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Captcha Takes Down Silk Road

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Former FBI agent Christopher Tarbell has claimed that the agency tracked down the servers of anonymous online marketplace Silk Road by employing an IP leak caused by a Captcha prompt on the site’s login page.

The anonymous online marketplace, popular as a black market trading bazaar, was taken down in October last year, with its owner and operator the Dread Pirate Roberts, aka Ross William Ulbricht, arrested at San Francisco airport.

Silk Road employed the anonymous  internet privacy network in order to keep its true IP address and web server location secret, however, according to Tarbell’s declaration (PDF) for the United States of America v. Ross Ulbricht case being heard at the Southern District New York District Court, the FBI tracked down the Silk Road server by allegedly using the leaky Captcha prompt.

During  the FBI’s investigation of the Silk Road website, the SR Server was located by Tarbell and another member of the CY-2 squad of the FBI New York Field Office. who is a former computer forensic examiner with the FBI’s global forensic team, and also served as a lead case agent in the Silk Road investigation while part of the FBI’s CY-2 cybercrime squad.

Tarbell says “The IP address leak we discovered came from the Silk Road user login interface. When examining the individual packets of data being sent back from the website, they noticed that the headers of some of the packets reflected a certain IP address not associated with any known Tor node as the source of the packets. This IP address (the ‘Subject IP Address’) was the only non-Tor source IP address reflected in the traffic we examined.

“The Subject IP Address caught our attention because, if a hidden service is properly configured to work on Tor, the source IP address of traffic sent from the hidden service should appear as the IP address of a Tor node, as opposed to the true IP address of the hidden service, which Tor is designed to conceal.

When Tarbell typed the Subject IP Address into an ordinary (non-Tor) web browser, a part of the Silk Road login screen (the Captcha prompt) appeared. Based on his training and experience, this indicated that the Subject IP Address was the IP address of the SR Server, and that it was ‘leaking’ from the SR Server because the computer code underlying the login interface was not properly configured at the time to work on Tor.

After the Silk Road shutdown  in October of 2013, 3.6 million bitcoins were seized.

 

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US Senate Recognizes Bitcoins-Value Sky Rockets

 

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A Senate hearing was held last night and saw an assortment of experts, including Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, giving their opinions on the currency – which were mostly guarded but positive.

The value of Bitcoin shot up to $785 after the meeting, a $200 rise from earlier that day. Bernanke said “While these types of innovations may pose risks related to law enforcement and supervisory matters, there are also areas in which they may hold long-term promise, particularly if the innovations promote a faster, more secure and more efficient payment system,” . The hearing was called following the closure of Silk Road, an online black marketplace used largely for drugs, which was one of the earliest adopters of the Bitcoin currency and a name synonymous with its use. Many have said the closure of the “Amazon for drugs” site has helped to legitimise Bitcoin among its former nemeses.

Bitcoin was created in 2008 by an anonymous developer who goes by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. The currency is decentralised and therefore can’t be controlled by any government – it’s created, controlled and traded by Bitcoin users rather than a central bank.

 

Cloud Computing Security and Privacy

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The Question:  Should  the  authorities  be allowed to use unlawful measures, such as hacking, in order to apprehend those who are doing so for financial gain?

We hear stories of Silk Road being shut down and the F.B.I arresting  Ross Ulbricht as a result of unlawful activity. Silk Road was able to exist and function through the use of ‘darknet’ and ‘Tor’. Darknet uses peer-to-peer networks in order to remain anonymous, and Tor (aka The Onion Router) uses separate servers in order to disguise users online presence and location.

The paper trail that would normally accumulate during sales of over $1.2 billion to a million customers was hidden by the use of a virtual currency system called ‘bitcoin’. Bitcoin covered the financial tracks that are often left by credit card use online. The FBI discovered the six servers hidden in various locations around the world. These servers provided the data that exposed transactions, enabled the site to be shutdown, as well as the arrest of Ulbricht.

 

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