Posts Tagged ‘darknet’

Last Wednesday I went along to sit in on the plea hearing of the first major Australian ‘Silk Road’ case, expecting to perhaps get a blog post out of it.  I never expected what would come next.

Where's the love SR?

Where’s the love SR?

The court heard evidence of 12 parcels containing drugs that had been intercepted between 27 March and 29 June 2012.  In his opening, the defence barrister said he would be tendering a news article into evidence that he claimed led his client to discover Silk Road. I figured it couldn’t be one of mine, as the first time I had ever written about Silk Road was 27 April 2012.

The prosecution’s case covered:

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Ever since the suspected DDoS attack in November, the admins at Silk Road have been combating a number of different scams and attacks on the site.

The Quickbuy Scam (see below) - this vendor's image has been hacked with a fake bitcoin address

The Quickbuy Scam (see below) – this vendor’s image has been hacked with a fake bitcoin address

It’s hard to tell whether this is a concerted attack by one group determined to piss the website off or each one is separate. The most pervasive ones have been:

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Unless you’ve been under a rock, you would be aware that there are thriving underground black markets on the darkweb, offering everything from drugs to shrunken heads for sale.  Many of these markets offer the purchaser a new identity.

Image

I figured if I was going to be anyone it might as well be the Mother of Dragons

The difference between buying drugs online and buying a fake ID is that the purchaser of the latter is forced to lose some anonymity.  Drug purchasers can use a fake name and a ‘drop’ address, such as a vacant house where they can access the letterbox.  When purchasing a licence or passport the purchaser can take the same precautions but must, of course, provide a photograph.  So it’s no surprise that potential buyers are wary of anonymous sellers on black market websites.  Most people assume the sellers to be scammers, whilst the more paranoid are concerned that law enforcement is creating a honeypot.

One such seller on a marketplace on the darkweb, frustrated at being stonewalled by suspicious potential purchasers, made me a startling offer – he would provide me a NSW driver licence for free to use in an article I’ve been researching on identity theft.  An offer too good not to take up.

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When researching my story The New Underbelly, I wound up, as you do, with reams of information, the vast majority of which didn’t make it to the article due to space constraints or because it wasn’t what my editor asked for.

I briefly quoted Dr Bill Glaser (and I hope I did not misrepresent him in any way) but our exchange was significantly longer and I’d like to share some things I learned about child porn and contact child sex offenders.

Whilst I did visit many of the sites mentioned in my article – including some of the gateways to the child porn sites – I did not download any child abuse material, i.e. I did not view any pictures or videos.  I have no interest in seeing such stuff for journalism purposes or otherwise.

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For two weeks, users of online drugs marketplace Silk Road have been unable to log in to the site more often than not, reporting timeouts, missing catchpas and other technical difficulties.  Millions of dollars in Bitcoin has been inaccessible to the site’s thousands of members and trading has halted.

Where’s my Bitcoins?

The reactions of the community have run the gamut from hopeful acceptance to threats of violence against the site’s owner, admins and other random anonymous people.  Amazon has stocked up on pitchforks and tinfoil hats as speculation on the forum has reached fever pitch.

Here are five of the theories for its temporary demise, in one easily-digestible blog:

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Some time back a report, supposedly commissioned by Qld police, was leaked via the dark web.  Of course, being the dark web, it was impossible to confirm its legitimacy but it was pretty convincing.  The discussion paper ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’ was an extensive critique and response to Silk Road, the online drugs marketplace, well researched and referenced.

Has Australian Customs really become suddenly much more efficient?

The report contained a list of vulnerabilities of Silk Road that could be targeted and came up mostly empty-handed.  This should come as no surprise given the brazenness with which the site continues to operate. The authors concluded that the most strategic tactic law enforcement could use would be ‘undermining user trust’.  This would not involve identification and investigation of users of the site, but rather disruption of the marketplace by becoming ‘trusted’ participants of the site and later undermining confidence and trust in a particular area.

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On Friday I wrote an Opinion piece for The Age based on an earlier blog about why I think Australia’s proposed data retention laws are not only an invasion of privacy, they are an expensive measure that simply won’t work.  Today The Age ran a longer journalistic piece about the laws.

This prompted a couple of tweets from the Twitter account that claims to represent the Australian arm of Anonymous:

Tweets by the group claiming to be the Australian arm of Anonymous

This is the same group who claimed responsibility for hacking ASIO earlier this year.  Here’s the pastebin dump of ‘targets’ for hacking that they refer to in the tweets above:

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So, we all know you can buy drugs online, but Silk Road is not the only marketplace on the dark web.  Here’s a few other things you might not have realised you can have for a price.

 

Redecorating?  For $1500 you can buy yourself a genuine shrunken human head.  This, I am assured, is $3500 less than the regular price (bet you didn’t know there was a regular price), but you get the head you’re given, no special requests.   The heads are for decoration; the seller is an artist and “creating them is something of a hobby to me”. (more…)

Is Silk Road’s owner – The Dread Pirate Roberts – sailing off into the sunset with wads of cash? Has he sold Silk Road as a going concern and included the goodwill of his name and reputation in the price?

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This image is probably very copyright to Sony and I’m sorry, but it is really really hard to find an appropriate image. Please don’t fine me, Sony

Today the owner of Silk Road announced the closure of its sister site, the weapons-dealing Armory.  The reason was not heat from law enforcement or negative press, it was simply that the site was not profitable and members complained that many listings were scams.

There are dozens of black market sites selling all manner of things on the Dark Web, but only Silk Road seems to have any real commercial success.  The closure of the Armory raises the question of whether it is the business model or the products that cause a market to fail.  Complaints of scams riddle the dark web and the online black market might not be as successful and prolific as some fear.  Is there something about drugs that inherently make them the only truly viable anonymous online black market product?

As I delved into the Dark Web I noticed a plethora of advertisements for contract killers. I decided to try and engage one of the more prolific advertisers, an organisation that claims to have many successful hits, to kill a fictitious ex-husband.  Here’s what transpired:

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