Silk Road is down. Its owner, Dread Pirate Roberts, has just been busted by the FBI. How? He got sloppy with his social media accounts.
A few hours ago, visitors to the darknet site were greeted with this notice, above.
10th anniversary of 4chan + Silk Road shuttered the same day = at first one thinks this is an amazing troll— Ales Kot (@ales_kot) October 2, 2013
Some thought this was a joke, timed to coincide with the shutdown of the US government. As details trickled out, Reuters confirmed that the FBI had raided the site and arrested its owner, Dread Pirate Roberts – revealed to be a 29-year-old called Ross William Ulbricht.
Ulbricht has been charged with one count each of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.
Clearly, Ulbricht had no idea this was coming – just last week, he was being interviewed by The Daily Beast. A charge sheet obtained by online security blog KrebsOnSecurity, reveals how the FBI busted Ulbricht. To whit: they traced his Google + and LinkedIn accounts.
An agent working on the case traced the earliest post about Silk Road to a drug forum on shroomery.org, an informational site catering for users of magic mushrooms.
There, he found ‘altoid’ – a newbie user with only one post, which listed the address of Silk Road. “I came across this website called Silk Road… I’m thinking of buying off it,” altoid writes. “Let me know what you think.”
Two days later, altoid turned up on bitcointalk.org, a forum for discussion of the online currency.
“Has anyone seen Silk Road yet?” altoid asked, again listing the address of the site. “It’s kind of like an anonymous amazon.com […] Let me know what you guys think.”
Approximately eight months later, altoid re-appeared on bitcointalk.org, looking to hire an “IT pro in the Bitcoin community” for his start-up. (Cue hubristic music.) altoid went on to list a personal email address: email@example.com.
I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force
The FBI traced the address to the LinkedIn and Google + profiles of a 29-year-old physics graduate called Ross William Ulbricht. “I am creating an economic simulation to give people a first-hand experience of what it would be like to live in a world without the systemic use of force,” his LinkedIn profile states.
When Canadian border control discovered nine fake IDs en route to Ulbricht's San Francisco address (ostensibly purchased in order to buy more servers for Silk Road), it confirmed the feds' suspicions: Ulbricht was Dread Pirate Roberts.
According to the charge sheet, Ulbricht has been Dread Pirate Roberts since the site’s conception in 2011, generating over $80 million in commissions from $1.2 billion in sales of black market goods.
It also reveals that Ulbricht paid $150,000 to arrange the assassination of a Canadian Silk Road user who was threatening to expose the identities of thousands of SR vendors, although law enforcement authorities have no record of a homicide at the address Ulbricht supplied to an assassin-for-hire.
Just walked past a man in the street openly crying in Hackney. He's obviously heard about Silk Road being shut down too.— Colin Roberts (@crablin) October 2, 2013
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing