Tag Archives: Silk Road

Bitcoin Proves The Libertarian Idea Of Paradise Would Be Hell On Earth

Libertarians love Bitcoin.

About 44% of the online crypto-currency’s users self-identify as Libertarians.

They love the fact that it’s not controlled by a government or central bank — so no online Fed can “print” more of it and inflate our way out of trouble. They love that it’s decentralized; it’s the currency of The People, not The Man. They love that it’s “mined,” a bit like gold, because that makes it a bit like the gold standard, which libertarians think real currencies ought to be tied to. They love that Bitcoin isn’t taxed, so you can hide your income from the government if you want to. They love the way its value reflects pure supply and demand, and not a value forced into the system by regulation or monopoly. And they love that it’s fairly lawless — it’s difficult to enforce rules (other than the rules of the market) when everyone in the market is anonymous.

Continue reading Bitcoin Proves The Libertarian Idea Of Paradise Would Be Hell On Earth

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List of Hidden Marketplaces (Tor & I2P)

Silk Road 2.0

Silk Road 2.0

Silk Road 2.0 Url:  silkroad6ownowfk.onion
Forum Url: silkroad5v7dywlc.onion
Sub reddit URL:  http://www.reddit.com/r/SilkRoad/ & http://www.reddit.com/r/SilkRoadTwo (this one is very new and not so active yet)
Note: Good luck.

Continue reading List of Hidden Marketplaces (Tor & I2P)

Archeologists are scrambling to excavate a 2,600 year old city before it becomes a Chinese copper mine

At the end of the year, state-owned Chinese mining company China Metallurgical Group will take control of an ancient Buddhist city in Afghanistan, Mes Aynak.

Southeast of Kabul, the ancient, abandoned city is home to sculptures, art, and jewelry dating back to the time of Alexander the Great—as well as 5.5 million tonnes of copper ore, one of the world’s largest deposits.

Mes Aynak Stupa
An ancient Buddhist stupa uncovered at the Mes Aynak archaeological site. Brent Huffman

Before China Metallurgical turns the site into a copper mine, a team of understaffed and underfunded archaeologists is scrambling to excavate the area, believed to be one of the most important (pdf) stops along the Silk Road and critical for understanding the spread of Buddhism.

It’s unclear exactly what will become of the area, but given that the company plans to build an open copper mine, most of Mes Aynak and the surrounding mountain range will have to be destroyed.

Experts say a full excavation of the 9,800-acre (4.8 million square-foot) archaeological site would take at least 25 years.

Afghan and Chinese officials aren’t likely to wait that long: China Metallurgical has a 30-year deal with the Afghanistan government, which is desperate for revenues.

Mes Aynak Gold Buddha
A gold-plated Buddha head is just one of many artefacts found at the Mes Aynak site, as archaeologists scramble to preserve what they can with limited time and resources. Brent Huffman

“From one side, my people need food. We are poor people. My national budget needs to generate revenue. But on the other side, I have to protect the international heritage,” Nasir Ahmad Durrani, deputy minister of mining told Al Jazeera in June.

A Mining Company, An Ancient City And 5.5 Million Tons Of Copper
A Mining Company, An Ancient City And 5.5 Million Tons Of Copper

Instead, local and international archaeologists have been working on a “rescue excavation” since 2009, hiring locals from nearby Pashtun villages to remove as many valuable artifacts as they can and record on film the existence of structures or items that may not get saved.

Archaeologists are trying to remove stupas, structures, sculptures and painting but say they need specialized equipment and more diggers.

Diggers in 2010.AP Photo/AP Photo/Dusan Vranic

Activists, meanwhile, have been trying to halt the mine, and secure UNESCO protection for the area. Over 50,000 pro-protection signatures were collected and handed to president Hamid Karzai last year, but Afghanistan’s presidential election earlier this year, which has left the country in political paralysis, means there’s no president to lobby now.

Huffman-Abdul Qadeer Temore
Abdul Qadeer Temore, one of the lead Afghan archaeologists on the project, works on one of the standing Buddha statues at Mes Aynak. Brent Huffman

Digging for the copper mine was supposed to begin last year, but has been put on hold as China Metallurgical tries to renegotiate parts of the deal, which includes the company building a power plant, processing facility and railway in addition to the mine.

Mes Aynak Workers
Locals from nearby villages work at the site the site, assisting archaeologists by removing dirt and rocks to expose the artifacts beneath. Brent Huffman

Those negotiations are supposed to resume (paywall) once a new administration is in office, according to the South China Morning Post.

A prolonged audit of the election, and the fact that China Metallurgical has run into problems at home—its deputy chief engineer was dismissed from the communist party in June for “serious disciplinary and legal violations” could buy conservationists a bit more time.

Who Owns the World’s Biggest Bitcoin Wallet? The FBI

Bitcoins

Who owns the single largest Bitcoin wallet on the internet? The U.S. government.

In September, the FBI shut down the Silk Road online drug marketplace, and it started seizing bitcoins belonging to the Dread Pirate Roberts — the operator of the illicit online marketplace, who they say is an American man named Ross Ulbricht.

The seizure sparked an ongoing public discussion about the future of Bitcoin, the world’s most popular digital currency, but it had an unforeseen side-effect: It made the FBI the holder of the world’s biggest Bitcoin wallet.

The FBI now controls more than 144,000 bitcoins that reside at a bitcoin address that consolidates much of the seized Silk Road bitcoins. Those 144,000 bitcoins are worth close to $100 million at Tuesday’s exchange rates. Another address, containing Silk Road funds seized earlier by the FBI, contains nearly 30,000 bitcoins ($20 million).

That doesn’t make the FBI the world’s largest bitcoin holder. This honor is thought to belong to bitcoin’s shadowy inventor Satoshi Nakamoto, who is estimated to have mined 1 million bitcoins in the currency’s early days. His stash is spread across many wallets. But it does put the federal agency ahead of the Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who in July said that they’d cornered about 1 percent of all bitcoins (there are 12 million bitcoins in circulation).

In the fun house world of bitcoin tracking, it’s hard to say anything for certain. But it is safe to say that there are new players in the Bitcoin world — although not as many people are buying bitcoins as one might guess from all of the media attention.

Satoshi stores his wealth in a large number of bitcoin addresses, most of them holding just 50 bitcoins. It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare, but most savvy Bitcoin investors spread out their bitcoins across multiple wallets. That way if they lose the key to one of them or get hacked, all is not lost.

“It’s easier to keep track of one address, but it’s also most risky that way,” says Andrew Rennhack, the operator of the Bitcoin Rich List, a website that tracks the top addresses in the world of bitcoin.

According to Rennhack, the size of the bitcoin universe has expanded over the past year, but the total number of people on the planet who hold at least one bitcoin is actually pretty small — less than a quarter-million people. Today, there are 246,377 bitcoin addresses with at least one bitcoin in them, he says. And many people keep their bitcoins in more than one address. A year ago, that number was 159,916, he says.

Although some assume that the largest Bitcoin addresses are held by bitcoin dinosaurs — miners who got into the game early on, when it was easy to rack up thousands of bitcoins with a single general-purpose computer — almost all of the top 10 bitcoin addresses do not fit that profile, says Sarah Meiklejohn, a University of California, San Diego, graduate student.

She took a look at how many transactions in these wallets seemed to match the profile of early-day miners and found that only one of them really fit the bill.

The rest seem to belong to what Meiklejohn calls Bitcoin’s “nouveau riche”: People who are accumulating bitcoins from non-mining sources. “What you’re seeing is this influx of a different kind of wealth,” she says.

Because most bitcoin addresses haven’t been publicly identified — like the FBI’s — it’s hard to say exactly makes up the new Bitcoin top 10. Meiklejohn says that they’re likely to include wallets created by up-and-coming Bitcoin exchanges or businesses. One of them is the wallet that’s thought to contain 96,000 bitcoins stolen from the Silk-Road successor, Sheep Marketplace.

How Did the FBI Find the Silk Road Servers, Anyway?

In the run-up to the trial of Ross Ulbricht, the alleged owner of Silk Road, an aching question has remained: How exactly did the FBI find the location of the server running the deep web marketplace? 

As revealed in court documents and reported by Andy Greenberg at Wired, the FBI claimed it was because of a misconfiguration of the site’s CAPTCHA, which inadvertently revealed Silk Road’s IP address. But now more evidence is putting that narrative under strain, and some experts are suggesting that the FBI may have had some other help.

For the past few months, Ulbricht’s defense, led by Joshua Dratel, has been in the dark regarding how the FBI located the Silk Road servers. It’s a nagging gap in the timeline, and one that led Dratel to argue that the FBI may have broken privacy laws in their investigation.

Last month, the FBI finally described how it apparently found the server. Rather than using any real techno-wizardry, or breaking the Tor network, investigators allegedly found it by typing “miscellaneous entries” into the site’s CAPTCHA, which then, because it wasn’t set up correctly, sent back the site’s IP address to a normal web browser.

This was all detailed in a declaration from the lead FBI agent working on the case at the time, Christopher Tarbell.

A slew of experts subsequently scrutinised that series of events, describing Tarbell’s declaration as overly vague and suggesting that the FBI’s tactics may have resembled something closer to hacking than essentially just stumbling across the IP address.

Now, fresh evidence has cast more doubt on the story.

The new details are included in documents released by the US government this week, which were published in response to Ulbricht’s lawyers demanding that the FBI provide more information.

The defense wanted to know which software was used to record evidence of the CAPTCHA leaking the Silk Road’s IP address to investigators. But, according to the FBI’s response, the agency had no additional information to provide.

Brian Krebs, a renowned security and cybercrime journalist, uploaded the government’s responses to the web and asked an expert to weigh in. Nicolas Weaver from the International Computer Science Institute and the University of California, Berkley, took particular issue with a configuration file that was taken from the seized Silk Road servers.

Weaver claimed that because of the way the Silk Road website was set up—with a front-end server and a back-end server, and only data from the former being able to reach the latter—it would actually have been impossible for someone fiddling with the CAPTCHA on the login page to reach the back-end server.

THE PROSECUTION HAS MAINTAINED IT WAS THE FBI, AND NOT THE NSA, THAT FOUND THE SERVER.

The FBI also provided the defense with the traffic logs from the Silk Road server, but Weaver didn’t like the look of those either. He suggested that the logs didn’t show the FBI getting an IP address from a leaky CAPTCHA, but a PHPMyAdmin configuration page.

So now another question arises. If the FBI didn’t find the server because of a leaky CAPTCHA, how did it find a PHPMyAdmin page instead?

Robert Graham of Errata Security took that up on his blog. He gets into the technical grit around the evidence, and suggests that the logs point to something else, perhaps monitoring of internet ports.

If the FBI or an assisting government agency like the NSA were monitoring connections to and from Iceland, where it turned out the admin pages were being hosted, “they could easily have discovered the password and used it to log onto the server.”

As for finding that PHPMyAdmin page, “One way this could have been found is by scanning the entire Internet for SSL servers, then searching for the string ‘Silkroad’ in the resulting webpage,” Graham writes. He also says that the logs provided in the new evidence don’t match up with the pages described in Tarbell’s declaration.

“As an expert in such topics as sniffing passwords and masscaning the Internet, I know that tracking down the Silk Road site is well within the NSA’s capabilities,” Graham wrote.

But the prosecution has maintained it was the FBI, and not the NSA, that found the server.

Some, including Graham, therefore suggest a case of “parallel construction” could be at play—when evidence is presented as obtained in one way to support a court case, but has in fact been sourced by other means.

For example, last year Reuters reported that the DEA used “parallel construction” to hide when their investigations originated with a tip-off from NSA surveillance.

The problem with this tactic is its potential to diminish the fairness of a trial, which largely relies on a defendant knowing how the evidence against them was obtained. 

Ulbricht’s trial is set to start next month, and we can no doubt expect the legal drama to continue in force.

Drugs And Weapons Are Pouring Into One Of China’s Border Areas – Silk Road smuggling

china drugsChina Daily News/ReutersA policeman guards while confiscated drugs are burned during a campaign on the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking in Shenyang, Liaoning province June 26, 2010.

China struggles with contraband from its neighbours

A hundred metres from the tiered, gold-tipped roof of the official border crossing between China and Myanmar in Ruili, an unofficial international trade zone thrives—across a 7-metre (23-foot) high metal fence that divides the two countries.

Small groups of Chinese gather to buy cigarettes, coffee and Chinese medicines through the bars from Burmese stall-sellers. Farther along the road, a man in a red T-shirt crosses from Myanmar to China in bright daylight through a rectangular hole in the railings.

China’s south-western province of Yunnan is trying to expand its imports from and exports to its land neighbours: Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. It shares more than 4,000km (2,500 miles) of border with them. The Chinese are not necessarily keen to import all of its neighbours’ products, however.

The liveliest trade is in drugs. Yunnan borders on the Golden Triangle, a region notorious for its copious output of narcotics. Locals on the Burmese frontier point to fruit trees that now grow where opium used to, but the quantity of drugs seized has been rising.

Yunnan’s border police confiscated 6.2 tonnes of drugs in 2013, almost double the amount in 2011. More than half the methamphetamine seized in China last year was from Myanmar and was seized in Yunnan. Drug smuggling between Vietnam and China, a lot of it through Yunnan, has risen sharply too.

china crystal methStringer/ReutersParamilitary policemen carry seized crystal meth at Boshe village, Lufeng, Guangdong province, December 29, 2013.

Other forms of illegal activity are rife. Weapons smuggling is on the rise; signs written on walls near the China-Laos border in Mohan advertise guns and ammunition for sale. Most timber entering China from Laos and Myanmar is logged illegally, according to a report by Chatham House, a London think-tank. Contraband goods flow from China too.

A Burmese politician told parliament in October that more than four-fifths of the 4m registered motorbikes in Myanmar were illegally imported. Many traders consistently underestimate the value of goods they are transporting to pay less tax.

Most insidious is the trade in people. On November 24th Chinese officers arrested a gang accused of selling 11 Burmese women as wives in rural areas for 50,000-90,000 yuan ($8,000-13,000) each. In 2013 Yunnan border police found more than 100 trafficked people, and arrested over 6,000 others who had crossed the border illegally.

A Computer Science Professor Found A Way To Identify Most ‘Anonymous’ Tor Users

tor

Tor was supposed to be an anonymous means of browsing the Internet, but a study by computer science professor Sambuddho Chakravarty reveals that 81 percent of those using Tor can be de-anonymized by exploiting a technology in Cisco routers called Netflow. The ploy reveals a user’s originating IP address, which is analogous to identifying someone’s home address even if he or she uses a P.O. box.

By facilitating anonymity online, Tor enables people around the world to communicate securely and get around firewalls that might block certain sites in their countries. It’s also the technology that facilitated the notorious Silk Road (and subsequent iterations), seeing people trade bitcoins for assorted black market paraphernalia through the mail. The nonprofit project enables freedom of the press around the world and, for at least a time, presented a means to mail-order drugs.

The Tor browser works by way of decentralization. Your Web traffic doesn’t come directly to you, but instead arrives by way of a number of relays. Each relay makes it increasingly difficult to identify the traffic’s ultimate destination, shielding you from being associated with it. The trade-off is one of speed for purported anonymity, but this Netflow exploit is only the latest among a few incidents that seem to be punching holes in the browser’s popular conception as a bulletproof security fiend.

“That general understanding is wrong,” Kevin Johnson, CEO of independent security consulting firm SecureIdeas, said. “Tor runs on top of a complex series of interconnections between apps and the underlying network. To expect that everything in that system is going to understand and respect it, it becomes very complex.”

Consider Web traffic as though it were automobile traffic flowing down a highway. To assume that all Web traffic will follow Tor’s anonymizing “rules” is akin to assuming that every car on the highway follows all the traffic regulations, but “as we know by looking at any news report, a number of people have accidents every day,” Johnson said. “The exact same thing happens with Tor. It’s a highway system with an application that says ‘go this way,’ and we expect all of our apps to follow those signs.”

Johnson says that Cisco’s Netflow, which sits at the heart of the exploit that can de-anonymize these Tor users, is comparable to the Department of Transportation’s analytics on a given stretch of road. Instead of identifying the types of traffic — 15 percent motorcycles, 25 percent sedans, 40 percent semi trucks, and so on –Netflow can break down Internet traffic into its various types, say 50 percent email, 35 percent Web traffic, and the remainder being Tor.

Chakravarty’s technique for exploiting Netflow works by injecting a repeating traffic pattern, such as the common HTML files that most Tor users are likely to be accessing, into the connection and then checking the router’s flow records to check for a match. If it finds a match, then the user is no longer anonymous.

“When you’re looking at those kind of attacks, they’re done by government state agencies, usually foreign governments suppressing protesters or tracking dissidents. It’s harder to do in America because there’s so much other traffic,” said Jayson Street, who bears the job title of Infosec Ranger at security assessment firm Pwnie Express.

The takeaway is clear: Tor used by itself is hardly some one-stop shop to ensure anonymity online. “End users don’t know how to properly configure it — they think it’s a silver bullet,” Street said. “They think once they use this tool, they don’t have to take other precautions. It’s another reminder to users that nothing is 100 percent secure. If you’re trying to stay protected online, you have to layer your defenses.”

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