Deep vs Dark Web, Privacy, Tor History & Config 02 of 03


So all of that said, unfortunately at present,
and as many of you know, the dark web does come with it a bit of a negative reputation,
as well– as a result of an excess of criminal behavior
which tends to occur within these anonymized networks. On a high level, traffic travels through several
privately hosted nodes on the network, which aids in keeping the source of the traffic
anonymous. It is nearly impossible to determine from
which node the traffic originated, which is why Tor quickly became a playing ground for
criminal activity. However, despite the anonymity, or pseudo-anonymity,
associated with dark web communications, criminal users aren’t entirely immune to being caught. You may remember a story from the news a few
years ago about a dark web criminal marketplace known as The Silk Road. The Silk Road was a place where users could
buy and sell illegal goods and services. They could pay others to crack social networking
account credentials or provide them with instructions on how to
hack into ATMs or others devices of their choosing. They could also purchase forged documents, drugs, firearms, ammunition, They could even hire hit-men. The Silk Road wasn’t a small place either. With about $1.2 billion in transactions,
law enforcement’s interest was certainly piqued. Intelligence specialists at the FBI began
to research historical data on the open web in an effort to track down the earliest mention
of “The Silk Road”. And they found it. Their research lead them to an open web drug-enthusiast
website known as “The Shroomery”. And in January of 2011, a user named Altoid
posted the following: “I came across this website called Silk
Road. It’s a Tor hidden service that claims to allow
you to buy and sell anything online anonymously. I’m thinking of buying off it, but wanted to see if anyone here had heard
of it and could recommend it.” He then provides an open web link which redirects
to a Tor hidden service, and the direct .onion link for the Silk Road marketplace. A couple days later on a different forum,
a user named Altoid appeared again describing The Silk Road as an “Anonymous Amazon” and providing the same link information. A few more posts in this same format were
also found throughout forums in 2011. In October of that year however, Altoid got
sloppy. On bitcointalk, the same forum where he referred
to The Silk Road as an Anonymous Amazon, he made another post in search of an IT pro with
a special interest in Bitcoin. In this post he then listed his contact information
as rossulbricht at gmail dot com. Dude. From this, the FBI was easily able to connect
the very first mentions of The Silk Road on the open web to the username Altoid, and thereafter, partially in thanks to this
post from October, to Ross Ulbricht. In early 2012, Ross also made a post on Stack
Overflow under the username “Ross Ulbricht,” which he quickly changed to “frosty,” inquiring about an error he was receiving
when trying to connect to a Tor hidden service. He included a snippet of code, which later
incriminated him even further. In addition, the FBI was also able to connect
some very specific interests posted by the user running the Silk Road–Dread Pirate Roberts– to ones that were also posted by Ross Ulbricht
on LinkedIn. The timing on the posts made by Dread Pirate
Roberts also lead law enforcement to believe that the user was likely to be located in
the Pacific time zone. It was then discovered that connections to
the server hosting The Silk Road were being made via VPN from a cafe in San Francisco where Ross just so happened to live and from which he had also connected to his personal
gmail account. The FBI then began taking down the Silk Road
servers. On one of the servers they found several lines of code identical
to what Ross had posted on StackOverflow. They also found a user key on one of the boxes
belonging to [email protected] And if that wasn’t enough, around the same
time Ulbricht was also questioned by the FBI at his home due to the fact that he had ordered a package
of nine fake IDs–all containing his own photo. The package was intercepted at the Canadian
border and the destination address lead law enforcement to him. Upon being questioned, he actually volunteered
information about the Silk Road. Ulbricht stated that, “hypothetically anyone
could go on to a website named ‘Silk Road’ on ‘Tor’ and purchase any drugs or falsified
identity documents the person wanted”. He was eventually taken down in a library
immediately after entering his password on his laptop. Convenient for the FBI. But that’s not even the worst part. While Ulbricht is currently serving a life
sentence in a New York prison as a result of the charges he faced due to his connections
to the Silk Road, a case in the state of Maryland is also still
pending for six murders-for-hire that he paid $730,000 for, but are thankfully believed to have never
actually occurred.

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