Silk Road Fans Give the FBI a Tip, and an Earful


Silk Road seized

As Jerry Brito mentions in his column about the closure of the Tor-based black-market site, Silk Road, supporters of the underground economic operation have identified the address where the FBI is storing the 26,000 Bitcoins seized from Ross Ulbricht, the site's alleged proprietor. Now they're sending tiny, tiny Bitcoin tips to that address so they can include nastygrams and peanut gallery taunts in the "public note" portion of their payments that are then visible on Blockchain.

At the FBI Bitcoin address on Blockchain, you can read gems including:

  • Yo F.B.I im hapy for you and all buuut
  • God damn it Mulder.
  • All your Bitcoins are belong to us. …good thing too cuz we is short on funds.
  • "One star is born as another fades away. Which one will come next? is my favorite riddle." Said a girl puffing rings in a dot, dot, dash haze. "No worry, No hurry. They can't stop the signal."
  • Take the drugs, take the domain, but don't take the people's bitcoins. This seizure was only legal because bitcoin is not recognized as a currency.
  • You see, I think drugs have done some good things for us. I really do. And if you don't believe drugs have done good things for us, do me a favor. Go home tonight. Take all your albums, all your tapes and all your CDs and burn them.
  • 'Cause you know what, the musicians that made all that great music that's enhanced your lives throughout the years were rrreal fucking high on drugs. The Beatles were so fucking high they let Ringo sing a few tunes.
  • I think it's interesting the two drugs that are legal, alcohol and cigarettes, two drugs that do absolutely nothing for you at all; and the drugs that might open your mind up to realize how badly you're being fucked every day of your life?
  • I loved when Bush came out and said, "We are losing the war against drugs." You know what that implies? There's a war being fought, and the people on drugs are winning it.
  • The tyrant dies and his rule is over, the martyr dies and his rule begins.
  • The fight against drug trafficking is a wildfire that threatens to consume those fundamental rights of the individual deliberately enshrined in our Constitution.
  • DOWN WITH THE FEDERAL RESERVE! "…The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs." -Thomas Jefferson

As Brito points out, Bitcoins aren't as untraceable as some people think, at least not without special care. But Ulbricht, who is said to be the Dread Pirate Roberts who managed Silk Road, was apparently more than a bit sloppy in covering his tracks—specifically, he was connected to Silk Road because he once used his Gmail address to promote it.

Tor, it turns out, isn't necessarily as completely anonymous as people think, either, though it's pretty damned close. The NSA actively works to crack the network and identify its users, even using advertising networks to plant and trace cookies. So far, though, the spooks have has limited success. In one document supplied to The Guardian by Edward Snowden, NSA officials complain, "We will never be able to de-anonymize all Tor users all the time. With manual analysis we can de-anonymize a very small fraction of Tor users."*

Ulbricht's fatal sloppiness (assuming the feds have the right guy) and the NSA's frustration may well serve to encourage black marketeers and privacy aficionados to keep trying. They now also know to tighten their personal security and to close some technical loopholes.

And they know how to find the feds and aren't shy about taunting them.

* Targeting individuals to track Tor use doesn't yet seem to be easily possible. The same NSA document complained of "no success de-anonymizing a user in response" to specific requests.

(H/T SweatingGin, among others)