A man has been arrested in San Francisco on charges of hacking and operating an underground website that allowed users to purchase weapons and drugs.
According to a complaint
posted by security blogger Brian Krebs from the 27th
September, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Ross William Ulbricht, also known as “Dread Pirate Roberts”, and others for the violation of the narcotics laws of the United States as well as knowingly “combine, conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other to commit computer hacking offenses” from January 2011 to September 2013.
They are also accused of “providing a platform facilitating the sale of illicit goods and services” including malware and illicit goods and services, and money laundering by the use of a Bitcoin payment system. While he used SSH keys to access the TOR-powered site, the site also generated sales revenue of 9.5 million Bitcoins. Also despite being an underground website, TOR users were apparently easily able to find the site.
According to the complaint, the investigation started when border agents intercepted fake IDs from Canada in early July 2013. Among the 159 services listed, most concerned hacking of social networks, ATM machines and lists of connections, and as of 23rd July, there were approximately 957,079 registered user accounts reflected on the server.
Regarding Ulbricht, the complaint by FBI special agent Christopher Tarbell said he is a 29-year old graduate of the University of Texas and his focus after graduating was on “creating an economic simulation”, which was deemed to be the Silk Road.
Security blogger Robert Graham suspected
the intervention of the NSA, especially as they are capable of cracking 1024 bit keys which the TOR network uses. “The Silk Road has been probably the number one target the NSA would want to crack. It’s possible the service had been compromised for some time, and agents were simply waiting for some trigger (such as forged IDs crossing the border) to start the official investigation,” he said.