LInk bunch 7

The notorious “Dread Pirate Roberts”, owner of Silkroad, has been arrested

Russ Ulbricht

Reuters:

According to the complaint, [Ross] Ulbricht, who shortened his alias from Dread Pirate Roberts to DPR when posting on Silk Road’s forums, operated the site from San Francisco.

At times, he used computers at Internet cafes to access the servers running the website, which employed several technological tools to mask the location of its servers and the identities of its administrators and users.

The complaint described other aspects of Ulbricht’s online presence: In a Google+ profile, he described himself as a fan of libertarian economic philosophy and posted videos from the Ludwig von Mises Institute, an Auburn, Alabama-based economics institute.

This would make most people think of Ulbricht as an idiot. And yes, his (alleged) fuck up includes having profiles on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and even Stackoverflow, where he asked telling questions about running curl and php with Tor. All of these mishaps might earn him some well-deserved nerd scolding.

But it’s the attempt to hire a hitman that really puts him in a category far and away from regular criminals (should he be found guilty):

Again, from Reuters:

Dread Pirate Roberts once ordered a murder of a user who was attempting to blackmail him, the complaint alleges. A user named FriendlyChemist wanted $500,000 from Dread Pirate Roberts, or else thousands of Silk Road identities would be published. Dread Pirate Roberts solicited a hitman through Silk Road to “put a bounty on [FriendlyChemist's] head.”

When quoted a price of $150,000 to $300,000, Dread Pirate Roberts called the price high, saying he had a hit done “not long ago” for $80,000. The parties agreed on a price of $150,000, or 1,670 bitcoins, and the hitman reported the job was done. However, the FBI could not find any evidence of a related homicide and Ulbricht was not charged with murder.

And then from ArsTechnica:

The story then went full-on Breaking Bad nuts, with Redandwhite demanding $150,000 for a “non-clean” kill and $300,000 for a “clean” version. Roberts said that he knew the value of such things; he claimed to have paid $80,000 for a previous “clean” hit, and he wanted a discount.

Did I say earlier that the story had already gone off the rails into Crazytown? Reader—I was wrong. Because a federal indictment unsealed separately today in a Maryland court says that Roberts had in fact arranged such an $80,000 hit just a few weeks earlier. Not crazy enough? Turns out that the “hitman” in this first attempt was actually a federal agent.

Fred Benenson wonders on twitter if he’s found the transaction for the kill:

Ars goes much deeper into the storytelling in their great piece, and explains in much more detail how the feds found Ulbricht:

The feds couldn’t initially follow the money to Roberts, nor could they find the physical location of his cloaked servers. In the absence of usual digital clues, the feds fell back on a low-tech approach: keep going back in time until you find the first guy to ever talk about the Silk Road. Find that guy and you probably have a person of interest, if not Roberts himself.

It’s a weird, weird world we live in these days.


And now for some light-hearted marketing gimmicks:

Discount supermarket chain Lidl opens a gourmet restaurant in Stockholm, without telling anyone

“Good food doesn’t have to cost too much.”

Clever.


Speaking of restaurants, now you don’t even have to take out your credit card—there is an app for that

Eater:

A new app called Cover allows diners to eat, finish their meals, and walk out of the restaurant without even thinking about or looking at the bill. Cover users check-in to the restaurant when they arrive, then via the magic of technology, the app pays the bill with a credit card (pre-determined tip included) once the meal is done. If you’re dining in a large group, the total bill will be split evenly between all the members of your party.

I’d love to try it out.


T-shirts designed to confuse Facebook’s face-detection algorithm

Face-detection prevention t-shirts

Face-detection prevention t-shirts

Wired:

[Facebook has] flirted with facial recognition for years to this end–it rolled out and then rolled back face recognition in user-uploaded photos in 2010–and a proposed change to its terms of service, introduced last month, would give it the right to use your profile picture in an effort to enhance it’s auto-tagging efforts. In other words, Facebook very much wants to put a face to your name.

Very much New Aesthetic.


Monsanto wants to be the IBM for farmers

Monsanto is the leading producer of genetically engineered seed, and owns the Round-up brand as well. Their Wikipedia entry is worth a read—it’s a huge corporation.

Modern Farmer reports on their latest buy:

Monsanto is hot to expand further into data services for farmers. Toward that end, the company on Tuesday morning announced that it will acquire The Climate Corporation for $930 million. Climate Corporation underwrites weather insurance for farmers, basically in real time, using some of the most sophisticated data tools available to determine the risks posed by future weather conditions and events.

Talk about big data:

The company makes use of “machine learning” —a kind of artificial intelligence. That’s the technology behind, for example, determining which of your incoming email messages are spam —except in this case the tech is much, much more sophisticated. Each new bit of data that’s entered into the system — rainfall in Douglas County Nebraska, say, or the average heat index in Louisiana’s Winn Parish —helps it learn, and more accurately forecast what will happen in the future.

The thing for Monsanto is that instead of being run over by another company coming up with ways to use less of Monsanto’s products and rely more on data, they want to become the company providing that data. And now they’re making the barrier for entry into that market of data so big, most outsiders won’t have a chance.

It’s a smart move, for sure.


The story behind Edward Snowden’s email-provider, Lavabit’s, shutdown is starting to come out

NYTimes:

The full story of what happened to Mr. Levison since May has not previously been told, in part because he was subject to a court’s gag order. But on Wednesday, a federal judge unsealed documents in the case, allowing the tech entrepreneur to speak candidly for the first time about his experiences. He had been summoned to testify to a grand jury in Virginia; forbidden to discuss his case; held in contempt of court and fined $10,000 for handing over his private encryption keys on paper and not in digital form; and, finally, threatened with arrest for saying too much when he shuttered his business.

More on The Verge as well. The trick with sending the encryption codes in a font size pt. 4 is brilliant.

A Legal Defense Fund has been set up at lavabit.com, and I encourage you to help out with whatever you can. It’s a case that principally concerns all of us.


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