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How a Tax Inspector Used Google Search To Locate the Founder of SilkRoad (bbc.com) 95

An anonymous reader shares a report: You could buy any drug imaginable, wherever you were in the world, on the Silk Road website. Hidden on the dark web, it made millions of dollars every week. The US government had been trying to shut it down for more than two years when tax agent Gary Alford was brought in to try to trace the money which passed through the site. In his spare time, Gary started searching Google to try to find the mysterious mastermind behind the site: Dread Pirate Roberts. And he was successful. Gary spent hours trawling the internet for the first ever mention of Silk Road. He says he came across a posting on Bitcoin forum. In the post, Roberts had shared his Gmail account. That escalated the investigation. Gary spoke with BBC describing the rest.
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How a Tax Inspector Used Google Search To Locate the Founder of SilkRoad

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  • Video? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @10:07AM (#55069373)

    No one is going to watch a stupid video for this.

    • Re:Video? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gaygirlie ( 1657131 ) <gaygirlie@hotmaREDHATil.com minus distro> on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @10:10AM (#55069393) Homepage

      Pretty much. As soon as I noticed it was a video I just simply closed the tab in disgust. Videos are great and all for content where there is some visual content that'd be difficult to convey properly in textual form, but... talking heads ain't that.

      • While this is slightly off topic from the story, it is interesting how Video was supposed to be like the entire internet by now, yet I agree that for stories like this, if I am forced into a video to get more information it is highly likely I'll bail on the whole story. Some of that is probably because I'll read news stories at work or somewhere else where audio isn't an option, but I know that's not the whole reason because I will do the same at home most times unless I am extremely interested in the sto
        • What's annoying about videos is the wadsworth constant [knowyourmeme.com] where the first 30% of a video is not worth watching because it contains nothing relevant to why you are watching the video in the first place. It's waffle about their other videos and pleas to subscribe etc. etc. You used to be able to add &wadsworth=1 to a youtube url, but the last time I tried it didn't work anymore.

          The other reason I prefer reading to watching someone with a lisp trying to explain something, is that I read WAY faster than t
        • i think part of it is because textual content is so trivial to copy and pass off as your own.

        • The reason they do videos is because Youtube pays people if enough watch it. So make 10 lines of text and get $0.00 out of it, or make a video and you get a chance of making some oney. If you spend 10 minutes up front describing all your friend's youtube channel and 10 minutes at the end reminding people to click on "subscribe" then you may get even more money. You wouldn't want to force these people to have to get a real job, would you?

      • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

        Video like this is the "it's millinial's thus, hot shit in their demographic market" just like it was supposed to be for gen-xer's in 2002.

    • Actually there's a pretty good feature film about this. Worth the watch.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    yeah that's the official story
    they just dont want to admit they used the same techniques to break in machines as what they are supposed to protect us from , the silkroad bust is as criminal as what was going on on the silkroad

    • by Anonymous Coward

      yeah that's the official story
      they just dont want to admit they used the same techniques to break in machines as what they are supposed to protect us from , the silkroad bust is as criminal as what was going on on the silkroad

      True enough that criminal acts were being committed by law enforcement, and that sales of items that bear criminal penalties were occurring on Silk Road.

      But my friend Ross Ulbricht was a true Libertarian in his ideals, and in fact did not engage in illegal activity. He basically set up an "ebay with looser rules". He was no kingpin, but just the first to create (and groom) a dark-web sales site with vendor reviews and everything. It is likely that Ross saved countless lives by instituting a system of cus

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        Nice friends you have. Let's hope you don't do anything wrong or you may get a contract on your head...

    • by Megol ( 3135005 )

      Why is it that people that should know better fall for conspiracy theories? Because an alternative explanation of how dread idiot shitbag was found isn't needed - he fucked up. In public forums. Repeatedly. He fucked up when he allowed people to get access to his notebook computer (yes _allowed_ by having shit security).

      There's no reason to believe in conspiracies connected to this case. None. But still people that should know better believe them.

      • Perhaps because we already heard a similar story to how a poorly configured captcha was the cause of the downfall.

        Also, because it has long been suspected that there are exploitable vulnerabilities in TOR, which US intel would not like disclosed. We also know that parallel construction is a common practice, and this would be a case where that would be likely to happen.

  • On my reading list is "American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road" [amzn.to] by Nick Bilton. The author previously wrote "Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal" [amzn.to], a great read about the accidental founding of Twitter, the shenanigans of the four cofounders who wanted to CEO, and everyone else who wanted to buy a revenue-less Twitter.
    • An amazing story with incredibly researched details, if i may add!
    • Can slashdot just go ahead and ban self-promotion/shilling in posts?

      It's really god damn annoying, take your yard-sale somewhere else.

      • Can slashdot just go ahead and ban self-promotion/shilling in posts?

        Take it up with management. Bitching in the comments won't change anything.

        It's really god damn annoying, take your yard-sale somewhere else.

        Feel free to go somewhere else, as I'm not violating the Slashdot TOS.

  • by DickBreath ( 207180 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @10:23AM (#55069467) Homepage
    When you first want to unveil something like this, think ahead more. Don't get caught up in the excitement of your creation.

    Use a new computer (hint, they're cheap these days, even a Raspberry Pi). Use a browser in the most anonymous mode, within a VM. Connect to the internet using an anonymous WiFi. Create a new account on the forum simply for the unveiling event. Wipe the VM and maybe even the entire computer when you're done. If the computer was a Pi, simply dispose of the SD card. Use a USB WiFi dongle, not the computer's built in WiFI -- and then dispose of the WiFI dongle when done. Use a pre-composed message for your announcement. Make sure it is not in your typical writing style and vocabulary. Don't compose the message on another computer. Maybe on a yellow paper tablet that is easily disposed of.

    Maybe that sounds too paranoid. After all, they're not out to get you.
    • hard not to make a mistake ever, he probably should have been sowing the seeds of his defense that he wasn't DPR by setting up red herrings and fall guys so he could at least get a favorable plea deal
      • Or simply get out while ahead.. make a million or two, then abandon ship. Move somewhere like Russia or Thailand and never look back.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @11:16AM (#55069801) Homepage Journal

      And never, ever, ever make a mistake. Mistakes never go away.

      What's in addition point mistakes, where you reveal a single, discrete detail that identifies you, there are cumulative mistakes, where you release enough enough information over time; innocuous details that crosschecked with each other can locate you in time and space.

      Even your writing style and subject matter can identify you. That's how they caught the Unabomber, through content and style of his manifesto. Keep your communications terse, business-like and confine them to the point, and avoid regionalisms.

      If you must argue politics, use sock puppet accounts.

      • Even your writing style and subject matter can identify you. That's how they caught the Unabomber, through content and style of his manifesto. Keep your communications terse, business-like and confine them to the point, and avoid regionalisms.

        Just run your English text through Google Translate, from English to German to French and back to English again. You'll end up sounding like you were dropped on your head as a baby, but you'll still be understandable, and it will handily obliterate your personal style in the process. (As opposed to English->Turkish->Japanese->English, which doesn't even result in actual words...)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      From the video I got the sense that they uncovered a forum posting that discussed *how* to do something like Silk Road, not necessarily announcing Silk Road. Why he left his email at the end of the thread is unclear, but probably at this point he wasn't fully committed to the idea. You tend to be laxer with data security if you don't think you're going to actually do anything serious.

    • I type with my non-dominate hand when I want to remain anonymous.
    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Maybe that sounds too paranoid. After all, they're not out to get you.

      It is only paranoia if you THINK you are being followed.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Dispose of the WIFI dongle? Why not just edit the MAC?

    • Another great way to deal with paranoia is not to create something massively illegal in the first place.

  • by Bill Hayden ( 649193 ) on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @10:49AM (#55069623) Homepage

    Librarian: I texted my son, "...a bunch of FBI agents just came in and busted a guy." My son knew exactly what Silk Road was! (nervous laugh) I don't know why he knew that.

    Comedy gold.

  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Wednesday August 23, 2017 @12:39PM (#55070389)

    "searching Google to try to find the mysterious mastermind behind the site: Dread Pirate Roberts."

    Inconceivable!

  • You could buy any drug imaginable, wherever you were in the world, on the Silk Road website.

    Yeah. Or so they claim.

  • At first I thought it TOR's front page, and can vouch for the abundance of drugs; mostly kids selling their Adderall.

  • I'm not falling for it. I don't read the articles. Did you think having the articles read themselves to me would work any better?

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