Comcast Supposedly Monitoring Tor Users And Banning Them

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comcastAccording to at least two Comcast users, agents of the company recently contacted them and told them to quit using Tor — or face a ban from Comcast’s service. The reason, according to these users, Tor provides access to illegal sites such as Silkroad. Shortly after these reports surfaced, however, Comcast issued a statement denying they had threatened anyone for using Tor or Silkroad and saying Tor users were welcome at the company.

In other words, though it’s not clear whether Comcast went after Tor or Silkroad users in the past, it’s unlikely they will try and go after Tor or Silkroad users in the future.

The controversy began when someone posted in the Reddit /r/darknetmarkets forum (where people discuss markets like Silkroad) claiming they’d received a call from a Comcast agent. The agent supposedly told this person Tor was an illegal service, using it was against the Comcast Terms of Service, and provided access to illegal markets like Silkroad.

Tor Browser

The user asked to speak with the manager and was told the manager wasn’t available, so he called Comcast back the following day. An agent named Kelly roughly confirmed the policy, saying people who try to cover their tracks are usually doing things that aren’t legal — again, assuming that all Tor users are Silkroad users.

A second report of similar treatment by Comcast agents was submitted directly to the Deep Dot Web darkweb news site, which covers Silkroad and similar markets.

comcastThe implication of this policy is that Comcast actively monitors its users’ online activity to check whether they are following the Terms of Service. The Tor Project has previously listed Comcast as a “bad ISP” which is not Tor-friendly, though not because of any specific anti-Tor or anti- Silkroad policies — Tor’s objection is that the Comcast Acceptable Use policy forbids running proxies or servers.

Comcast, on the other hand, states they do not monitor specific accounts unless they are presented with a court order. Even then, according to Comcast, they would attempt to notify the affected user so they could hire a lawyer and deal directly with the judge.

Deep Dot Web notes that Comcast’s behavior in the “Dread Pirate Roberts” Silkroad case is strongly at odds with this claim. Comcast also actively monitors the internet usage of its customers as part of Comcast’s Six Strikes program.

TorThis program has nothing to do with Tor or Silkroad, but rather focuses on copyright infringement. If Comcast catches its customers pirating copyrighted material, they receive an email from Comcast telling them to stop doing this. After a total of six such infractions their account may be terminated.

Comcast’s Statement

Two days after the Deep Dot Web report hit the internet; Comcast released a statement from its VP of Internet Services, Jason Livingood, denying many of the claims made by Deep Dot Web. According to Livingood, the idea that the company has “declared war” on Tor or Silkroad” is “totally inaccurate.”

SilkRoad JailLivingood states that Comcast is not asking users to discontinue using the Tor browser software or any other browser. The company has no policy against itor any other specific software, and customers can visit any website or use any app they like with their Comcast service.

Furthermore, Livingood’s statement claims that Comcast does not monitor customer software or web usage. The “chat room” evidence from the Deep Dot Web story is, in his eyes, not accurate. Instead, Comcast only investigates or discloses information about customer accounts when presented with a valid court order.

What’s more, the Deep Dot Web claim that Comcast terminates customers under the Six Strikes program is (according to Livingood) false — he calls it a voluntary, educational, and non-punitive program. He does not, however, deny monitoring internet activity under this program.

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Latest Court Proceedings Update On Ross Ulbricht

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Ross William UlbrichtProsecution of the alleged creator of Silkroad Ross Ulbricht has had a minor triumph after a United States court rejected attempts to have the suit dismissed. The defense lawyer had in March 2014 made attempts seeking to have the judge refuse any further hearing on the case challenging allegations that Mr. Ulbricht conspired directly with silkroad customers. The suit to dismiss had also cited fault in the legal parameters defining money laundering stressing that bit coin is not covered within the confines of money laundering law.

While dismissing Mr. Ulbricht’s claims, a US district judge said the government’s case had enough grounds to have the alleged creator of Silkroad prosecuted. The court recognized that bit coins have value and that they are used purposely as a store of the same and a means of exchange. The court reiterated that prosecution has cause to show Mr. Ulbricht acted in the capacity of Silkroad’s ringleader further adding that if or not the government can substantiate these claims at this point in time is not important.

Ross William Ulbricht

Mr. Ulbricht’s defense had sought to raise doubts on the narcotics and money laundering charges as such discrediting the validity of the case as presented by the prosecutors. The defense presented in court documents that showed the defendant never acted or held a managerial position in Silkroad especially among its community. The defense attorney also pointed out that prosecution had not presented evidence to prove Mr. Ulbricht’s involvement in managerial roles.

Silkroad

With the court rejecting this motion to dismiss, Silkroad’s alleged creator now looks at a trial that is tentatively slated to start in November 3rd. If convicted, he faces imprisonment for continued criminal enterprise as well as computer hacking. His defense will now focus on arguing that Silkroad is an e-commerce site just like any other and should not be made to answer for illegal activities committed on the platform.

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Vendors Where Targeted By The Feds On The Original Silk Road

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On October 2013, the FBI shutdown Silkroad and arrested alleged mastermind Ross William Ulbricht. Ulbricht now faces charges of computer hacking, money laundering, conspiracy to traffic narcotics and planning murder. However, what is overlooked is the fact that there are been very few convictions of the vendors who used the website to run profitable illicit businesses.

Ross William Ulbricht

Silkroad began its life in February 2011, taking its name from the historical trade route in Asia. It quickly became the Internet’s most popular marketplace for illegal product. Thanks to Tor hidden services, users were able to browse Silkroad anonymously without having to worry about traffic being monitored. The underground site was home to a wide range of products for sale including books, art and apparel. However, it is best known as being the “Amazon.com of illegal drugs”. In March 2013, it was estimated that of 10,000 products that were on sale on Silkroad 70% were drugs.

This Hidden site Has Been SeizedThe first person to be convicted as a result of transactions on Silkroad was an Australian cocaine and MDMA dealer. This conviction was a result of importing drugs through the mail to Australia. When police searched through his home they found information linking him to his Silkroad areas on this computer. Another key arrest was that of Jacob Theodore George IV who a Silkroad vendor was named “Digital Link” who pleaded guilty to selling heroin and bath salts on the digital marketplace. Vendor Steven Lloyd Sadler with the name “NOD” was also arrested by Federal agents for selling cocaine and heroin. Both George and Sadler would later corporate with the government and the case against Ross Ulbricht.

bitcoinIn one 2013 study, it was estimated that there were between $30-$45 million in transactions annually through the Silkroad. In the Federal case against Ross Ulbricht it was alleged that there were 3,877 vendors actively doing business on the site. In comparison to the size of the trade volume and the number of vendors, there have been a relatively small numbers of arrests. These arrests also appear to be the result of postal intercepts and other drug investigations, rather than as a result of Silkroad being penetrated by the government.

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Could Illegal Sites Like Silkroad Be Good For Society?

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This Hidden site Has Been SeizedCertainly Silkroad and other illegal sites are beneficial to the society. Use of contraband drugs has only increased even as various governments have intensified the fight against illegal drugs. People want to get high they will get high no matter what you do but illegalsites like Silkroad provide safety.

Benefits of illegal sites like Silkroad

Reduce violence

While buying drugs on the streets chances of being assaulted or robbed are high. The gangs that sell these drugs also fight among themselves to secure their territories. This never happens online.

Quality drugs provided

In an attempt to make their drugs better or more intoxicating street vendors are susceptible of lacing them with harmful substances, which may be detrimental to the health of the consumer. Sellers on illegal sites like Silkroad sell quality drugs because one bad review may put you out of business immediately.

Affordable prices

Silk Road website

In the streets you do not have the luxury of comparing prices since you are afraid of getting caught .The street vendors know this and thus they sell at exorbitant prices, on online marketplace like Silkroad you can check the prices of all vendors and buy at an affordable price since they are all clamoring for customers.

Chances of being ripped off are lower

Your payment is held in escrow until you confirm you have received the merchandise then the seller gets it. In the streets the chances of being cheated are high.

Decongested prisons

Not many people are arrested selling or buying drugs online since they mostly are anonymous. Physical contact is minimal this leaves our jail cells less congested.

Drawback

The accessibility of drugs with no fear or little chance of being caught may cause a spike in drug abuse and peddling however, it is a mistake to blame illegal sites like Silkroad for that since they did not introduce them to the society. Furthermore they have ensuredpeople consume uncontaminated drugs and violence has reduced in our streets. Aren’t our streets safer?

Silkroad also sells art, biotic materials, books, collectibles, and digital goods all at competitive prices. It has improved the lives of the poor by making less drug peddlers be around their neighborhoods.

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