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Silk Road 2.0 bites the dust – does the U.S. government have a foothold in Tor?

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Silk Road - the anonymous market

A year after the infamous Deep Web site, Silk Road, was shuttered by federal law enforcement, Silk Road 2.0 (a nearly identical dark web site which opened a month after Silk Road shut down) has suffered the same fate. Officials announced yesterday that they have arrested Blake Benthall (aka Defcon) in connection with the ownership and operation of Silk Road 2.0. Benthall has been charged with conspiring to commit narcotics trafficking and computer hacking (Ok…), conspiring to traffic in fraudulent identification documents (OK…), and one count of money laundering conspiracy (huh?).  And that’s not the end of the story – several other Darknet sites were taken offline at the same time.

The next question will be, “How did the feds track Benthall down on an anonymous network?”  In the next few weeks, we’ll likely hear an exciting tale of investigative prowess, e.g. “the goof linked to an unsecure image off the tor network”, but I’m not so sure I’ll buy it. The spate of Tor busts of late is surely no coincidence. A more likely scenario (unfortunately) is that the Feds have a foothold on the Tor network itself.  No?  Recall that Carnegie Mellon University developed software that revealed the identity of a plethora of “anonymous” Tor users just a few months ago. The anonymity provided by Tor is certainly questionable.

But maybe there is no inherent flaw in the Tor framework/protocol.  Recall those occasional super-fast Tor circuits that you want to keep connected to forever? Yeah, those just might be Tor relays operating under the domain of your friendly Federal government. When you have a chain length of only three hops, it’s probably not that hard for the government to host a multitude of Tor relays and wait, patiently, for the appropriate circuit to form that, with the relay details in hand, leads right back to – Benthall.

Or maybe the goof linked to an unsecure image on the clearnet…  My advice – skip Tor and get a private proxy instead.

Here are the Darknet sites that were taken down.

  • Alpaca
  • Black Market
  • Blue Sky
  • Bungee 54
  • CannabisUK
  • Cloud Nine
  • Dedope
  • Fake Real Plastic
  • FakeID
  • Farmer1
  • Fast Cash!
  • Flugsvamp
  • Golden Nugget
  • Hydra
  • Pablo Escobar Drugstore
  • Pandora
  • Pay Pal Center
  • Real Cards
  • Silk Road 2.0
  • Smokeables
  • Sol’s Unified USD Counterfeit’s
  • Super Note Counter
  • Tor Bazaar
  • Topix
  • The Green Machine
  • The Hidden Market
  • Zero Squad