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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 SendBot ( 29932 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:12AM (#39708841) Homepage Journal

    AGREED - I was jarred by this headline, then followed it with a heavy groan when I realized what was actually meant.

    Say what you mean, mean what you say...

  • Nope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:26AM (#39708941)
    1. Anonymous payment systems are not good because they let you evade the government, they are good because they protect spenders and merchants from various types of fraud.
    2. A large drug dealing operation that uses Bitcoin is no better off than one which uses cash. The drug dealers still need to pay their rent and buy their groceries, and they cannot do that with Bitcoin. All the DEA would have to do is to watch Bitcoin exchanges to gather lists of suspects.
    3. You still need to ship the drugs, so you are still going leave a trail that points to you.
  • Re:Finally (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:34AM (#39708993)

    When Silk Road hit the mainstream media, Bitcoin went from sub-$1 per BTC to $30+ per BTC. It was basically what caused the big bubble. You could watch the trade graph on MagicTheGatheringOnlineExchange -- sorry, "Mt. Gox" -- and the prices would bump up on the weekends as everyone turned dollars into BTC to buy drugs, and then shot back down on Monday when the dealers turned them back into dollars.

  • by BenEnglishAtHome ( 449670 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:39AM (#39709043)

    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.

  • by dryriver ( 1010635 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @08:43AM (#39709077)
    That none of the various "anonimizer" services out there, from HotSpotShield to Tor, actually give you any kind of tangible identity protection in the "real world" of the current internet. Hell, maybe these services were even setup expressly to lure people seeking "increased anonimity" for various reasons to make use of one these services, so it becomes that much easier to identify, tag, track & monitor them. Maybe some or all of these services have been electronically monitored 24/7 from the day they were born, but we are still told, over and over, and quite falsely, that these services magically "hide your identity" and give you some "online privacy"... In the increasingly Orwellian online and offline world we live in, precisely that being done by the powers-that-be would make a lot of sense, no? Tell all sorts of gullible internet users that using "Service X" magically "hides your identity on the internet", then monitor precisely that service 24/7, to get your hands on the data of a subgroup of internet users who seek to be "more anonymous" online. ... If your organizational mantra consists of "People who try to hide themselves online must have something important to hide, and must be monitored carefully", then you would to precisely that, no? You'd set up a dozen or so "anonimity services" under a variety of different names and front companies, then monitor the f__k out of the people who use those services, on an around-the-clock basis.
  • Re:LSD and extasy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AshtangiMan ( 684031 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @09:21AM (#39709427)

    A friend did her dissertation on the long term effects of MDMA ... For people who have done it more than 25 times there is a remarkable decrease in ability to strategize. The 25 times did not have to be in a quick time period, but generally had occurred over 5 years. The population she used was one that was not using other substances (alcohol, marijuana, caffeine, etc). Strategizing in this case was things like skipping a question you struggle with and coming back to it after finishing the other questions. Very interesting. I think MDMA is useful, but should be used carefully.

  • by gedeco ( 696368 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @09:39AM (#39709585)

    It's not a easy job, but the Feds have better resources.

    What I imagine as workable

    - Monitor up/down time of such website.
    - Match them with provider related or internet related troubles.

    Eventually when identifying the provider, you can tune it done by provoking a temporary connection failure. A connection failure on the right bottleneck will even make TOR traffic unreachable for the rest of the world. This should lead you to the ip of the TOR webserver

  • lessons learned (Score:5, Interesting)

    by green1 ( 322787 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @10:15AM (#39709973)

    What the lesson should be:
    - We already have the resources and abilities to tackle real crimes using new technologies. no new laws are required.

    What lesson law enforcment/government will likely spin on this one:
    - Criminals are now using new technologies, we need more draconian laws to allow us to catch every single one of them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @11:58AM (#39711293)

    If anything, I viweed this as an example of TOR's power. An established deepweb site, running over $1m of narcotics into the US, took a two year investigation involving four other countries governments to find 8 guys? That tells me that they will simply never find a smart lone lurker or occasional poster on the deepweb. Ever.

  • Re:Nope (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:21PM (#39711609)

    Anonymous payment systems are not good because they let you evade the government,

    Well, that's a matter of opinion.

  • by Time_Ngler ( 564671 ) on Tuesday April 17, 2012 @12:54PM (#39712037)

    All these sellers were outed by the feds simply buying some drugs with bitcoins and watching the bitcoin transactions through block explorer.

    Citation? This sounds like some serious BS. First, TFA states the feds never revealed how they caught the suspects. Second, according to the TFA, the farmers market used at least 4 methods of payment, including paypal and western union, so there was no need to trace somebody through bitcoin. Third, if the Feds were tracing purchases through bitcoin, then how would they know when the bitcoin had changed ownership? If the bitcoins that were used to buy the drugs were then spent by the selling party on incense candles, and then spent again by a third party for a pair of Alpaca socks, before being changed to dollars, how would the Feds know who the original purchaser was?

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