sincere apologies.

x Eiley

Silk Road may be gone and Silk Road v.2 yet to prove itself, but the site has become culturally significant enough to attract the attention of some serious academic researchers. And unlike the plethora of tabloid news pieces, their starting position is not always that the online black market is a den of evil inhabited by junkies and thieves with no redeeming features whatsoever.

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The National Drug and Research Institute is a Curtin University-backed research body committed to minimising the harm associated with drug use. The NDRI is calling for Silk Road users to participate in research and interviews about their experiences using the site.

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It’s been just over a month since Silk Road got seized and Ross Ulbricht, allegedly the site’s founder Dread Pirate Roberts, was arrested. A new Silk Road market has opened up, 24 hours after a false start which saw administration try to get things going at the poetic time of  4:20 pm GMT on 5th November . But is it truly the phoenix of Silk Road, a honeypot or an ingenious con?

This is what visitors will be greeted with at the new Silk Road.  More screenshots below

This is what visitors will be greeted with at the new Silk Road. More screenshots below

Few people imagined that the closure of the largest illicit drugs market in the world would stop people from wanting to procure narcotics. In fact many predicted it would set off the so-called ‘Hydra effect’ – cut off the head and five more spring up in its place. And that’s pretty much what happened.

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Since the arrest of Ross Ulbricht, allegedly Silk Road’s Dread Pirate Roberts, conspiracy theories have been coming thick and fast and they range from the plausible to the absurd.

tin_foil_hat

A lot of them involve his friend Rene Pinnell, for whom Ulbricht relocated to San Francisco – either that Pinnell is the real DPR and set Ulbricht up for the fall right from the beginning, or they are in it together and will provide each other’s reasonable doubt. Then there’s the one that it’s all an ingenious ruse that is going to plan so that double jeopardy laws can be invoked later. Or it’s all a setup so law enforcement can be seen to have done something. Or there’s a good chance of parallel construction of evidence by the authorities.

I’m not much one for wearing a tinfoil hat, though I get a kick out of reading all the theories. But there has been something odd happening, which probably has a totally innocent explanation, but it’s a bit weird.

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I owe much of this post to the work of Nicolas Christin, the researcher who previously provided the analysis of Silk Road’s income. He is much cleverer than me or you. Give him a follow on @nc2y

One of the most dramatic revelations to come out of the New York Criminal Complaint in relation to Ross Ulbricht, the alleged Dread Pirate Roberts, was that Silk Road had enjoyed a turnover of $1.2 billion since its inception 2½ years ago, which equated to a commission of $80 million for its owner.

This is how we have been reporting the FBI's claims

This is how we have been reporting the FBI’s claims

Actually, that’s not exactly what the document said. What it said was:

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There are certainly winners from last week’s shutdown of Silk Road, the online black market where every illicit drug imaginable could be bought at the click of a button. But it’s not a win for the War on Drugs, nor for people affected by drug addiction, or for the Australian taxpayer.  The people who will welcome the FBI’s seizure of the site most enthusiastically will be bikie gangs and other organised crime involved in illegal drug importation.

Back when I first started reporting in the mainstream about Silk Road, I wrote a post, ‘Why politicians and law enforcement should embrace Silk Road‘. I argued it was a safer alternative than the current model and reduced the violence associated with the illegal drug trade.

Winning! You can buy your drugs from him now

Winning! You can buy your drugs from him now

Now that Silk Road has been closed down and hard-earned tax dollars all over the world are being spent busting computer nerds, amongst the hyperbole and hysteria that comes from much of the mainstream media, there are some commentators piping up with the same arguments. Because they make sense.

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