Friday, 3 July 2015

The Silk Road

I must admit that all these different sites on the "Dark Web" I have never heard of, but then again, I have never had the slightest inclination to look at them.  The big controversy was a trial earlier this year in New York, in which a computer geek received a life sentence for setting up a drug buying website, money laundering and other offences.  He was ordered to pay $183 million in restitution.  The sentence seems savage, but what is the story?  The Dark Web is used by people who want to avoid the reaches of search engines.  Apparently you need to acquire certain types of software to access them.  Naturally, there will be huge amounts of security, as many of these sites offer all kinds of services.  Drugs, guns, fake ID`s and child pornography.  The Silk Road, a website named after an old trade route in the far east, was the brainchild of computer geek Ross Ulbricht.  He was a supporter of free markets, so his site was like ebay or a peer-to-peer group.  Payments were carried out using bitcoins - a sort of cryptocurrency or similar.  A bit complicated for me to truly understand.  The administrator was said to take a cut or commission.  Everything was done with cryptic names.  The administrator was called Dread Pirate Roberts, who prosecutors and the FBI said was 31 year old Ross Ulbricht.

    He stood trial in New York, but claims were made that the Judge, Katherine Forrest, constantly over-ruled his lawyer and denied defence witnesses the opportunity to fully explain the finer side of virtual currency and the dark net.  There was a claim that Ulbricht had paid a vast amount of money to have six people killed but there were no murders and no evidence was produced to back it up.  Judge Forrest ruled that this could not be introduced as evidence but the prosecution still mentioned it.  Two Federal agents involved in the investigation, were arrested for supposedly stealing money from Silk Road.  Judge Forrest ruled that it could not be used.  Defence lawyers stated that the real target for Federal authorities was another man, who then set up Ulbricht to be the patsy.  Ulbricht`s mother said she thought her son was spending his time creating a new computer game.

    What has emerged is that all the personal details of Judge Forrest - home address, telephone number and social security number, were splashed on the web.  No attempt at intimidation there.  That is not to say Ulbricht knew anything about it, but shows what others would stoop to, in order to protect their "interests."  A newspaper report asks if Ulbricht REALLY did mastermind the site.  He said he set it up five years ago as a free market experiment and soon passed over the running of it to others.  If he created it and set it up, then he masterminded it.  It is that simple.  It was his brainchild.  What this case is bringing up is that the road to supreme riches is in cybercrime.  Hacking - the hacking into a major ISP "cloud" is proof of that.  The web can be used for all types of money making schemes and scams, and you do not need a large "staff" to accomplish it.  One man can be capable of so much.  Did he want to create what is an illegal market and paid the price for it?  If this was his aim, then tough.