Police Bust Silk Road Dealers In Norway

According to report, the Norway police’s largest ever online drug bust resulted in 15 arrests last month. According to the police, they nabbed fifteen people who traded drugs on the dark web.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

the-12-worst-drugs-to-get-addict (1)Kripos, the National Criminal Investigation Service in Norway, launched an investigation under the code name “Operation Marco Polo” on the dark web. This turned out to be the largest operation to nab the perpetrators of organized drug crime in the country. An Oslo newspaper, Verdens Gang, reported that the sting operation culminated in the arrest of 15 people. Out the 15 arrested, it is believed that five men are the biggest online dealers of drugs in Norway.

The origin of the case can be traced to theSilk Roaddarknet site. The closure of the Silk Road marketplacein 2013 was attributed to the audacity of Ross Ulbricht (known by the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts), the founder of Silk Road, who posted his personal e-mail address in one of the forums.

Blake Benthall, who operated Silk Road 2.0 under the pseudonym Defcon, committed the same mistake when he registered a server in his own name. This enabled the U.S. authorities not only to shut down the operation of the Silk Road 2.0 site, but also to obtain a list of customers’ as well as vendors’ names. The list also contained the names of the Norwegian traders who made use of the Silk Road marketplace for selling drugs.

Norwegian operators used pseudonyms like “Kvalitetsbevisst,” “Alfa&Omega,” and “Deeplove” on different darknet marketsincluding Silk Road. The police has nabbed and indicted as many as 15 people – 13 men and two women – as part of the Marco Polo investigation since 2014. According to the authorities, the people who bought drugs from the dark web planned to sell them locally.

After a long period of monitoring darknet activities, the police were able to founda 150 marijuana plants in total in various stages of growth in the house’sbasement in Skien. In addition, the police confiscated over 80 communications devices. This included computers, memory sticks and hard drives. Information contained in some of these devices was inaccessibledue to high-quality encryptionand, therefore, were of not much use in police investigations.

Richard Beck Pedersen, who played a key role in Operation Marco Polo, said that the drug dealers could not be identified prior to the operation as the targets made use of technological camouflage right from 2013 to ensure anonymity.

download (7)Another challenge faced by Kripos was following the money trail. This is because the drug dealers accepted payment in bitcoins for the products they supplied. As the digital currency and the payment system are not backed by governments or banks, users carry out direct transactions and this makes things difficult for law enforcement agencies keep track of the movement of the cryptocurrency. Further, transactions were carried out on dark web under the hidden Tor network, which masked the identities of the Silk Road users.

According to Chief Investigator Olav Roisli, it is difficult to track money as there are several stages of transactions when digital currency is used. Further, the advantage of using the dark web was that it enabled the dealers to obtain a large customer base as the customers did not have to visit the country in order to purchase drugs.

The customers were mostly young people who used drugs for recreational purposes and usually have limited access to a physical drug market. Further, these youngsters who bought drugs would not have been able to get them without accessing the dark web.

It is expected that the Operation Marco Polo would be concluded before summer.

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FBI Team That Takedown Silk Road, Where Are They Now?

drugs-and-computer-10-4-131Buying drugs online has evolved from niche activity for the avante-garde tech-savvy individual to commonplace as it presents a convenient way for users to get what they need and want. The dark web has created a safer environment compared to meeting up with a bloke backed up by goons of bodyguards, and Silkroad rose up to be the best-known platform for illicit drugs soon after its launch in 2011 as the very first modern darknet market.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Silk Road 3.0 is BACK ONLINE and open for business. The team did a massive security overhaul on the site to try and make it more secure and anonymous.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3.0 Guide <<

As well as drugs, a host of other illegal products, wares and services were for sale at Silkroad, including fake passports, fake drivers’ licenses,hacking techniques, and digital goods such as pirated content. Despite harboring freedom for a good cause that rightfully serves Tor users with their privacy and security in mind, for these blatant reasons, the Silkroad was brought down- and it was no easy task.

After two and a half years in operation, the Silkroad servers were seized, the creator Dread Pirate Roberts has been unmasked, whilst both vendors and customers’ private accounts have been exposed to government scrutiny. This was not without the risks of dealing with America’s high-profile cybercriminals and trying to beat them in their own game, just like how they handled the Silkroad operators. The case was closed by no other than the FBI’s cyber-crime unit, a team who has managed to unwrap the tricky layers of The Onion Router and penetrated the Silkroad hideout.

Cybersecurity Mercenaries

Former FBI Agent Christopher Tarbell previously stated that Silkroad was the most sophisticated and extensive criminal marketplace during that time. He’s only one among top cybersecurity talents who have all found their way to greener pastures at the Berkeley Research Group (BRG).

In February, BRG proudly announced the new gang lineup off the world’s foremost cybersecurity experts and 2013’s Silkroad key investigators: Matthew Edman, former Tor developer and part of FBI Remote Operations Unit; Thomas Brown, former federal prosecutor named BRG’s Global Leader as director of cybersecurity and investigations; computer scientist Thomas Kiernan and digital extraction technician Ilhwan Yum as associate directors.

The significant names each played a crucial role in investigations aside from Silkroad, and prosecutions of groups such as Anonymous and LulzSec, while some worked with infamous hacktivist turned federal informant Hector Monsegur. Alongside Silkroad, they investigated a NASDAQ Russian hack, the $6 billion money-laundering case against Liberty Reserve’s cryptocurrency, the hacks of Citibank, PNC Bank, Rove Digital botnet, and Samarth Agrawal’s prosecution.

No doubt, their expertise and extensive experience beyond Silkroad on national security matters and intelligence agencies make each expert for hire invaluable to BRG. The titan consulting firm’s founder Dr. David Teece refers to Tom and his group as not in any way run-of-the-mill cybersecurity consultants, rather a veteran team that’s undeniably of incredible value to their clients across the board. Brown expresses that their strength lies in their experience, which does not only apply to critical cybersecurity issues and crises like the Silkroad case, but in their ability to work together which gives them confidence that will lead to top-notch results for their clients.

The Growth of the Private Industry

Indeed, the former FBI team that led to the Silkroad bust is highly valuable to federal law enforcement agencies, only the government is unable to keep up with salary perks the private industry can generously give. BRG clients include Bank of America, General Electric, and U.S. Steel, among many of the world’s biggest industries and wealthiest companies like the multi-billion-dollar tobacco giant Philip Morris which Teece successfully defended. The firm brings in annual revenue amounting to tens of millions of dollars.

Thomas Galati, NYPD intelligence chief
Thomas Galati, NYPD intelligence chief

Thomas Galati, NYPD intelligence chief, told Congress that the private industry provides a lot of opportunity which attracts the best people out there. James Comey, FBI Director, admits to the continual challenge of the Bureau when it comes to retaining good cybersecurity talent like the guys who went off the charts in the shutdown of the Silkroad dark web site.

The private industry of cybersecurity is expected to grow to more than $170 billion by the year 2020. To top it off, extending from the scope of the private sector is Hollywood’s 21st Century Fox offering high-paying deals for being exclusive sources for the studio’s book, feature articles, and highly anticipated movie based on the Silkroad case.

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Former Tor Developer Helped FBI To Bring Down Silk Road

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

How did the Feds manage to unmask Tor browser users, when The Onion Router is one tricky anonymity tool, layer after layer of relays? What steps did the FBI take to finally seize the Silk Road underground drug market and arrest the Tor hidden Silk Road site’s founder? It now makes sense- it was an insider’s job.

An eye for an eye. Tor for Tor.

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Chris Soghoian, technologist from ACLU

Chris Soghoian, technologist from ACLU stated that the U.S. government is hacking itself with one arm funding the Tor Project, and the other tasked to hack it.

Well, hiring someone with firsthand experience was the best way to go to beat Tor, and the person found fit for the job is cybersecurity expert and former Tor core developer Matthew J. Edman. The closure of darknet marketplace Silk Road alone has produced a series of dark web drug busts and nabs throughout the globe until today.

As Tor Project Software Developer

The nonprofit organization confirmed that Edman worked with them until the year 2009, and was subsequently employed by an FBI defense contractor to develop an anti-Tor malware.

In 2008, Matthew Edman joined the Tor Project same day as Jacob Appelbaum, hacker and journalist known for his work on WikiLeaks and as one of Edward Snowden’s staunchest supporter.

The developer was then working on Vidalia, a software designed to deliver an easier to use Tor by presenting people with a simplified interface. Tor dropped it in 2013 and replaced the Vidalia with other tools aimed towards improving user experience.

As Anti-Tor Malware Developer

In 2012, Edman functioned as senior cybersecurity engineer for Mitre Corporation and was assigned to the Remote Operations Unit of the FBI. This internal team catered to the development or purchase of exploits and hacking tools for the purpose if spying on potential targets.

He then became part of Operation Torpedo, built against 3 Tor hidden child pornography sites within the dark web. The malware he came up with, dubbed Torsploit has rendered at least 25 individuals de-anonymized and netted a total of 19 convictions.

Cornhusker: Unmasking Tor Users

Edman, together with Steven A. Smith, an FBI Special Agent, developed and took to customize, test, configure, and deploy the Cornhusker or Torsploit while at Mitre.

The malware aided the bureau by allowing agents to deanonymize Tor users with its primary task to gather identifying information. Torsploit has then been wielded in a number of investigations by US law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

FBI agents packed it inside a Flash file placed on each of the Operation Torpedo sites. The Cornhusker exploited Flash vulnerabilities whenever a Tor user had it enabled in order to reveal actual IP address being used, setting aside the Tor browser’s privacy protection and anonymity. The information is then sent to FBI servers along with a timestamp.

Court documents state that the Cornhusker has been stopped and FBI moved on to other malware and newer techniques meant to target a wider scope on Tor users.

Collaboration with the FBI Continues

download (5)Besides working on the aforementioned Operation Torpedo, Edman had a lion’s share in the federal agency’s shut down of Silk Road and conviction of its creator Ross Ulbricht.

He played a significant role, from tracking $13.4 million bitcoins in transactions which previously took place at the Silk Road marketplace, to tracing Ulbricht’s laptop that lead the FBI to him on October 2013 which brought an end to the Silk Road dark path.

Edman worked at FTI Consulting as senior director during this time covering the Silk Road investigation, and is currently a Berkeley Research Group key executive.

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Nucleus Vanished, Crypto Market Is One Of The Best Option

 

nucleusWhat’s happened to Nucleus? That is the question on everyone’s lips at the moment. The site has now been down for over a week and with many users screaming “exit scam!”, talk has now turned to which are the best darknet markets to migrate to. While plenty of people are now recommending Dream Market – due mainly to the affiliate bonuses that users can enjoy when new people sign up using their link – we recommend Crypto Market or as one of the best current options available for vendors and customers alike.

It feels like every other day another dark web market disappears. Wasn’t it just a few months ago we were lamenting the loss of Abraxas? Unfortunately, as is the common case, one of the populist favorites has yet again disappeared – and this time it was Nucleus, the second biggest of the darknet markets. With the days since the outage growing ever longer, it’s now time for Nucleus users to turn to other options.

What’s the best option for me?

While many will simply hop on over to AlphaBay, there are another options: Crypto Market (while Silk Road 3.0 is down for maintenance). Although Crypto Market isn’t the largest darknet market around, it is growing insanely fast, it has a dedicated following and is most definitely fully up and online, and has a surprisingly vast range of goods available. The market is a “clean” market, where child porn, terrorism, murder, violence, firearms, weapons, poisons, chemical weapons, etc. are not allowed for trade. Interestingly, Crypto Market also prohibits sales into and out of Russia, as well as Russian users. So, for Russian potential Crypto Market users, we recommend RAMP instead.

A little bit more about Crypto Market

Crypto Market is by the same markers as Silk Road 3.0 and sprung up in February of 2015, but has been down for a couple of months for security upgrades, making it a little over a year old. On the market you will find tens of thousands of listings, the majority of them being for various drugs. The biggest amount of listings are found in the Cannabis and eBooks categories, the latter being where you can find titles such as “Carding – The Complete Tutorial,” “Uncle fester – Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture 8th Ed.,” and the classic “Anarchist Cookbook 4.”

In fact, on Crypto Market, you will find a great many items that are not simply drug related, although there is plenty of that too – “5 Yellow Warner Bros 200mg+ XTC MDMA”, anyone?

Other features

crypto-tor-marketplace-logoThe Crypto Market features a useful news feed, where various vendors can post up special offers, new stock etc.,so if you’re not sure what you’re after you can have a browse around to see if anything new or interesting takes your fancy. Some good deals go up, and every now and then a vendor will have a fire sale.

There’s also a sales feed, where specific items that are on sale are advertised, along with their old prices so you can see how much of a bargain you’re actually going to get. The Crypto Market Q&A section is great for all levels of users, too.

The site isn’t quite as user friendly as Nucleus, but if you’ve been around the darknet markets long enough, you will know that UI doesn’t mean too much. There’s also a forum that is shared with Silk Road 3.0. New users to the forum will have to post five times before gaining access to the full forum. The Crypto Market/ Silk Road 3.0 forum contains interesting info about potential scams, good users to shop with and all sorts of help and bits and pieces.

As with all darknet marketplaces, joining up for this market, and conducting business on it, involves using heightened security measures to ensure your identity is protected and your Bitcoins stay safe.

Crypto Market will be one marketplace to watch in the aftermath of the Nucleus Market outage. If you’re looking for alternative trading places, why not sign up, have a look around and get yourself familiar with the place. You might like to try Crypto Market in combination with a few other markets, just to spread yourself around. After all, your best bet when using these markets is to not put all your interests in the one marketplace, should they suddenly (ala Nucleus) simply vanish without a word.

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What is on Crypto Market

logoCrypto Market is a relatively new dark web marketplace which is rapidly growing thanks to its security, reliability, attractive design and easy navigation. In case you haven’t heard, Crypto Market is designed by the same team of developers that also runs Silk Road 3.0. If you have been a fan of Silk Road 3.0, you will definitely find the Crypto Market a more than suitable alternative.

What’s certain is that Crypto Market has brought a new level of security to the Dark Web. Indeed, the security is impressive and it starts with the sign-up procedure, where you are prompted to use the PIN code. This will also be useful later when you withdraw your bitcoins. You are also prompted to enter the 10-alphanumeric part of the URL (found between crypto and .onion).

xxxxYou may have also noticed a novelty called Newbie Guide. This is something that other markets don’t have and if you are new to Dark Net Markets, Crypto Market may just be the ideal choice for you; and not just because of this Newbie Guide, but in general – it’s quite easy to find everything you’re looking for. This Newbie Guide will provide a basic set of instructions and information which you will find very handy once you create your account.

After you’ve created your account and logged in, you will first see the News section which mainly features information related to the market, and of course product categories listed just below the news. Vendors themselves often publish updates of their services in the News section; but the Support team also publishes important announcements from time to time.

If you scroll down through categories, you’ll see that the Crypto Market is mostly drug related; there are several main drug categories (Cannabis, Stimulants, Ecstasy, Opioids, Benzos, Dissociatives, Psychedelic, Prescription) and then there’s also a category called “Others,” which further features subcategories such as Digital, Bitcoin, Accounts, Money, Software, Misc, eBooks, Services, Others.

Drug related categories are further subcategorized in the following way: (numbers in brackets show the current number of listings)

Cannabis Stimulants Ecstasy Opioids
Weed (6215)
Hash (748)
Edibles (244)
Concentrates (353)
Seeds (195)
Others (5941)
Stimulants (503)
Cocaine (1525)
Speed (835)
Meth (488)
Ecstasy (1056)
MDMA (1283)
Methylone (142)
Pills (1016)
Opioids (636)
Oxycodon (616)
Heroin (896)
Opium (75)
Methadone (93)
Fentanyl (194)
Benzos Dissociatives Psychedelic Prescription
Benzos (612)
Valium (184)
Xanax (695)
Diazepam (81)
Dissociatives (45)
Ketamine (583)
MXE (58)
GHB (99)
Psychedelic (312)
2C (138)
DMT (158)
LSD (562)
NB (90)
Mushrooms (285)
Prescription (1899)
Steroids (454)
Relaxants (63)
Analgesics (38)

 

So, as you can see, navigation on Crypto Market is fairly simple – you can either browse through categories or simply search by keyword. A powerful search filter will enable you to specify your query according to shipping and payment option (escrow or finalize early).

Obviously, the total number of drug listings is huge, and the market features almost any drug in existence!

However, it feels important to us to stress out at this point that these are all illicit drugs and we are certainly not encouraging you to venture into any illegal activity.

The price will vary depending on the vendor, as well as the quality and the origin of the item. The general rule is that if you are buying from a vendor who lives in the western hemisphere, you will have to pay more; and vice versa, it will cost you less if your vendor is from a country located in the eastern hemisphere. This is related purely to the economical status of the country.

Perhaps more interesting category is “Others.” You can even find some legal stuff here, such as books or cigarettes and cell phones.

You can get 15 GB worth of Photoshop templates for mere $15! Also in just $1 you can learn how to rank your YouTube videos better; if you’re into smoking, look for naturally grown tobacco – 80G (which is about 170 cigarettes) for just $12 and since the tobacco is grown in Spain, the shipping will be free if you’re from the EU!

qZtjvImMA Lifetime Netflix subscription is also available for just $0.6! Or if you’re into that, you can get a premium access to some adult websites for just $5; there are also lists of .onion URLs that you might find interesting; various guides for various frauds, like carding or hacking are also on the market here.

But, the Crypto Market offers plenty more for both, vendors and customers:

  • First of all, there is a secure option of paying through escrows; but for trusted vendors, there is an FE (Finalize Early) option.
  • Vendors also have the option of publishing news, particularly useful when they have new products or new stock supply available.
  • Customers have a handy option of tracking their orders; if you don’t have anything to track, it says – It is empty and cold as the Russian winter, comrade!
  • Probably the most interesting feature on Crypto Market is the “Sales” section. You can find various items on discount which can save you some cash.
  • Another very cool feature is the ability to track your activity on the website.
  • Also, you have a Q & A section where you can ask the community various questions; they’re always happy to help. But, before asking, it is always advisable to check whether someone has already asked that particular question. It’s good manners and also helps keep things organized and not overcrowded with same questions.
  • Finally, you can always head to the community forum. It has now merged with the Silk Road 3.0 community forum, and here you will find a number of threads about vendors, their products and services, shipping, security, accounts, anything really.

Disclaimer:

We must note that we are not encouraging people to buy anything illegal from the Crypto Market; the purpose of this article is purely informational.

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Prosecutor Of Silk Road Agents Speaks At Africa Conference

>> Click here to find the AlphaBay Market Guide <<

images (2)If you thought the Silk Road ended with the trial of Ross William Ulbricht then you are definitely wrong. Even after the arrest of Ross Ulbricht aka “Dread Pirate Roberts,” it was soon to be established that during the investigation into the infamous black market site, the Silk Road, two US feds Carl Force and Shaun Bridges used their position to extort and steal bitcoins. Apart from that, Force illegally signed a $240,000 contract with the 20th century Fox to make a movie about the Silk Road investigation. Unfortunately for the two, they got busted and the cop responsible for their busting is none other than William Frentzen. It is due to this achievement and experience into busting the rogue feds that Frentzen was invited to be among the list of expert speakers at the next Blockchain & Bitcoin Africa Conference which is going to be held on the 3-4 of March 2016 in Johannesburg. This will be a two day event focused on cryptocurrency.

William Frentzen, a United States Prosecutor played an important role as part of the prosecution team that put former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges safely behind bars. Bridges, a former Secret Service agent was found guilty of money laundering and obstruction of justice. He used his position to steal thousands of bitcoins while still investigating illegal drug and other contraband activities on the Silk Road market. He did not stop there but went ahead and moved the stolen bitcoins into an account at an online digital currency exchange based in Japan. After sometime, Bridge liquidated the bitcoins into US$820,000 and transferred the funds to a personal investment account in the US.

Frentzen also featured among the prosecutors against Carl Force who pleaded guilty to charges of extortion, obstruction to justice and money-laundering. Force who was a former DEA agent stole more than $700,000 in digital currency bitcoin. He also secretly solicited payment from the Silk Road founder for information about the US investigation. During the Silk Road investigation, Force posed as a drug dealer with connections to hit-men using the alias Nob. He was tasked with the duty of communicating with Ross, who was the man who created the Silk Road and ran it till his ultimate arrest in 2013.

Force managed to convince Ulbricht who went by the alias Dread Pirate Roberts to pay him $50,000 in bitcoin by pretending he had information about the investigation in August 2013. Even though he reported the discussion to the DEA, he falsely claimed that no payments were made while he secretly diverted the funds to a personal account. He also went ahead without using the authorities’ knowledge and used another online moniker French Maid and offered Ulbricht information on the investigation for an amount totaling to $98,000 in bitcoin. Among the other crimes that he committed included investing in a company that brokered bitcoin and also served as a chief compliance officer while still with the DEA.

01ee2d30bf8082a51feab5c42748ba71

The Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht aka “Dread Pirate Roberts” was arrested in 2013 and later sentenced to life in prison following his earlier convictions on seven charges related to conspiracy, money laundering and narcotics.

The MC of this year’s second annual Blockchain and Bitcoin Africa Conference will be Ian Merrington who is the CEO of the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative. The other nine speakers during the event will include experts from around the world to host the different talks with the main speaker for the event to be announced on a later day.

During the event, delegates will get the opportunity to get the knowledge of William Frentzen and other experts on the panel. His main topic of discussion will be the challenges posed to law enforcement by certain digital currencies and topics of mutual concern between the industry and the government. His schedule is at 14:45-15:30. Some of the other hot topics of discussion during the event will include: the banks of the future; how Bitcoin can help build the next generation of financial services; the potential for bitcoin as an unregulated currency in Africa and Blockchain is the Future: Blockchain Innovation and helping developing nations with land titles and government transparency. The event will adjourn on the 4th of March 2016at 17:00.

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The Silk Road Creator’s Defense Team Appeal His Conviction

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

Ross-William-UlbrichtLawyers for Ross Ulbricht informed an appeals court that the Silk Road founder deserves a new trial. They also told the court that the trial should be focused on the two federal agents who have admitted to involving in corrupt misconduct at the time of investigating the operations of the online black market.

In the 170-page appeal brief that they filed on Tuesday, Ulbricht’s lawyers requested the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in the U.S. to throw off his conviction as well as life sentence for creating and operating the Silk Road. The dark web marketplace sold illegal goods such as fake driver’s licenses and heroin to buyers from around the world.

A year ago, a federal jury in Manhattan had determined that the 31-year old founder of the Silk Road was guilty of seven criminal charges following a trial. The charges included conspiracies to launder money, hack computers and sell drugs and the “kingpin” charge, which is usually reserved for drug cartel leaders and mafia bosses. Katherine Forrest, a U.S. District Judge, sentenced Ulbricht to a life term in prison.

Within two months after the conviction of the Silk Road founder, San Francisco prosecutors unveiled charges against two federal agents, Shaun Bridges and Carl Force, who were involved in investigating the operations of Ross Ulbricht. Shaun Bridges was an agent with the Secret Service and Carl Force was an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration. Both of them have been sentenced to approximately six years of imprisonment.

In Tuesday’s filing, the lawyers representing Ulbricht said that the defense was prevented from presenting any kind of evidences against the corrupt federal agents by Judge Katherine Forrest during the course of trial last year. This was because the government had directed that secrecy should be maintained when investigating corruption charges. In the Manhattan trial, the federal prosecutors had also said that their investigation into the Silk Road was carried out independent of the investigation of those corrupt federal agents and that the evidence presented against them would in no way have impacted the outcome of the trial.

Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s lead attorneyHowever, the contention of Joshua Dratel, Ulbricht’s lead attorney, is that the defense was neither aware of Bridges’ involvement or the scope of the corruption charges in its entirety until after the completion of the trial. He also said that a need to maintain any kind of secrecy was not there as Force was well aware of the investigation prior to the beginning of Ross Ulbricht’s trial. According to Dratel, evidence related to charges against the corrupt federal agents was relevant at the time of the Manhattan trial as the investigation into the activities of the Silk Road was a coordinated effort of many federal districts.

The lawyers of Ross Ulbricht have also requested for a new sentencing by a different judge. Their contention is that the life sentence given to the Silk Road founder was unreasonable as Judge Forrest allowed only the government to present evidence on six overdose deaths that were linked to drugs sold on the Silk Road website, which the defense had always disputed.

During the brief, Ulbricht’s lawyers continued to register their objection to the way in which evidence was presented during the trial. They said that Judge Forrest did not heed to their request to cross-examine witnesses and establish alternate perpetrators (other than Ulbricht). In addition, Ulbricht’s lawyers opined that the Judge should not have allowed presentation of evidence obtained from his Gmail and Facebook accounts as the seizure and search of his laptop by the authorities was illegal.

It is expected that the response to this appeal will be filed by the lawyers representing the government in the near future. Prosecutors are likely to counter argue saying that the offenses committed by Force and Bridges did not have any bearing on the conviction of Ulbricht for the crimes committed by him. This is because Force and Bridges were part of the investigation task force in Baltimore and not part of the FBI’s team (which included agents from the DHS and the IRS) that was led by their office in New York. Further, both Force and Bridges did not testify at Ulbricht’s trial and the office of the FBI in New York had carefully segregated itself from the activities of the task force in Baltimore. Actually, the segregation of the two teams resulted in Ulbricht being separately indicted for attempted murder. This charge was not included in the New York case and it has not been tried so far.

However, the argument being put forward by Ulbricht’s lawyers is that the segregation between Baltimore and New York was not as tight as the government made it out to be. According to Dratel, a DHS agent who was part of the Silk Road investigation team in New York often spoke as well as exchanged intelligence with Force.

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The Silk Road And Dark Web In 2015

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

In spite of shutting down many of the black marketplaces operating on the dark web in 2015, the anonymous network continues to hog the limelight. Additionally, the dark web is now emerging as a legitimate tool for many a purpose. Some publications have compiled a list of websites in the Deep Web/Dark Web.

Read on to find out what was swamped out of the dark web in the past one year.

Silkroad Is Still Making News

Notwithstanding the fact that Silkroad was shut down over a couple of years ago, May 2015 saw the conviction of the Silkroad founder Ross Ulbricht. The Silkroad creator was sentenced to life imprisonment (owing to charges on seven counts that include narcotics conspiracy, computer hacking, and money laundering), though his defense is appealing the conviction decision. The moderators of the Silkroad forum were not spared either. Whereas Peter Nash, the Silkroad forum moderator, has come out of the prison after 18 months, Gary Davis, who was allegedly accused of being a Silkroad administrator bearing the codename “Libertas,” is even now fighting his extradition procedures from Ireland to the US.

Silkroad shut down
The most sensational Silkroad related arrest of the year was that of Roger Thomas Clark, purportedly the right-hand man of Dread Pirate Roberts. Codenamed “Variety Jones,” he was arrested as recently as in December 2015 from Thailand after spotting his presence in a cannabis enthusiast forum. However, in the midst of the arrest drama, he claimed that he had actually wanted to turn himself in to the authorities. He awaits extradition procedures to the US.

Though the original Silkroad is no longer present in the dark web, numerous other black marketplaces have sprung up instead and have continued to sell items that were banned on Silkroad, including stolen data and guns.

Dangerous Weapons Make their Way Out Of the Dark Web

After the shutdown of Silkroad, year 2015 saw the disappearance of dangerous weapons from the Dark Web. The largest black marketplaces, (after Silkroad) Evolution and Agora had listed these kinds of weapons before they stopped operations in the months of March 2015 and August 2015, respectively. Whereas Evolution was not to be seen after an apparent scam, Agora went on a self-declared sabbatical and is yet to come back.

Agora was forced to stop selling guns fearing presence of decoy undercover agents posing as sellers. Other dangerous weapons have since started disappearing from the dark web marketplaces.

The Good Side

Amidst all the negatives about the dark web and Silkroad that made news in the past, there was also some good that emerged out of the use of the Tor anonymous software in 2015. The fact that dark web offered space for a wide range of useful applications was acknowledged when the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) formally labeled the .onion domain in the month of September last year. Both these bodies have recognized the legitimate uses of Tor. This input was provided by Runa Sandvik who is a security researcher at a company responsible for maintenance of the Tor software.

Additional accolades came in Tor’s way when a large amount of data was provided by a hacker using the “SecureDrop” facility of Tor. This application helps sending a large amount of documents to journalists using the Tor anonymity network.

Tor Offers No Foolproof Anonymity

Tor
Some more recent incidents involving dark web only went on to reveal that all is not foolproof in the dark web. According to the court, university-based research scientists at the SEI of Carnegie Mellon University had provided identities of dark web users (including Silkroad) to the FBI. Members of the Tor Project also alleged that the FBI paid close to $1 million to the university for the information.

This hacked information provided has been useful in at least two cases, it is claimed. The arrests of an alleged Silkroad 2.0 staff member and that of an alleged pedophile. The hacking of the data also led to the arrest of a couple of Irish drug dealers on dark web. They were sent to prison in December 2015. The SEI is suspected to have attacked Tor last year because of a cancelled conference on the topic. However, the fact that hacking of the Tor software is possible has led to the expectation that many more cases will see the light of day this year.

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New Charges Filed Against Silk Road’s “Variety Jones”

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<

And so, the Silk Road saga continues.

More than two years after Ross Ulbricht, aka Dread Pirate Roberts, was arrested in an unsuspecting San Francisco library for his role behind the Silk Road dark web marketplace, another alleged major player in the story has been charged. (Ulbricht has subsequently been sentenced to life in prison.)

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Variety Jones, a figure that emerged during Ross Ulbricht’s trial, was charged a few short weeks ago with conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit narcotics trafficking. These charges carry maximum terms of 20 years and life, respectively.

New charges added to the criminal complaint by the US Department of Justice on December 18th include narcotics trafficking, narcotics distribution via the internet, conspiracy to distribute fraudulent ID documents, and conspiracy to aid and abet hacking. It is unclear just how many criminal charges in total will be laid against Variety Jones in regards to his part in the Silk Road marketplace.

The man that the Department of Justice alleges is Variety Jones is a 54-yr. old Canadian by the name of Roger Thomas Clark. Clark was arrested in Thailand on December 3rd, where he has been suspected of living for the past few years on the picturesque island of Koh Chang.

Clark is now sitting in a Thai jail cell attempting to fight extradition charges, according to his lawyer.

But how were authorities lead to Clark? And how does Variety Jones fit into the picture?

During Ulbricht’s trial, chat logs and Ulbricht’s journal were uncovered that pointed to a figure – Variety Jones and his various pseudonyms – as a key player in the Silk Road empire. Variety Jones emerged as a firmly entrenched business mentor to Ulbricht, and even suggested his Dread Pirate Roberts name.

The pair met through the Silk Road marketplace, where Variety Jones was a well-respected marijuana seed dealer. In late 2011, Variety Jones uncovered a flaw in the marketplace and immediately informed Ulbricht. Conversations lead to a significant server configuration change, and the relationship was established.

From there, the two became close, with Variety Jones making various business suggestions regarding the marketplace and its future. Jones was even the first person to suggest that Ulbricht “make a hit” on someone – which ultimately failed due to the hitman actually being a corrupt law enforcement officer trying to bring about the downfall of both Ulbricht and Silk Road.

Ulbricht and Variety Jones plotted to turn Silk Road into a “Google-like” structure, with encrypted web mail, a credit union, and Bitcoin exchange. This project was not to come to fruition.

That corrupt law enforcement officer, along with other efforts, ended up being the downfall of Silk Road and ultimately Ulbricht himself. After identifying Variety Jones as a key player during the trial, both the internet (via user La Moustache), and presumably law enforcement, went to work trying to identify the mysterious figure behind the Variety Jones name.

Efforts via a combination of studying collapsed Mt. Gox exchange user databases, Bitcoin blockchain records, investigative journalism, and possibly even good old fashioned hacking, uncovered a trail leading back to Thailand and the 54-yr. old Roger Thomas Clark.

Variety Jones, it seemed, had been involved in selling marijuana seeds for some time. His business wasn’t simply established when Silk Road came online. He was linked to forum posts in 2006 on a popular site for seed sellers, and then travelled in 2008 to the island of Koh Chang to source a very particular strain of marijuana seed. In later years he continued posting on various marijuana forums, even supposedly currently making posts from his Thai jail cell via a secret hidden mobile phone.

An early adopter of selling via the dark web marketplace, Variety Jones was conducting business in Bitcoin since the early days of its appearance. It appears he was a key figure in growing the Silk Road marketplace and acted as a mentor to Ulbricht.

For now, Clark is awaiting his fate, still sitting in an undesirable Thai cell packed with other prisoners. Ulbricht is in jail attempting to appeal his convictions. A third major figure behind Silk Road, Smedley, the website’s key coder, remains a mystery for now.

thailand BoatIt is likely that Clark will be extradited to the United States from Thailand to face all charges laid against him. It will be interesting to see how the trial plays out, especially considering the sentencing previously applied to Ulbricht. Silk Road and its creators have fallen from grace, and it appears the deep web isn’t as anonymous as we’d like it to be.

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University Helped FBI Take Down Silk Road 2.0

ANNOUNCEMENT: Since the Silk Road 2.0 bust by the feds a few other Darknet Markets have fallen. Silk Road 3 is up and running with a big selection of goods.

>> Click here to find the Silk Road 3 Guide <<
Remember that ominous Operation Onymous (pun intended)? Well, apparently an academic institution was involved in bringing down a number of dark web markets in 2014. It is speculated that the academic institution in question is in fact the Carnegie Mellon University, CMU that provided the crucial information to the FBI.

Just a reminder, Operation Onymous brought down as many as 27 dark web markets at the time, including Silk Road 2.0. Silk Road 2.0 was launched just a month after the original, Ross Ulbricht’s Silk Road marketplace was seized by the FBI in 2013.

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What this new information brings into question is, first of all, the nature of the role academic institutions have in fighting crime on the dark web; and secondly, the fairness of the trials that followed after the operation, since allegedly the crucial evidence in discovery hasn’t been disclosed.

It began with the arrest of certain Brian Richard Farrell from Seattle, who quickly admitted that he was behind the nickname “DoctorClu” a member of Silk Road 2.0 staff.

The search warrant presented to Farrell by Special Agent Michael Larson says that the FBI received “reliable IP addresses for TOR and hidden services, such as SR2” from a “Source of Information (SOI).” The obtained information included the main marketplace, its forum, support interface and section typically accessed by staff and dealers only.

With the help of this information, the FBI was able to obtain the location of the Silk Road 2.0 servers, and ultimately to discovering another 20+ dark web marketplaces, fake and scam websites.

But, the mysterious Source of Information also provided some 78 additional IP addresses – users’ IPs – known to access the vendor .onion address.

Farrell was arrested and is currently on trial for conspiracy to distribute heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine.

But, that’s all good news, right?

Well, perhaps.

In October this year, the government notified Mr. Farrell’s defense counsel in a letter stating that his “involvement with Silk Road 2.0 was identified based on information obtained by a ‘university-based research institute’ that operated its own computers on the anonymous network used by Silk Road 2.0.”

Silk Road 2.0
Symptomatically, the events mentioned above line up perfectly with the attack that happened in 2014 on the Tor network:

Sometime in July, 2014, Tor wrote in a blog post about certain indications that a group of relays were working to compromise the anonymity of users. Apparently, they were on to those who “operate or access Tor hidden services.” Eventually, Tor removed those relays, but the time this happened matches the time the FBI obtained the IP addresses of the dark web markets and their users from its trusted source.

Another symptomatic event was the Black Hat hacking conference where Alexander Volynkin and Michael McCord, both academics from Carnegie Mellon University. They were scheduled to present “how a $3000 kit can unmask the IP addresses of Tor hidden services” and their users. Surprisingly, the much anticipated talk was … canceled.

However, the description of the talk remarkably resembled the attack on the Tor network. Plus, the distinguished pair of academics also revealed that they “had tested attacks in the wild.”

A number of people familiar with Farrell’s case have come to believe that the mysterious source of information and the perpetrator behind the attack was in fact the CMU. However, whether these allegations are true or not has not yet been confirmed.

Is there a moral of the story?

Of course, always!

To start, let’s consider again how Tor network works. It operates through a network of trusted relays, nodes as they are called. The connection is encrypted and goes through a circle of relays to its destination.

Tor Networks
BUT, it’s been revealed by Tor Project that it is possible to deanonymize the user. Apparently, if the entry node is aware of the IP address of the user and the last node knows his destination – the connection can be intercepted and the IP address compromised. It was this vulnerability of Tor referred to in the description for the Black Hat talk by the two academics.

So, Is there anything users CAN do to reduce the risk of being deanonymized?

Again, of course!

The risk is significantly less if using Tor in combination with a decent VPN (Virtual Private Network). When using a VPN, you don’t connect automatically to the webpage you want. You first connect to VPN server which then forwards you to your desired webpage.

So, in the very first instance of this connection your IP address is different from your real IP; so, when you connect to Tor network – there is absolutely no way for the entry node to identify your IP address or your location.

Better still, there are VPNs that don’t keep any logs of users’ activity online, so even if asked by the authorities to deliver these logs – they can’t!

Moral? Despite a widespread discussion on the internet regarding this case – it’s the government’s job to catch the criminals, so it’s hardly their fault these guys fell. The fault also doesn’t rest with the CMU or any other academic institution for that matter. Had these guys used even the worst VPN in combination with Tor, they wouldn’t have been busted!

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