back to article I helped catch Silk Road boss Ross Ulbricht: Undercover agent tells all

“How do you eat an elephant? Nibble at it, nibble at it, a lot of little bites.” That was how Special Agent Jared Der-Yeghiayan infiltrated notorious dark web market the Silk Road and helped unmask site operator Dread Pirate Roberts, aka Ross Ulbricht. Der-Yeghiayan told an enthralled audience at France's FIC2019 infosec …

  1. dbtx Bronze badge
    Pirate

    The original Dread Pirate Roberts?

    The *original* wasn't anywhere near the film, having long since retired and handed over the title to an underling, who then did the same... some DPRs later, "the" DPR was our Westley, as in the frame. This says 'identity-switching' but DPR *was* the identity and the thing that got switched was the meatbag using it.

    1. dbtx Bronze badge

      Reusing "frosty", sigh... the One True Problem strikes again

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Frosty

        I was discussing financial crime with a colleague who was by her own admission uninformed. We were discussing what she needed to watch out for. To do this I was explaining how she could set it up hypothetically herself. I said to make the crime.possible you need to have a few dummy companies and these need names - suggest some. She called them after her husband and children failing to see the error. When I pointed out that it made linking the crime to her much easier she realised I had a very good point. I suggested she read up on Enron, Andy Fastow and the Raptors which he named after his family.

      2. regregular

        OpSec is hard. We are creatures of habit.

    2. dbtx Bronze badge

      the Original Post about the original DPR

      In the meantime, the caption was changed and makes a bit more sense. Suddenly, my OP does less of that, in fact it has very little purpose, but I can't change it. (sigh) Oh well, here's a thing

  2. AbelSoul
    Black Helicopters

    Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

    When's the movie out?

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

      This does actually sound like it would make a good film.

      1. LDS Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

        Naahh.... I'm sure the producers will want the helicopter, ninjas and blown up walls at the end.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

          so here's what you do... while the agent is describing what he wants, actually FILM the thing; while he's doing narration, you see "it" happening in the background.

          The snark factor alone would be worth it.

          You could also have fun with the blind man yelling at the Dutch cops that he won't open the door. Maybe add "I fart in your general direction" to the exchange... well, maybe not THAT, but still.

    2. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

      Yep that was a cracking article. Just hope the film is as good as the real story. The Wolf of Wall Street film was nothing like as good as the books.

      1. casinowilhelm

        Re: Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

        David fincher would be the obvious choice.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

      Not a dramatic production but Alex Winter (Bill from Bill & Ted) did a (somewhat biased) doco about it a few years ago called Deep Web.

      (Fixed)

    5. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Re: Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

      Heh. I was thinking book as I read the article. But yeah, film would work too.

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

        There is a book! I just bought it (£6) American Kingpin

        Should have time to read it before Dad's birthday ....

    6. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Interesting postscript to this long running tale.

      "When's the movie out?"

      Well, looks like you're in luck:

      https://www.screendaily.com/news/nick-robinson-jason-clarke-to-star-in-silk-road-for-sierra/affinity-exclusive/5136316.article

  3. Richard Jones 1

    An Interesting Report

    I enjoyed the read, as ever a mixture of luck and right time right place allied with some mind numbing hours or research and leaving no aspects unchecked.

    1. Joe W
      Pint

      Re: An Interesting Report

      Definitely a cool story, enjoyed reading it! Have a cold one (or a nice hand pulled real ale...)

  4. Peter 26

    More Questions

    That was a really good read. I have more questions.

    How did they find the server in Iceland using the admins account? What was the security failure here, surely there was an encrypted reverse proxy?

    How did they find connections from San Francisco to the server? Wasn't he using a VPN?

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: More Questions

      My guess is he wasn't as technically capable as he needed to be. Once the server was set up he shouldn't have communicated with it in any way other than tor ( also Google suggests you can ssh over tor )

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: More Questions

        Maybe he needed to pay for them?

    2. Jeffrey Jefferson

      Re: More Questions

      I want to know how they found out his Laptop details just from knowing his Amazon account? Given that they only knew an email address.

      1. Major N

        Re: More Questions

        I'd assume he'd bought either the laptop, or accessories for it that identified it, through his Amazon account.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: More Questions

          ack on "bought it through amazon' - and if THAT is the case, computer vendors might have some additional info about the computer so they can verify it for warranty reasons... such as CPU IDs and default MAC addresses.

          it's not that hard to subpoena information once you have enough evidence to get a judge on board for investigative warrants. I expect that your average vendor would have no trouble handing information over if the word 'search warrant' appears at the top of something signed by a judge...

      2. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: More Questions

        Presumably when the FBI show up, Amazon will hand over any details of accounts associated with an email address.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: More Questions

          They might have done that, but they didn't need to. They had access to his email. Presumably, somewhere in the trash folder was an email with the subject line "Your order of a [insert laptop model here] has shipped". It was a laptop, though, so they probably had enough time to look at it as long as they could keep him from pressing any keys.

        2. Dal90

          Re: More Questions

          They already had his name and address.

          Just go to Amazon with the subponea based on the shipping records...no account, email, etc. needed.

      3. DCFusor Silver badge

        Re: More Questions

        Assuming Amazon only knows your email is not a very good assumption at all.

        They know rather a lot more about you (and your LAN), and not just the "google slurp" type stuff, which they also know.

        I had a "big data" expert as a roommate here for awhile and she showed me an amazing amount of what they can find out from a single login with just a little extra innocuous looking scripting and advertising on their page (she wasn't working for Amazon, it was some other corp, which I assume had hired her because they were playing catch up with Amazon...). And it doesn't have to be the kind of adverts we all block, either. Let's just say they can't quite quantify the thickness of the racing stripe in your undies to better than a few nanometers, but pretty much get the rest.

        I've been at this game many decades, and I had no idea how much is so easily leaked and extracted from just a login. From a fully patched and up to date computer - even one running that oddball opsys called linux. Windows and Macs? Pah...too easy.

      4. M.V. Lipvig
        Devil

        Re: More Questions

        Let's put it this way - The BOFH he ain't.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: More Questions

      According to the documentary "Deep Web" a guy from the IRS got involved too to try and track him by financial investigations and he repeatedly hit the TOR site with many different requests and at one point something replied with a header containing the servers actual IP and not the anonymised info. See the doc for further/actual details and a good watch.

      1. theExecutive
        Big Brother

        Re: More Questions

        Yes because we set up servers to leak from "Special" pages..

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: More Questions

      "How did they find the server in Iceland" "How did they find connections from San Francisco to the server?"

      yeah, pretty impressive, I say! Some of this was actually in the article, as I recall, though I don't really wanna re-read it to glean for details. But you have to allow for the fact that the cops don't wanna spill the beans on all of their secret tactics, so the bad guys can't take countermeasures.

      1. Crucial Decimal

        Bad guys...

        Bad guys??

        FREE DPR.

    5. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: More Questions

      I doubt we will ever find out.

      Remember that when the cops tell you these things, they want to discourage people who may be thinking of doing the same thing, without giving enough information about their tactics to people who are and want to avoid them.

      1. M.V. Lipvig

        Re: More Questions

        Or, amping their capabities to make you think you can't hide when those capabilities may be nothing more than a 4 leaf clover? I would have said rabbit's foot, but rabbits don't seem to be all that lucky.

    6. IceC0ld Bronze badge

      Re: More Questions

      How did they find the server in Iceland using the admins account? What was the security failure here, surely there was an encrypted reverse proxy?

      ===

      like all good tales, ALWAYS leave the punters wanting more :o)

    7. Snorlax

      Re: More Questions

      I seem to recall his IP was leaked as a result of the CAPTCHA setup he was using on his server. Once the cops knew where the server was, DPR was screwed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: More Questions

        That was a lie concocted by LE to hide the fact that they illegally hacked the server and forced it into leaking the IP address. No serious security players bought the CAPTCHA story.

        1. Snorlax

          Re: More Questions

          Well it’s pretty obvious that DPR didn’t know shit about opsec - using library wifi, using the same email address over and over, etc. The CAPTCHA story s plenty believable given all the other half-arsed stuff he did.

    8. theExecutive
      Big Brother

      Re: More Questions

      Correct, PluralOfMongoose hada rotating VPN and its was through the TOR network, who the fuck did they catch :)... Dead men tell no tales...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    a fascinating story

    ... and a good lesson for those who'd like to imitate.

    p.s. no, not that "crime doesn't pay", but rather "success is THE cause of failure". Fortunately, greed is a common killer of common sense, not many people who break the law and profit, can resist temptation of profit again. And again.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: a fascinating story

      ....but enough about facebook...

  6. DrXym Silver badge

    So the moral here is

    Don't recommend weird libertarian books, don't ask for help setting up your criminal enterprise, don't operate your empire from a public wifi spot, don't operate from a jurisdiction that frowns on these kind of things, and don't put all the evidence that will put you away for life onto your laptop.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: So the moral here is

      There are a lot of "don'ts" in your post, seems it is just missing the "don't do the crime" one.

      I'm sure everyone has had the opportunity of committing various sorts of crimes but most don't. That's moral.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So the moral here is

        Or they are worried about getting caught!

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: So the moral here is

          something _I_ have considered many times: never underestimate the ability of forensic teams to discover new ways of gathering evidence in a manner that nobody could have conceived of at the time a crime was committed, and so there's no way to know how to prevent such evidence from being collected and used against you. When fingerprints were first used to prove that someone committed a crime, nobody EVAR thought such a thing was possible. Same with DNA. What's next?

          yeah, I don't like the idea of staying at the 'Iron Bar Hotel', so it's better if I stay honest instead.

          1. LucreLout Silver badge

            Re: So the moral here is

            When fingerprints were first used to prove that someone committed a crime

            Most criminals are stupid. Thick as the prverbial pig poo. Which is why, 100 years after fingerprints were known about, so many criminals still fail to use gloves.

            1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

              Fingerprints are only occasionally useful

              > Most criminals are stupid. Thick as the prverbial pig poo. Which is why, 100 years after fingerprints were known about, so many criminals still fail to use gloves.

              Having had my house broken into this year by a known person (psychiatric issues), and the police forensics team dusting a number of items visibly handled by him including plain sheet glass, I can confirm that it is rare for fingerprints to be found/identifiable even with bare hands. They found literally nothing.

              Safety tips from the police forensic team:

              * ANY dust essentially eliminates fingerprints

              * a quick wipe ditto

              * any paint other than recent gloss paint ditto

              * brushed-metal surfaces (eg, most macs) A/ show no fingerprints B/ if attempting to do so, the black powder statically binds/is almost permanent in the micro-crevices

          2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

            Re: So the moral here is

            " When fingerprints were first used to prove that someone committed a crime,"

            Mild spot of pedantry, but the first use of fingerprints was to prove that someone did not commit a crime. It's quite good for showing that a print cannot have come from a certain person.

            There is quite a range in exactly how close a match is needed for a print to be the same as another. In general convicting someone from fingerprint evidence alone is a bad idea.

            DNA also has issues, mainly through contamination. Demonstrating someone was at a crime scene is easy, showing they were there at the time the crime was committed is tricky.

            "never underestimate the ability of forensic teams"

            I'd go for never underestimate the tenacity of an investigator. Once they get their teeth in, they won''t let go.

            I'm more curious as to whether this had any effect on the drug trade. It's all well and good arresting the latest kingpin, but it's not actually going to change anything. I'm pretty sure you can still buy the same stuff on the dark web, but now Ross has a lifetime to explain to his fellow cons how to run an illegal business.

    2. tekHedd

      The golden rule of crime

      "Quit while you're ahead." He had HOW MUCH bitcoin? Sheesh. Time to go legit, bro.

      1. xeroks

        Re: The golden rule of crime

        My guess is that there is more to it than the cash. It sounds like, at least initially, there was the whole free-market philosophy he was emulating/embodying.

        Then there there was the money, yes, but with it a level of being important to a lot of people. Once he'd gone beyond a $100,000 I suspect the cash was just a self importance meter, rather than a means to buying things.

    3. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: So the moral here is

      So the moral here is

      .... if you're going to run a drugs emporium, resist the temptation to go all Scarface and try to get people whacked; it just draws attention to you. If you get crossed, let it slide, you'll soon 'earn' it back.

      Learn from the movie DPR, make a million or two and then hand the whole shooting match over to someone else in return for a sh*tload of bitcoin. That way when the feds raid the enterprise, you're long gone, and some new DPR is holding the bag.

      Or just, you know, get a real job.

      1. theExecutive

        Re: So the moral here is

        Yup DPR2 was whacked :)

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Methinks

      Thou hast forgotten not remembered the possibility skill of writing typestry analysis comparison. If one uses the samesuch voice style on accounts identities legal permissible and illicit forbidden, one can, with enough effort perseverance, they can be found determined to be connected linked and the perpetrator committer deanonymized named. One must should therefore speak write in a different unlike manner style.

      1. keithpeter
        Coat

        Re: Methinks

        Of course, you can write in idiomatic English and use the old double conductive trick to hinder grammar.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ulbricht was also linked to six drug overdose deaths

    However Big Pharm has been linked to about 6 million and they are doing very nicely thank you. If you are going to sell drugs then make sure that you pay off the government and you'll have no problems.

    1. Charles Calthrop

      Re: Ulbricht was also linked to six drug overdose deaths

      Hope you boycott Big Pharma

      1. Symon Silver badge
        Alert

        Re: Ulbricht was also linked to six drug overdose deaths

        Try not to get ill in the first place. Iatrogenic disease is (probably) the third leading cause of death in the USA. Europe is about the same, I believe.

        https://hub.jhu.edu/2016/05/03/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death/

    2. Old Shoes

      Re: Ulbricht was also linked to six drug overdose deaths

      As Chris Rock said, the government wants you doing *their* drugs.

  8. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Happy

    Ignorance is bliss

    Sure glad I'm not smart enough to set up something like Silk Road. I may be poorer, but I'm a free man.

    1. LucreLout Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Ignorance is bliss

      Sure glad I'm not smart enough to set up something like Silk Road.

      Don't be so hard on yourself. I'm sure that you, like me, are perfectly smart enough and capable of setting up an illegal enterprise that ends with us getting busted by the feds and jailed forever.

  9. Goldmember

    Great Read

    This was an interesting piece into the process of catching a relatively clever (at least at first) criminal. And also some useful info for any budding master criminals...

    - Live in a top floor apartment

    - Regularly video call your inner circle of admins so you know they're not feds

    - Use a VPN to disguise your country when connecting to the admin panel of your dodgy dark web bazaar

    - Don't post any personal quotes in your signature, and don't re-use handles across sites

    - If you try to have somebody whacked... don't write down the details of the transaction on your laptop!

    1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Great Read

      My takeaways were:

      - Regularly remind your upper management not to trust each other and certainly don't give out personal information

      - Once you've configured the server, don't connect to it at all without using Tor.

      - Don't try to have people killed ( duh )

      - Once you've made enough money and don't have any *physical* involvement ( ie: you're not sending drugs ), move to a tropical paradise where the police are less bothered about the goings on in America. Still use Tor. Obviously.

      - Don't advertise the bloody thing using your personal email address.

      1. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

        Re: Great Read

        My question though is how do you buy server space without being identifiable.

        You have to assume that the American government runs a significant number of exit nodes and I assume the exit nodes have to be able to turn silroad.onion into an IP address, so I assume that you can't rely on the server not staying hidden.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Great Read

          Not so. The way that Tor hidden services work is complex, and I suggest you read about the details and complexities of it because it is intriguing. However, since you are on the Tor network and the .onion is as well, you don't have to go to an exit node. An exit node is only needed when you want to leave Tor onto the regular web again.

          As for how to purchase server space without identification, it is a bit difficult for most hosting companies, but it can be done with cryptocurrency or with cash in a paypal account. You have to go to various places to make that truly anonymous, but it works. The mechanics are left as an exercise for the reader. If you do it wrong but think you've done it right, prison time may occur.

        2. Phil Endecott Silver badge

          Re: Great Read

          > how do you buy server space without being identifiable.

          You don’t need to be unidentifiable; you just need to be not identified as you. I.e. you can pay using a stolen identity - stolen credit card or an account at a real bank set up using stolen ID etc.

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: Great Read

            Shell companies within shell companies. large business have used that tactic for ages to shuffle money around to evade taxes and the like.

            1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

              Re: Great Read

              > Shell companies within shell companies. large business have used that tactic for ages to shuffle money around to evade taxes and the like.

              That's exactly what Huawei just got sprung for.

              But evading sanctions rather than taxes. Well... both, really.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Great Read

      Regularly video call your inner circle of admins so you know they're not feds

      This might allow you to verify that they haven't been replaced, but it won't guarantee they haven't always been Working For The Man!

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Great Read

        ...or , like most white collar cybercriminals when they get a knock on moms basement door from the NSA:

        been turned.

    3. LDS Silver badge

      "Regularly video call your inner circle of admins so you know they're not feds"

      Sorry, but if I were an admin in such a ring I would not allow others to see my face...

      1. VikiAi Silver badge

        Re: "Regularly video call your inner circle of admins so you know they're not feds"

        And even if you black the camera on your side, your Lieutenants may not be too keen on their real faces being known to you!

    4. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Great Read

      I wouldn't use a VPN. I think that would make you more traceable to the feds rather than less.

  10. Khaptain Silver badge

    Great Read

    The story was interseting and reminded me of Operation Julie. Takes a lot of luck, patience and just plain stubborness to pull of these kinds of cases..

    Ulbricht was far from stupid, he just didn't know how to improve, when to stop and then he ran out of luck..

  11. The-W

    read the great book all about him... American Kingpin

  12. ratfox Silver badge
    Pint

    Thanks for the article

    Wasn't there a story that one or two of the agents in charge of catching DPR and seizing Silk Road ended up trying to purloin some of the Bitcoins as well?

    1. baggins84

      Re: Thanks for the article

      I'm 99% sure some of the investigation team were replaced by less corrupt officers who weren't bought/influenced by the huge amount of money bitcoin were worth.

    2. Old Shoes

      Re: Thanks for the article

      Yes, "Former Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Carl Force and former Secret Service agent Shaun Bridges" took some of the Silk Road bitcoins.

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/03/30/feds_silk_road_bitcoins/

    3. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Thanks for the article

      There was. Ulbricht's supporters don't stop bringing it up, as if it absolves him of guilt or culpability or something.

      1. Feorge

        Re: Thanks for the article

        Mate, that's not the point. The point is that in a fair trial, a jury should be allowed to see ALL evidence, even evidence that gives the jury reasonable doubt. The jury was not allowed to be shown to them. And also, I think the fact that he has a petition with more than 126, 000 people's signatures says more than you are able to realize.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Thanks for the article

          That there are at least 126,000 idiots out there?

          1. M.V. Lipvig

            Re: Thanks for the article

            Or customers, missing his product.

      2. Feorge

        Re: Thanks for the article

        That's not the point. The point is that he was not given a fair trial. The DEA agents story is indicative of the fact that there WAS reasonable doubt for the juries to consider. Also the fact that there is a petition to commute his sentence says more than you are able to realize.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tax avoidance

    If they had just paid taxes like every other company they would have been okay. Governments want "their" share. And if they don't get it, they will get you.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Tax avoidance

      actually true, if you have ill-gotten gains you're supposed to declare it as "other income" or something like it. Well, in the USA, anyway. Otherwise, you'll end up getting 'tax evasion' charges like Al Capone.

      1. VikiAi Silver badge

        Re: Tax avoidance

        Don't take this as currently true, as it is 2-decades-ago when I saw an interview with an ATO spokesperson conveying this information, but the Australian Taxation Office has (had at the time) exemptions to handing over details on what citizens claimed as their sources of income, even under subpoena.

      2. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: Tax avoidance

        surely putting $80m in bitcoin under "other income" will raise flags and put you under several agencies spotlights , even if you do pay the tax on it.

  14. emmanuel goldstein

    Life without parole

    A vicious and grossly disproportionate sentence.

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Life without parole

      "A vicious and grossly disproportionate sentence."

      It is likely that a chain of individual crimes, for which a jail sentence of 1 month would be appropriate, could add up to "one big sentence" worth of them, ya know? so someone who's guilty of 1200 petty crimes with a month sentence each could get 100 years... or I say, SHOULD get 100 years!

      in any case, if they needed to lock him up for longer, the cops would find more crimes for him to be tried on and rack up the sentence. But this way, with 'life without parole', everyone's done with it.

      Keep in mind that a sentence like this is *designed* to STOP OTHERS from TRYING what he did. 'Intimidation factor' among other things.

      1. Jamie Jones Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Life without parole

        But Bob! He's such a nice guy!

        After all, his momma said:

        Lyn: Ross is a stellar human being. He is such a fine person -- friendly, compassionate, caring -- and has demonstrated that his whole life. In the prison he gave yoga classes, he gave physics classes. We had a guard take us aside and go, "I just want you to know how much I think of Ross. He's such a great person."

        From video interview at https://money.cnn.com/2015/02/03/technology/silk-road-founder-parents-ulbricht/index.html, so verifyably not CNN fake news :-)

    2. JeevesMkII

      Re: Life without parole

      I can't remember the precise quote, but didn't he say he was "balls to the wall and all in" when informed that this was probably going to be the sentence if he were ever caught?

      Whelp, he went all in and got busted. He was not unaware of what he was doing, and he did it anyway. Doesn't seem like he has much of a leg to stand on whining about it now.

  15. steviebuk Silver badge

    Just starting to read and..

    ..got to this bit "Ulbricht was also linked to six drug overdose deaths where the narcotics had been ordered from his website."

    Not nice but if thats the case, surely Mark Zuckerberg is responsible for that girls suicide that was on the news the other day where it is alledge she got material from one of his sites. And sites & shops that sell booze and fags (cigarettes for our American cousins) are responsible for all the alcohol and tobacco deaths. None of those are doing life in prison.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just starting to read and..

      Excellent point. The reason Ross Ulbricht got life without parole (just take a minute to think about the full horror of that sentence), was because he scared the shit out of the government. He didn't kill anyone, he didn't steal, he didn't lie, he didn't extort money from anyone. What he did was bypass the government's monopoly on deciding what we, as adults, can and can't do. He's a hero and his name will be remembered long after the sleaze-bags who govern our lives are long gone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just starting to read and..

        You mean the government weren't happy with him putting hits on people?

        1. emmanuel goldstein

          Re: Just starting to read and..

          If you had RTFA you would know that those charges were dismissed.

        2. matt11

          Re: Just starting to read and..

          It should have made no difference - the alleged hits were not part of the charges on which he was being tried, so they should have had no influence on the sentence. Iirc, those charges have since been dropped. The sentence he received seems to be wildly disproportionate to the crimes for which he was convicted.

      2. steviebuk Silver badge

        Re: Just starting to read and..

        The sentence is over the top but he's far, far, far from a hero.

      3. regregular

        Re: Just starting to read and..

        >> just take a minute to think about the full horror of that sentence

        Am I the only one that thinks life in the slammer somehow sounds worse than death penalty? Maybe it is one of these things where you change perspective once it affects you, but I'd rather be dead than spend 50 or 60 years in the US prison system.

        >> What he did was bypass the government's monopoly on deciding what we, as adults, can and can't do

        That was strike one, but I would think they were equally scared about someone attacking the dollar, the only legal tender that almost universally works around the globe. A lot at stake there, and for many of the people involved back then Bitcoin and Silk Road were probably synonymous.

    2. rmason Silver badge

      Re: Just starting to read and..

      Similarly the "murders" he was nobbled for - He didn't want anyone killed, he didn't order anyone killed.

      what they meant was "6 people tried to/did hire/advertised for a hitmen via silk road" and/or "the services of approximately 6 hitmen were advertised there" Or the ever popular "the agent we had pretending to be a hitman was paid 6 times"

      I mean FFS, your average heroin deal would get thousands of years inside if they were charged with a rough approximation of the harm and deaths caused, and each crime committed by the addicts etc.

  16. VikiAi Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    A good example of how smart investigation can bring in results.

    No pervasive data-trawling access of the entire citizenry required!

    1. emmanuel goldstein

      Re: A good example of how smart investigation can bring in results.

      That we know of!

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Epic Fail

      good example in the article .....

  18. steviebuk Silver badge

    Nice read

    Don't hold your breath. Unless Trump has a hand in the illegal money making act he won't give a shit and will let you rot. You need to hope someone else gets in that see the sentence a tad harsh considering there are probably murders in the same prison doing less time. As Kevin Mitnick said about his time in the clink. Some of the murders and rapist couldn't understand how Kevin had was in their longer than they were going to be.

    "while begging people to sign his clemency petition to US president Donald Trump."

    1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

      Re: Nice read

      he did longer than your average murderer and rapist , before he even got a trial!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DPR missed the first and foremost rule of criminal enterprises... "Get out while you're ahead."

    Probably hard to stick to when whatever you do is born out of ideology/passion...

  20. hapticz

    Good Bad and the Ugly

    Like most enterprises that function successfully to transfer huge amounts of money/value from the many to a few (think government), this one was alike the bootleggers (alcohol/tobaccy/other) that was deemed non-essential for human health. Some people do try to live without the use of mind altering chemicals, ingest non-foods or implore others to try harmful products. Modern business is all about money, far less about caring a damn how it arrives at their bank. Facebook mines peoples minds, seeking entry to use whats there for sale to business to sell them things (anything). Free choice is subverted by the hysteria and 'need to be part of it' life, social contexts and all variants thereof. All the individual wants is freedom to exist, and live out from under the heavy hand of others who make laws that deny them that freedom. Many act like the thugs themselves, taking more while returning less.

  21. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Nibbling the elephant

    I've seen a few stories on how he was caught and the biggest issue was reusing personas and his real name in a wide variety of places instead of keeping them all separate. Buying a laptop on Amazon wasn't something I remember hearing about, but was massively stupid. It would have been better to buy one used from a private party or at a computer swap meet paying cash and not generating any records. Lots of criminals that make piles of money often trip themselves up by buying expensive items such as cars that The Man tracks through registrations and taxes. Posh houses, boats, planes... anything like that is too noticeable to purchase with unclean money. A smart operator would get into a legitimate business and cook the books to show a nice profit, pay taxes on them all the while merely breaking even in reality. The company could then buy the fancy car and houses all above board without ringing any bells. The trouble is that the criminal wants to keep all of the money and not pay any taxes at all. Governments don't like that and have ways of finding people out when they make major purchases.

    Getting a private server anonymously is not hard. I can go to the local mobile phone shop and get a new number and phone without having to show ID and just pay cash each month or pay online with a gift card purchased with cash someplace that doesn't have CCTV or poorly placed cameras where I can obscure my face with a hoody or wide brimmed hat. For fun, get a cowboy hat at the thrift store (if you never wear one). They have a large brim and you can toss it or drop it in a random donation bin when you are done. Get an email address from a free provider (not Google, someplace smaller). Take a drive to the country and find an out of the way address to give that will check out ok but since you will never get physical mail, that dog won't meow. The hosting company is mainly going to be concerned with getting paid. Once you are set up all you have to do is to keep the bill paid. Annual payments are best if you can afford them since discrepancies are less likely to trip you up as there will be no reason for any checking up, returned mail, etc.

    Being near a train station is a good idea. You can do some war driving to locate open Wi-Fi nodes that you can get to with the train and log in from many different places as long as you're clever enough to watch out that you aren't putting pins in a map that describes the train route in an obvious way. Never, ever, ever be two different people at any of the locations where you're conducting illicit business. Some South American drug cartel leaders have pegged themselves by using a burner phone "for security" at a location and then making or receiving a call on their non-business phone in a short span of time. The cops then have another tidbit of information from that burner number and will track back it's purchase and activation plus any records, number listed in emails, texts, letters, etc.

    Like a good actor, you have to be able to put on an whole new person and stay in character if you want to create something like the Silk Road. Break the 4th wall and you're nicked.

    1. VikiAi Silver badge

      Re: Nibbling the elephant

      Reminds me of a former flat-mate who worked in banking who told me of a guy who ran one of those skim-off-the-rounding-error programs (this was quite a few decades ago, yeah). He would have been caught eventually, no doubt, but when he turned up for work one day in a very expensive red sports car, management knew to check things very thoroughly immediately, and sysops found his code change and the digital trail from it back to his terminal within a few hours of knowing to look!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nibbling the elephant

        Managing to insert both keys into the console at the same time on his own was some feat though! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnBVIhiUd_g

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. theExecutive

      PROOF

      They have to proove you ordered it, and not an evil enemy putting you in it..good times.

  23. M.V. Lipvig

    Minor correction

    Libertarians are not anti-government. They are for minimal government, but recognize that there is a legitimate need for some government. Those who want no gvernment at all are anarchists. A libertarian wants a small government that provides for the common defense, puts forth general rules of conduct, takes care of the more violent criminals, and otherwise stays out of the way.

  24. theExecutive
    Pirate

    ERROR! ERROR! ERROR!

    Its a TOR site, this is bullshit! "what we did find was that the actual server itself showed the admin was logging into the actual Silk Road from an internet cafe in San Francisco."

  25. rbf

    Once you bring in other people, you have people who when informed by the authorities of how many years they face in the slammer, will turn.

    Best not to operate in a jurisdiction where you stand to get life without parole, or one that will extradite you to same. Good luck finding one.

    And NEVER be in proximity of evidence. That's a tough one.

    There's been a few Silk Road successors. Some have been caught. Others have suddenly folded their tents and absconded - perhaps the best strategy as you can be gone before the investigators can track you down.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So, here in the U.K. a guy has just been convicted on about 8 counts of illegal and unregistered guns. Also found 2.2million images of children, 30,000 category A.... sentence 12years. Any idiot wants to bring up the 6 overdoses attributed to Ross, for allegedly running SR, ask yourself how many of those abused kids have killed themselves.... Society is broken

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