Journalists who write about computer security hackers can become the targets of a lot of bad things. But this story from security blogger Brian Krebs, who writes the “Krebs on Security” blog, is one of the strangest we’ve ever heard.
A group of hackers tried to have him arrested for possession of heroin.
Here’s what happened: A hacker that runs an exclusive underground cyber crime site, where hackers can talk to each other, hatched a scheme.
He planned to buy heroin from Silk Road, the secret underground Internet black market for buying drugs, and have it mailed to Krebs’ home. When the package arrived, he would have one of his buddies call the police and get Krebs busted.
All purchases made on Silk Road must be done via Bitcoin, the anonymous electronic currency that can’t be traced. The hacker set up a Bitcoin account and, with the help of other hackers, raised 2 Bitcoins, worth about $200, and used that to buy the heroin, Krebs reports.
But Krebs had access to the forum and saw the scheme as it unfolded.
Krebs alerted the local police and the FBI and worked with Sara Meiklejohn, a grad student at the University of California, San Diego. Meiklejohn has been studying the use of bitcoin on the Silk Road.
With these resources, he was able to verify when the hackers made their purchase.
The drugs arrived in a thin overnight envelope. A bunch of tiny plastic bags, complete with the seller’s logo, were taped to the inside cover of a magazine. (Here’s a picture.) The police took the package.
From this story, we learned a few amazing details about Silk Road:
- On Silk Road, buyers give feedback and rate sellers for how trustworthy they are and the quality of their drugs.
- Deals can be had. The seller had a buy-10-get-2-free-packets of heroin deal going.
- It’s difficult, but not totally impossible, to follow the Bitcoin trail on Silk Road. Experts have identified a handful of Bitcoin accounts that are associated with Silk Road. These accounts, called “Bitcoin wallets” are not on the main Bitcoin network. That means that experts can see when coins go in, but can’t see how and when they are spent.
Silk Road isn’t easy to find on the Internet. If you type “silkroad.com” into your browser, it will take you to a site that sells human resources software. It can only be found on something called the Tor Network, a group of anonymous websites that can’t be seen by Google or conventional Web browsers. You need a special Web browser to go there.
But once you learn how to log in, shopping for illegal drugs is just like any other ecommerce site. Here’s what it looks like:
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