Drug ring using TOR for anonymity exposed by human infiltrator

Eight men on three continents arrested in $1M drug ring; proxy servers hid identities

The free proxy servers of The TOR Project protect the identities of more than just hacktivists, hackers, dissidents in authoritarian countries and office drones surfing porn. Ordinary criminals apparently use it as well.

Eight people have been arrested on three continents for what federal agents called one of the most sophisticated markets for illegal drugs on the Internet.

The eight – arrested in Norway, Colombia, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Iowa, Michigan and Georgia – are charged with running The Farmer's Market, an online site the DEA and Dept. of Justice charge allowed advertisers to sell LSD, ecstasy, ketamine and other serious drugs while protecting the identity of both buyer and seller using TOR, according to the indictment filed in Los Angeles.

The DEA's agent in charge said his agency, the DoJ and other law enforcement agencies participating in the two-year-long investigation code-named "Operation Adam Bomb" were able to track down members of the ring despite efforts to hide their identities and locations using "advanced anonymising online technology."

Spokespeople for the DEA and DoJ issued a lot of purple-prosish statements about the ability of the long arm of the law to reach anywhere in the world or on the Internet, brushing aside the curtains drug dealers use to try to hide their identities.

They didn't break the case by penetrating TOR, however.

The ring was busted through the efforts of an undercover agent who "infiltrated" the operation in Los Angeles, according to U.S. Attorney's Office spokesperson Gymeka Williams, as quoted in LAWeekly.

The eight men and the Farmer's Market site allegedly provided an online storefront, order forms and the means to pay for drug purchases using PayPal and Western Union while serving 3,000 customers in 34 countries.

They also provided quality control and customer service, because, if you're going to make a Web business successful, you have to go the extra mile for your customers.

The alleged leader of the gang is Dutch, one is an American citizen living in Argentina. The others are American citizens living in the U.S.

All face charges of distributing narcotics and money laundering, which carry maximum penalties of life imprisonment, and 20 years, respectively.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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