So the gig is up, My two favorite Drug dealers have been taken down in the space of a week, Christopher Tarbell is now the mystery agent who infiltrated Silk Road and can add Dread Pirate Roberts to his list of take-downs which include “Sabu” of Anonymous.
While other sites ramp up server capacity to meet demand and I watch the number of listings on alternative marketplaces such as Sheep and Black Market Reloaded increase at an exponential rate, (Sheep has gone from 500 Drug listings to over 1500 as I write) I can’t help but get the feeling DPR would be relatively happy with the results of his self-professed “economic simulation” as his legion of vendors and customers scramble to re-establish contact on other marketplaces.
There’s also a hint of Karma in the air too, had the Admins behind the failed Silk Road alternative “Atlantis” kept the site alive just two more weeks they’d be swimming in a sea of bitcoins Scrooge McDuck style right now but given the allegations of ex black marketplace employees having hits put out on them maybe I’ll tone down on the criticism and just be glad I was never on the inside.
Like many others I got to know the Dread Pirate Roberts persona quite well but only now am I building a picture of the man behind the mask and must admit I’m confused, shocked and a bit disappointed by how lax Ulbricht was with his security. Nevertheless whether you view the aftermath as an optimist, anarchist, libertarian or authoritarian the level of solidarity being demonstrated among Silk Road users is something to behold and I’m sure as the FBI woke up to their Silk Road wrap party hangover’s yesterday the real scale of the problem they face became more than apparent.
After all it seems Ross Ulbricht’s skills didn’t lie in internet security or assassination’s for that matter but in providing a utopian blueprint of how people should allowed take control of their own lives and be masters of their own destiny. To all accounts it seems to have worked because as we speak scores of white collar, tech savvy developers who up until now watched from afar and thought “Why did I not think of this” now have their chance and if you’re to believe the rally cry on the darknet forums Silk Road 2.0 will be online within a week and there is no shortage of alternative anonymous marketplaces.
To those who are mourning the loss of Silk Road you have little to fear, If anything we now know Silk Road wasn’t all that secure and from a quick scout around I’ve counted at least 5 publicly stated projects with the said aim of becoming “Silk Road 2.0″ and many more gathering info and building alliances.
And this is what Law Enforcement is now parading as a victory? Over two years of investigation, millions of dollars spent and for what so a couple of armchair programmers can build it again in a few days while in the meantime vendors simply move to other sites.
As if there wasn’t enough suitors ready to rise to the challenge of being the next DPR, to make it easier there is already a functioning open-source project know as BitWasp which can simply be downloaded and installed on an onion web server and the next SilkRoad is (almost) ready to go. Below is a short description of the project from its facebook page where they make no secret of the fact the project aims to aid the development of future anonymous marketplaces flowing in the case of busts like just happened Silk Road.
“BitWasp Marketplace is a light weight, completely open source, anonymous bitcoin marketplace specifically built for use in conjunction with Tor or I2P via the hidden services such as .onion websites and eepsites (for I2P).
The goal of this project is to do the following:
1. Lower the barrier of entry and needed skill-set to operate a website like silkroad. This will increase the number of silkroad styled sites on the internet, and this increase will lead to a stronger pressure on governments to change their draconian drug law policies into something more practical and respecting of individual liberty.
Just like open source forum software revolutionized the ability for individuals to freely share ideas within niche communities, Bitwasp will revolutionize the ability for individuals to sell and buy materials and digital files within online communities.
2. Plans by the many, not by the few. This is essential because, as with nature, competition will select for the best, most secure, and most revolutionary marketplaces. Silkroad is great; but I suspect many minds working on many sites with various add-ons and extensions will lead to many better marketplaces in the long run.”
One thing I can’t figure out is considering he knew and attempted to correct some of his past mistakes, Once busted, did Ulbricht really not expect things he’s done in his role as DPR to come to come out of the woodwork and his character be called into question or better still was he simply resigned to become a martyr for the cause if needs be?
To me, his last post on the closure of Atlantis now seems almost prophetic as he describes how future marketplaces will meet “unexpected challenges” (Which I assume to now mean extortion and murder) and how he is ready to accept his fate whatever that may be.
Since I’m sure more will come to light in the next few days with a court date scheduled for 4th October (Today) It seems pointless to speculate just yet but It looks like they had him from the very first posts he made announcing the launch of Silk Road under an account registered to firstname.lastname@example.org. What’s surprising to me and may be encouraging to many others is given his sloppiness, how did it take so long for him to get caught?? While I didn’t have a very long career working with Atlantis the very first thing I did (after learning a bit more about security on the job) was go back and make sure I didn’t make any noob mistakes.
Either DPR assumed mistakes made in the past would have caught up with him already or his plan to allude to the fact ownership of the site has changed hands from the original founder in a Forbes interview last month were too little too late as the investigations into the original creator of the site were already well under-way. In any case right now we are presented with one Dread Pirate Roberts AKA Ross Ulbricht whose Linkedin/Youtube/Facebook would suggest this is the same guy who founded Silk Road as well as the administrator at the time of closure.
Had Ross Ulbricht practiced what he preached, I believe he would be a free man today but after looking into the technical analysis by forum members on other black markets it’s speculated things were never as secure as Dread Pirate Roberts made them appear. It’s funny how the internet can turn on you, many of DPR’s greatest advocates have now become his greatest critics with some irate vendors having lost six figure sums claiming if he gets out of prison he may be next in line for a hit.
If you want my take on it, I think the role of DPR consumed Ulbricht to the point it took over his rational senses, Overlooking past mistakes in favour of future glory and viewing himself as the un-replaceable figurehead in the war on drugs who would do everything in is his power including murder to see his utopian dream through after all if one anonyomous identity can successfully extort him for $500,000 what’s to stop that person making up a new pseudonym and trying it again two months down the line.
DPR was an idealist who seen the big picture, To him one life lost was nothing compared to how many he could save by providing this safer route to market for illegal substances but to me murder to protect his business is where DPR took over and Ulbricht no longer had a say, A bit like Jim Carey’s character in “The Mask”
“Being an idealist is not being a simpleton; without idealists there would be no optimism and without optimism there would be no courage to achieve advances that so-called realists would have you believe could never come to fruition.”
What striking to me as an outside observer is there seems to be no shortage of well educated American males in their late 20′s (Manning/Snowden and now Ulbricht) willing to sacrifice bright futures and their own personal liberty to highlight the draconian laws and downright totalitarianism being inflicted by their government on the populace, History will show it’s the will of the people that’ll win in the end and not that of the dictators in power and I thanks to the actions of DPR and others like him I believe I am now witnessing a full revolution in progress and I for one will be sticking around to document it.
Finally below is a screenshot of an Independence day post from Ulbricht’s Facebook page entitled “Thoughts on FREEDOM”