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Silk Road, Tor and the Threat of DDoS

Whenever authorities bust somebody for alleged use of popular software for illegal purposes, there's always the chance digital miscreants will protest with DDoS and other attacks.

That's certainly a possibility after the FBI's arrest of Ross William Ulbricht, known as "Dread Pirate Roberts," alleged operator of Silk Road, a marketplace for illegal drugs. 

According to the Reuters news service, federal prosecutors charged Ulbricht with one count each of narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.

In a Forbes article, writer Andy Greenberg added that authorities seized the Silk Road website along with between $3.5 to 4 million in bitcoins, the cryptographic currency people use to buy drugs on Silk Road. In addition to the use of bitcoins, Ulbricht allegedly used Tor to conduct business.

Tor is free software used for online, anonymous communications. It moves Internet traffic along through a free, global volunteer network using thousands of relays to hide a user's location from those who might try to spy on them via traffic analysis and other methods.

Silk Road and Tor have many loyal users who will no doubt be unhappy with this latest turn of events. Don't be surprised if some of them express their feelings by launching fresh waves of DDoS attacks. The FBI's online resources are an obvious target, but when rage ensues everyone becomes fair game.

Of course, there's always the possibility nothing will happen and I'll be happy if proven wrong. But it's best to be prepared. As always, Akamai will monitor activity for its customers and protect them from what may come.


1 Comment

DDOS? That would be funny as some of the attackers would be using Tor to blast their data and end up taking down Tor, not whoever their intended target might be.

If I were ever a patron of Silk Road, not among my concerns would be the forty bucks in my account lost to the feds or not being able to use Silk Road anymore or retaliation -- my very strong concern would be praying that the feds have their hands full and are satisfied with railroading this Ulbricht fellow and would not be coming after me as well given what time I might be looking at if caught. This isn't just buying a bag of weed in a rough neighborhood, this is crossing borders, wire fraud, mail fraud and so forth. If that's something the feds might have evidence of you're doing, you'd best lay low on the DDOS party.

One pitfall of Tor, or even the use of PGP over email, is that unlike regular traffic it attracts attention from the feds presents my data to them as "fair game" as you put it (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/06/use-of-tor-and-e-mail-crypto-could-increase-chances-that-nsa-keeps-your-data/). Participating in more crimes like a conspired DOS (against whom, by the way?) in retaliation whether using Tor or no such tool at all would take the cake in stupidity.

You know, Bill, if you're not doing this already, Akamai obviously has more than enough resources to effectively take command of the Tor network without much effort and be able to monitor much of the exit node traffic and possibly even more than that. I'm pretty sure you're much bigger than Tor and could take over entire routes of data. This traffic has a heavy concentration of very illegal things that the world could do without. Perhaps you're in a position to form a symbiotic relationship with various law enforcement and intelligence agencies centered around Tor. I'd say it's worth doing now, with or without making any deals, just to start sniffing and sifting through the traffic. It's nasty stuff and if you have any sympathy for the Tor world (and bitcoin for that matter) that bubble would pop once you caught a glimpse of how much of it is used for truly indefensible and repugnant activity, by measure of any society's standards.

Doug Simmons