DOJ SAYS THEY CAN VIOLATE LAWS THEY PROSECUTE PEOPLE FOR

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The Department of Justice recently took down a website by the name of Silk Road. The website was a place where people could buy drugs online. While the legality of what was being done on the site is not in question, how the site was stopped and the owner arrested is. They used tactics that they got a man convicted for hacking.

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How they took down Silk Road

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Here, via the saved DOJ brief on Scribd, is how they found Silk Road.

Contrary to Ulbricht’s conjecture that the server hosting the Silk Road website (the “SR Server”) was located by the NSA, the server was in fact located by the FBI New York Field Office in or about June 2013. (Decl. of Christopher Tarbell (“Tarbell Decl.”) ¶ 5). The Internet protocol (“IP”) address of the SR Server (the “Subject IP Address”) was “leaking” from the site due to an apparent misconfiguration of the user login interface by the site administrator  – i.e., Ulbricht. ( Id. ¶ 4-8). FBI agents noticed the leak upon reviewing the data sent back by the Silk Road website when they logged on or attempted to log on as users of the site. ( Id. ¶¶ 7-8). A close examination of the headers in this data revealed a certain IP address not associated with the Tor network (the “ Subject IP Address ”) as the source of some of the data. ( Id. ¶ 8). FBI  personnel entered the Subject IP Address directly into an ordinary (non-Tor) web browser, and it  brought up a screen associated with the Silk Road login interface, confirming that the IP address  belonged to the SR Server. ( Id.).

Notice that they used the fact that it was misconfigured to get the information they wanted.

Goatse Security

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Here, via the Washington Post, is how they prosecuted Goatse Security, an exploit group that went after the 3G iPads.

In defending its prosecution, DOJ took the view that obtaining information at the website addresses was criminal unauthorized access because AT&T had not intended for the public to see it and it was in a place where an ordinary computer user would likely not find it. (The Third Circuit ultimately overturned the conviction on venue grounds without reaching the lawfulness of the conduct under the CFAA.) In defending conduct in the Silk Road case, however, DOJ takes the view that there is “nothing . . . unlawful” about taking advantage of a server misconfiguration to obtain data inadvertently “leaked” by the server because that information is “fully accessible to the public.”

While the intent of Silk Road is not questioned, it is how the page was taken down that is. Law enforcement should not be violating the law to enforce it.

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