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Author Topic: Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark-Web Drug Forum  (Read 4327 times)

Offline Chip (OP)

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Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark-Web Drug Forum
« on: August 23, 2015, 05:42:55 PM »
Ed. Why we all need to take care about what we publish

http://www.wired.com/2015/03/dhs-reddit-dark-web-drug-forum/

Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark-Web Drug Forum

OVER THE LAST year, Reddit’s “dark net markets” discussion forum has grown into one of the central fixtures of the online drug scene. At any given moment, hundreds of redditors are browsing reddit.com/r/darknetmarkets, many brazenly discussing anonymous online sales on the open internet.

Now the feds have noticed. And they’re telling Reddit to cough up a few of those users’ real-world identities.

Earlier this month, a Baltimore Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent sent a subpoena to Reddit demanding that the site turn over a collection of personal data about five users of the r/darknetmarkets forum. The subpoena appears to be the first hint of a federal investigation of the recently defunct massive online market known as Evolution, which sold drugs, weapons, and stolen financial details. All five targets of the subpoena were involved, to varying degrees, in the Reddit discussion of that black market’s abrupt disappearance two weeks ago, in which two top administrators apparently absconded with millions of dollars worth of bitcoin belonging to Evolution’s buyers and sellers.

According to a copy of the subpoena shared with WIRED by one of the forum’s moderators who was named in the document, the DHS seeks information that includes the names, IP addresses, dates and times of site visits as well as other data that Reddit likely doesn’t possess, including the users’ phone numbers and financial data. (Reddit doesn’t even require an email address to sign up.)

The subpoena’s five targets are NSWGreat, a user who had claimed to be an Evolution staffer; three other users named z-l, Deepthroat and Evosmith who boasted on Reddit that they were tracking Evolution’s administrators or identifying details about them; and Gwern Branwen, a well-known security researcher, writer and moderator of the darknetmarkets forum. It’s Branwen who has now publicly revealed the subpoena’s existence to WIRED. He says the DHS’s interest in him may be in part because Z-l had recently publicly promised to send proof of findings about Evolution’s administrators to him, though Branwen says he never received any such information.

Reddit's r/darknetmarkets community has become central to the dark web's drug economy in recent months.
Branwen says he sees z-l, Deepthroat, Evosmith and himself as likely red herrings for law enforcement, but that NSWGreat might be an actually important target of the government’s investigation into Evolution. The apparently Australian NSWGreat went so far as to host an “ask me anything” session on Reddit as an internet drug trafficker and public relations staffer for Evolution’s black market. “Given the date and the affected accounts, it doesn’t take Holmes to deduce the reason for this subpoena,” writes Gwern in a statement he sent to WIRED. “Just one naked connection revealing [NSWGreat’s] home IP would be enough, and if he’s like past market employees, a raid will turn up all the damning evidence one could hope for.”

Branwen adds that he himself has never sold illegal products on a dark web market or worked for any such site. He’s nonetheless troubled by DHS’s probe into his personal data. “How can I continue as a [Reddit] moderator,” he writes, “knowing that all my non-[encrypted] communications have been laid bare, there may be followup subpoenas for my Gmail account, and I may be under further investigation myself?”

When WIRED reached out to Reddit, a spokesperson pointed to the site’s privacy policy, which states that Reddit does collect IP addresses and other potentially identifying data from users, which it deletes after 90 days. The policy adds that it may disclose that data to law enforcement—or hold it longer than 90 days—if legally required to do so. Reddit’s spokesperson wouldn’t comment on whether or when the company might comply with the DHS subpoena.

The DHS didn’t respond to WIRED’s request for comment, but it’s no surprise that Evolution has become the target of a federal investigation. The site, which was online for just over a year, was by some measures the largest-ever drug market on the dark web, with 34,000 total drug listings at its peak. A week before the site’s disappearance, German police arrested the leaders of one drug ring that operated on the site and seized 700 pounds of narcotics from that single bust alone. The two pseudonymous administrators of Evolution, Verto and Kimble, are believed to have taken as much as $12 million from the site’s users at the time of its shutdown, after a year of collecting commissions on every sale.


Evolution’s shutdown helped to highlight just how central Reddit’s r/darknetmarkets community has become to the dark web’s drug economy in recent months. After the Evolution incident—along with market disruptions like the takedown of several top sites by law enforcement last November—buyers and sellers have congregated on r/darknetmarkets to regroup and reconnect. The forum has nearly 50,000 subscribers. That’s less than other reddit drug forums like r/drugs and the marijuana-focused r/trees, but those larger groups don’t so explicitly discuss drug sales. Though r/darknetmarket’s rules ban any direct dealing on Reddit, the site maintains a directory of links to the most popular dark web drug markets and comprehensive tutorials on using them. Buyers frequently post reviews of dealers’ products, and weekly threads like What to Buy Wednesday and Sell Your Shit Sunday let vendors advertise their wares.

The DHS’s subpoena will no doubt serve as a jarring reminder to Reddit’s dark web drug forum that those discussions are nakedly public and potentially vulnerable to law enforcement. Though the drug sales themselves are generally hosted on sites that require users to run the anonymity software Tor to hide their identities, Reddit offers no such protection. Branwen says he expects his revelation of the subpoena to drive many of r/darknetmarket’s conversations to Tor-protected forums like the drug-market discussion site called the Hub. “Riskier discussions will move onto the Hub, and as long as the Reddit admins don’t get spooked and shut it down similar to /r/jailbait, [r/darknetmarkets] will remain a useful discussion place,” he says.

Branwen’s reference to r/jailbait, a forum banned in 2011 where users posted scantily clad pictures of underage girls, highlights that Reddit has, in fact, been cleaning up some of its more controversial underground communities. More recently Reddit shut down other groups like r/creepshots and r/thefappening, which hosted links to stolen or surreptitiously taken nudes or revealing images or women.

Drug-dealing discussions, for now, remain fair game for Redditors. But it’s apparent they’re fair game for law enforcement investigators, too.
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Re: Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark-Web Drug Forum
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2015, 06:36:01 PM »
Thanks for the article Chipper.  Although it isn't exactly comparable, this is the kind of thing behind my arguments urging caution when considering what boundries to set here (or not).

If you have been at all paying attention, since 9-11 the US Government has pretty much forgotten about the Constitution. Of course there have always been people in government with authoritarian personalities and those who lust for power and control but it has gotten waaay out of hand with the "War on Drugs" and then the "War on Terrorism." They aren't really scared of terrorism, they are using the fear of drugs  terrorism to grow the police state.

The Snowden revelations have clearly shown that the US government wants to know EVERYTHING about all of us, even the most innocent, clean person. They monitor every single electronic communication, entertainment, transaction, web search, text and every single keystrokes we make.

Drugs and Terror are just pretexts for this, but as drug users discussing drugs we would very easily be targets, especially any of us foolish enough to try to use sites like this to make connections.

They can pull the same thing to ownership here that they are doing to reddit and already did to all the communications firms, Google, FaceBook and others. It may sound paranoid and I wish it were not true but they have constructed and are using the most intrusive surveillance  state ever, one that make the East German Stasi look likea Neighborhood Watch.

Rich investors profit from our prison population, the largest in the world, in raw numbers and per capita. They PROFIT from the "WoD"  by locking us up for long mandatory minimums and use us as slave labor. I know it SOUNDS crazy but it isn't.

It's true, and legal. The 13th Ammendment to the Constitution prohibits slavery EXCEPT for convicted felons. It is drug crimes that send more people to prison than anything else in the US.

All I'm trying to say is be fucking careful becasue if you are into drugs, they ARE out to get you. All that anger and contempt people are directing at Jonny for APPARENTLY misappropriating donations? That is the same feeling most "straight" people feel for anyone they suspect might be a junkie.

« Last Edit: August 23, 2015, 07:17:58 PM by DeadCat »
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Offline Chip (OP)

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Re: Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark-Web Drug Forum
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2015, 06:48:03 PM »
It's a big worry for me since my name is associated directly with the site.

just remember: do not make us a liability because I don't want to be subpoenaed and have to turn over data.

we ain't flying below any radar here so think about what you choose to share.

deadcat, I'm more uncomfortable now but I guess we all know the score.
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All activities discussed are considered fictional and hypothetical. Information of all discussion has been derived from online research and in the spirit of personal Freedom.

Offline Sand and Water

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Re: Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark-Web Drug Forum
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2015, 07:46:13 PM »
Chipper, I share Deadcat's concerns (applause to DC). I know this is a democracy, but I think there needs to be a solid policy in place for this sort of thing. RC's too possibly. We've all already seen repeated requests regarding personal info, civility etc ignored.  It's just human nature IMHO.

 I'm all for openeness, and discussion, but its clear that in todays reality, even *discussion* of certain things puts D&U at risk. I don't think it's a legal or personal risk we all should have to bear. ***On the other hand, I really hate this, because where does it stop (ie what's next, as far as what one can or can't discuss before the ptb come after any of us for the newest "forbidden" topic)?

Given that we likely don't have the $$$ needed to fight this sort of thing, what do you guys think about limiting certain discussions to member-to-member offsite emails or whatever minimizes the risk to the community as a whole?
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Offline Opus

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Re: Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark-Web Drug Forum
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2015, 12:05:13 AM »
1 - SSL

2 - Simply don't keep access logs, you can't give them what you don't have.

Unfortunately, and I'm guessing here because I don't know much about how this place was set up nor the hosting company: but this is probably a 'virtual' server which means it's really just a process running on a "real" machine, which means there are probably logs somewhere on the real host that Chipper can't access. I believe this place is hosted in Singapore? Singapore beheads drug users, so I doubt any hosting company there would argue much about giving up data to a DHS subpoena..

Probably the best workaround for all of this, is to just use TOR.

« Last Edit: August 24, 2015, 12:21:44 AM by Opus »
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Re: Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark-Web Drug Forum
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2015, 02:36:13 AM »
 :-X

wow

this changes everything though, i was wondering if it was a honeypot the whole time, the subreddit threads that co-existed with reddit's surge in popularity
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Re: Feds Demand Reddit Identify Users of a Dark-Web Drug Forum
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2015, 02:54:28 AM »

This news is a bit old and I think the consensus on reddit was that nothing much came of it in the long run (not that the specific people who were subpoena'd weren't affected/intimidated by it and I think it was a pretty significant factor in the stepping down of Gwern from his mod duties on one dark net forum).  I cant remember what the whole story was though.


(oops sorry for the double post)
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