Posts Tagged ‘dark web’

If the Bitcointalk hackers are reading this, can you please let me know if I’m a lousy journo and missed the smoking gun, or if it was part of a deleted post?

I originally wrote the below in response to a lengthy, well thought-out comment by a reader on a previous blog about the changing face of Dread Pirate Roberts. But then I figured, why waste what became the length of a blog post in itself? So here is my comment, recycled and slightly amended.

I’ve been mulling over the conclusions I drew in my blog post a few weeks ago, “Which Pirate is That?” in light of revelations from the FBI documents following the arrest of Ross Ulbricht.  Clearly, if the FBI docs are accurate – the gmail address was linked to altoid in 2011 and they swooped on Ulbricht as he was logged in as DPR – then it looks like there was only ever one DPR.

Allegedly the previous 'nym of Dread Pirate Roberts

Allegedly the previous ‘nym of Dread Pirate Roberts

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Whilst many vendors and buyers have migrated to Silk Road’s two remaining competitors, Black Market Reloaded and Sheep Marketplace, other members have been working around the clock to develop and launch Silk Road 2.0.

Soon this will be Silk Road 2.0

Soon this will be Silk Road 2.0

Ex-Atlantis mod, Heisenberg2.0, claims to have counted “at least 5 publicly stated projects with the said aim of becoming “Silk Road 2.0″ and many more gathering info and building alliances.”

The main contenders are a team of allegedly trusted and verified Silk Road vendors who are working together to recreate the black market virtually identically. A forum has already been created that mirrors the original and its members have been given a sneak peek at the layout of the new marketplace, which will operate under the same philosophy and rules as the old one.

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According to FBI documents, Dread Pirate Roberts claims to have carried out one hit and was haggling on price for another. But was he the victim of an elaborate hoax?

Did DPR really fall for a hitman hoax like this?

Did DPR really fall for a hitman hoax like this?

According to the FBI’s Criminal Complaint, Silk Road’s owner, the Dread Pirate Roberts, sought to engage a hitman to deal with a blackmailer who was threatening to expose names and addresses of some of the site’s top vendors. DPR allegedly exchanged messages with someone called “redandwhite” who offered to carry out the hit for between $150,000 and $300,000 depending on whether DPR wanted the hit to be “clean or unclean”.

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And so timezones screwed me over and I’ve just woken up to the news that the Dread Pirate Roberts has been arrested. I haven’t even had my second coffee yet, nor have I been able to digest what’s happened, but I’m pretty sure my blog is well on its way to most hits ever for a day.

What you'll see if you try to go to Silk Road today

What you’ll see if you try to go to Silk Road today – note the Silk Road Camel watermark

I’m getting quite a few hits from the UK’s Telegraph that is inventing weird stories about Silk Road providing access to real-life gladiator fights (not only do they not exist on the dark web, SR never even tried to scam anyone into believing they could provide access)

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Some Silk Road drug dealers are promising to donate a percentage of this week’s sales to charity

bitcoindonateimages

Black markets are supposed to be dangerous places. Drug dealers are bad guys. Drug users are selfish hedonists who would steal from their Grandma for a fix.

Except when they’re not.

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“Atlantis admins shut down the site and ran away with the coins. It’s the truth.” - Cicero, Moderator of Atlantis Marketplace forum

Image: bitcoinexaminer.org.

Image: bitcoinexaminer.org.

A little under six months ago – not long after they opened shop – I conducted the first in-depth interview with online drug barons Loera and Vladimir, founders of Atlantis Marketplace.  The two were excited at the prospect of not only wrenching market share from incumbent black market giant Silk Road, but also bringing new business in and legitimising the online illicit drug market space.

Last week, Atlantis announced it was shutting down due to mysterious and unspecified “security concerns”.

The announcement, repeated on the Atlantis Facebook page, official forum, Reddit and Twitter, called it “terrible news” and the owners sounded truly contrite. They gave users a week to withdraw their crypto-currency, after which it would be donated to a “drug-related charity”.  That was the last anybody ever heard from anyone representing the administration of Atlantis.

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Should Wikipedia draw a line at including links to illegal marketplaces or websites hosting objectionable content?  And does it have a duty to prevent its readers from becoming victims of phishing if they visit those links?

wikilogo

For such a short Wikipedia entry, Silk Road has been responsible for a lot of behind-the-scenes drama.

It started with a demand on 13 June 2011 (shortly after Silk Road first appeared on Wiki) that the whole entry be deleted by someone who apparently doubted you could really buy drugs online and have them delivered in the mail.  “The only references anyone has been able to provide are a Gawker blog article and a passing reference on a Guardian blog,” went the argument. “Heck, we’re still not entirely sure that it isn’t just a hoax…”

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Silk Road users have been shocked twice in the past two days when a forum member released names, addresses and order details of dozens of purported customers.

The user – first calling themselves ‘Info Wars’ and, once that account was banned, ‘Infowars’ – pounded the forums with repeats of the same post – a list of names and addresses, along with alleged drugs orders delivered to those addresses. Hundreds of posts were made before the user was banned and the forums taken offline ‘for maintenance’.

Silk Road down while the offending posts are removed

Silk Road down while the offending posts are removed

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Atlantis Marketplace has undertaken aggressive marketing of its site over the past few months, touting superior features to those offered by Silk Road.  Its aim has been to both attract new customers and lure clients away from the incumbent giant, but so far they must be underwhelmed by the response.

No stopping the Pirate (image: Forbes.com)

No stopping the Pirate (image: Forbes.com)

Attracting sellers has not been an issue.  Many of Silk Road’s top-rated vendors set up shop with Atlantis, enticed by waiver of set-up fees ($500 at Silk Road) and low commission rates (Silk Road takes a sliding scale from 10% of the first $50 to 1.5% of everything over $1000, vs Atlantis 6% of the first $50 down to 1% over $1000).  Atlantis went out of their way to verify their identities, and the vendors passed on the savings to their customers by way of lower prices.

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In Puberty Blues (the book, not the movie or TV show), there is a classic line where the protagonist’s mother warns her not to sit on the aisle at the movie theatre because “some pusher might come along and jab god-knows-what into your arm”.

An Aussie classic

An Aussie classic

Growing up I was always being warned about malevolent people who would seek me out and trick me into trying drugs, providing them for free until I was hooked.  Then they would charge extravagant prices once they had me in their evil clutches.  We had police officers coming to school to scare the bejeezus out of us with descriptions of the tricks they would use, disguising them as lollies, or jabbing us unexpectedly, with one hit leading to a lifetime of addiction and certain early death.

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