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Feds Shut Down Tor-Using Narcotics Store 301

Fluffeh writes "Federal authorities have arrested eight men accused of distributing more than $1 million worth of LSD, ecstasy, and other narcotics with an online storefront called 'The Farmer's Market' that used the Tor anonymity service to mask their Internet addresses. Prosecutors said in a press release that the charges were the result of a two-year investigation led by agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Los Angeles field division. 'Operation Adam Bomb, ' as the investigation was dubbed, also involved law enforcement agents from several U.S. states and several countries, including Colombia, the Netherlands, and Scotland. The arrests come about a year after Gawker documented the existence of Silk Road, an online narcotics storefront that was available only to Tor users. The site sold LSD, Afghani hashish, tar heroin and other controlled substances and allowed customers to pay using the virtual currency known as Bitcoin."
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Feds Shut Down Tor-Using Narcotics Store

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  • by alphax45 ( 675119 ) <> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:10AM (#39708825)
    Why does Slashdot even bother to hire and pay an editor? They clearly don't do anything. That headline is so misleading. They didn't shut down the entire Tor network, they shut down a store that was USING the Tor network. Fix it!
  • by DahGhostfacedFiddlah ( 470393 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:15AM (#39708871)

    It's obviously just a Case Of The Missing Hyphen. The headline should read "Tor-Using Narcotics Store".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:24AM (#39708935)

    The last thing government wants is to "solve" the "problem" and eliminate the black market. After all, they created the black market. They created it specifically to justify the expansion of their business (i.e. by "solving" the "problems" which they themselves created). Notice that I quite deliberately called government a business.

    If you need proof, simply follow the money. Prohibition has justified hundreds of billions in spending, and the kicker is that the "tougher" they get (i.e. the more they spend), the more sophisticated the black market becomes, and therefore the more money they need to "solve" the "problem". It's a cycle of WIN for government, and a cycle of LOSE for everyone else (at least the ones who can see through the smokescreen and admit the truth).

    When it comes to government, ALWAYS follow the money before listening to a word they say.

  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:29AM (#39708959)

    You don't need bad reading comprehension to come to the other conclusion, it's a poorly phased head line without the hyphen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:39AM (#39709039)

    Why does Slashdot even bother to hire and pay an editor? They clearly don't do anything. That headline is so misleading. They didn't shut down the entire Tor network, they shut down a store that was USING the Tor network. Fix it!

    More to the point, at what point does a routine drug bust become "news for nerds"? Because the dealers were using a Tor and bitcoin for their distribution?

    If there were holes in Tor and/or Bitcoin that allowed the authorities to gain access, then perhaps it's news for nerds. Perhaps. But no, this is just a routine drug bust.

    Next week, we'll be told that some mafioso has been arrested. Oh and by the way, he had a gmail account.

  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:49AM (#39709111) Homepage

    "The indictment, which cited e-mails sent among the men dating back to 2006, didn't say how investigators managed to infiltrate the site or link it to the individuals accused of running it."

    For all you know, they packaged up the drugs without wearing gloves and their fingerprints were in a database somewhere, and they then posted them (with a nice local postmark) to a Fed posing as a customer (how would you know? Their customer will be just as anonymous). Somehow you had to get a physical product to someone else - and that's probably the weak-point. Hell, they could have just offered to drop it off on a street corner as a "one-off" delivery and got caught that way, you have no idea.

    It's then only a small step and the simple matter of suspecting they may be a vast drug operation in place, finding out anything you can from the drugs collected by similar methods and narrowing down until you can just tap someone's whole Internet connection (Tor provides ANONYMITY, not SECURITY). Which they seem to have because they have emails of these people talking to each other.

    Or maybe they just talked their way into an IRC channel or something that these guys used. You have absolutely no idea how they were caught, or whether they were just incredibly thick.

    Using a tool badly does not mean the tool is broken.

  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:53AM (#39709143)

    I hope the Tor Project will be forthcoming with some as soon as some technically useful info is available.

    They might not even know. There are quite a few people in the computer security community who keep their work on breaking the security of systems like Tor a secret, and only tell US law enforcement about their results. I have met such people, and they are generally well-meaning -- they really do believe that they are helping to catch dangerous criminals (and they can cite cases where that happened, usually child sex abuse cases).

    Unfortunately, because such researchers believe that fixing these problems will help "the enemy," they generally refuse to disclose details. One of the common themes is variations on fingerprinting attacks, where you communicate with your target over Tor but use a covert channel that can be used to distinguish your target from other Tor users. These sorts of attacks usually involve narrowing down the geographic area where your target is, but for attacking a drug dealing operation that is not hard to do -- just look at where packages from the operation are coming from.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:55AM (#39709159) Homepage Journal

    You have illustrated exactly why we have editors - so that a second pair of eyes can check your work, and hopefully one of you will have had your morning coffee.

  • by RadioElectric ( 1060098 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:56AM (#39709171)
    Because of who gets the money that the government spends.
  • by edave22 ( 2601393 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @09:01AM (#39709205)

    From the article, emphasis mine:

    ...the operators used software provided by the TOR Project that makes it virtually impossible to track the activities of users' IP addresses. The alleged conspirators also used IP anonymizers and covert currency transactions to cover their tracks. The indictment, which cited e-mails sent among the men dating back to 2006, didn't say how investigators managed to infiltrate the site or link it to the individuals accused of running it.

    I'm willing to bet that money transfers and the transfer of goods sold are still far more discoverable than individual Tor users but any assurances of that would certainly be welcome. I hope the Tor Project will be forthcoming with some as soon as some technically useful info is available.

    They use bitcoin. The security reaches only as far as bitcoins security. You can hide behind an IP in the middle of the red sea if you wanted. If your bitcoin transaction can be tracked, you bet your ass you can be tracked as well.

  • Re:Hyphen! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @09:04AM (#39709243)

    If it helps, it was brought up during the submission phase of the post: [].

    That was a solid ten to twelve hours before it was posted, I had hoped that it might be fixed on posting. Now, please, lets move on from the poor hyphenation, and get back to the article at hand shall we? I am sure it has much more interest to the community at large compared to my poor grammar. The last reason I submitted this was to start a (at this time) thirty post thread on the ambiguity of how the headline can be read or misread.

  • Re:Finally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @09:04AM (#39709249)

    Unfortunately it's not a legitimate use of bitcoin. It's the kind of use that will be at risk of getting bitcoin banned, if someone doesn't popularize a legitimate reason for using bitcoin soon.

  • Tor is open source so you can check what it is doing for yourself. It works, no-one can tell where a Tor connection comes from as long as you don't leak that information in some other way (DNS requests, exposing personal data and so on). It is known that there are Tor exit nodes being monitored but that was always assumed to be the case, i.e. Tor does not rely on trusting exit nodes.

    What got these guys was the need to exchange goods for real money. Goods have to ship or be collected from somewhere. Money has to change hands at some point. From the information we have it appears that the Tor part worked fine.

  • Re:Finally (Score:4, Insightful)

    by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @09:23AM (#39709445) Homepage

    And what hasn't come under attack that has a single illegitimate use? We have bittorrent, home email servers, MP3, dvd rippers... If it has one illegal use, the whole lot of users will be deemed criminals.

  • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@carpanet.PERIODnet minus punct> on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @09:41AM (#39709605) Homepage

    Now if they would just stop this crusade against people who don't choose alcohol as their drug of choice, it would be an even bigger step. Maybe if they stopped driving all this business underground, and stopped putting it all in the hands of major drug cartels....that would be swell too.

    Maybe if they let Glaxco-smith-kline put all the major drug cartels out of business? That should take all of a few months for them.

    Even dumber is...these sites tend to be pretty small. I doubt many cartels are using them, so its mostly small time dealers who are also techies. This isn't a win, this is more stupid. More lives ruined over a problem the government caused initially by creating the black markets.

    Nearly every drug problem they have tried to "solve" with prohibition has only gotten worst. The ones they have driven off the streets completely tend to be the less popular drugs anyway, and just drive the users to even less safe alternatived.

    Good job morons. Maybe if they keep banging their heads against the wall, the problem will just go away....clearly they just need to arrest, strip search, and lock up a few more people. That will totally solve the problem!

  • by Americano ( 920576 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @09:51AM (#39709721)

    I doubt they even had to "crack encryption" on any of these services. Place an order, or two or three, and see where they originate. Chances are, you can locate the origin point pretty quickly. Then you just put some surveillance on the place(s) the shipments are originating from, and place some more orders, and find the people who are inexplicably rich while not leaving the house all day except to go to the post office. Put THEM under surveillance and chances are you just busted your Tor-using drug shop, congratulations Agent!

    As soon as you're shipping physical products through a public shipping network, you're going to be relying solely on "blending in with the crowd" to maintain your anonymity.

  • Re:Finally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nu1x ( 992092 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @11:33AM (#39710937)

    BTC is as much fake money as you are a fake person.

    You are, after all, just some letters on screen.

  • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:39PM (#39711865) Journal

    Sorry, it is a legitimate use of bitcoin. Evading oppression is not only a legitimate use, but the most important possible use of technology. Buying drugs with Bitcoin is every bit as honest and just as, e.g., evading the Great Firewall with Tor.

  • by Rakarra ( 112805 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @01:02PM (#39712129)

    TOR doesn't provide anonymity or security, that's the real problem. Sympathizers like yourself can continue to blame the end user all you like, still doesn't change the fact that TOR doesn't do what it advertises. At best it's a quick way for a troll to get around an IP ban, that's about all.

    And you know that how?

    The story doesn't give any details about how the criminals were caught -- for all you know it might not have had anything to do with TOR at all. What we do know is that the trafficers used TOR, Western Union, Paypal, Bitcoin, and real-world physical delivery. All of those other options are significantly less secure than TOR, and the whole chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Once you combine TOR with other systems, you're no longer secure.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost