More weird stories from worlds far away I’ll never visit

One thread of discussions on this blog are worlds far away that I’ll never approach within distance of a light year. The only way I can get a glimpse of those places is with the super long distance telescope of the Internet.

Oh yeah, in case you were wondering what direction to aim your spaceship so you can see for yourself what is in those worlds, keep in mind that being a player on those distant planets can earn you a life sentence in federal prison. More on that at the end of this post.

5/28 – Wired – Inside a Giant Dark-Web Scheme to Sell Counterfeit Coupons – Yet another world I had no idea even existed: creating counterfeit discount coupons to use at the store.

A guy whom I will not name has been indicted for wire fraud and trademark counterfeiting for selling packages of counterfeit coupons good to get discount on a variety of consumer products. Send him $25, in Bitcoins of course, and you get a bunch of coupons.

He also offers a $200 course teaching you how to counterfeit your own coupons.

I guess it makes sense, but never pondered, there is a structure for the code on a coupon. It consists of several specific fields. First, a certain number of digits for the manufacturer, which you can find in any of their products. Then a field for the product offer, followed by the discount, and the number of items you have to buy to get the discount.

Create that digital code, convert it to a UPC, add a picture into the template, type in the text for the discount and you’re ready to steal any consumer product from any vendor you wish to steal from.

This character is accused of being the person known as ThePurpleLotus or TheGoldenLotus.  He is accused of operating on Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0.

Amazing and scary and sad. I had no idea such a world even existed.

By the way, keep in mind creating or using one of those codes is also called shoplifting. It’s a crime.

5/29 – The Economist – Silk Road successors – Depressing chart tracks the number of drug listings by dark-web sites at a half-dozen different dates from 2013 through April 2015.

Silk Road was the dominant site in October 2013. By April  2014 Silk Road 2.0 had the same number of listings and the market (measured in number of listings for dope) had almost doubled. By August of that year the number of listings had grown to three times when Silk Road was busted. Silk Road 2.0 is shut down and has since been replaced by other players. A third marketplace, Evolution, failed because of an inside scam of some sort (according to the article). The volume there was replaced by other providers.

Basic point of the graph is that the close of Silk Road, Silk Road 2.0, and Evolution hasn’t done anything to reduce the number of listings of illegal drugs. Depressingly the number of listings in April 2015 is 2.4 times as many as when Silk Road was shuttered.

Speaking of Silk Road and prison sentences…

5/29 – Wall Street Journal – Silk Road Founder Ross Ulbricht Sentenced to Life in Prison – The convicted mastermind of Silk Road drew a life sentence for running the dark-net site.

Comments from the judge regarding the length of the sentence indicated she held him responsible for the drugs sold at the site.

Article indicates the FBI, federal prosecutors, and judge hope this will be a deterrent for others to not set up or run dark net sites.

I fear that is not the lesson that will be drawn by people who are otherwise inclined to facilitate sales of dope. More likely will be lessons on how to avoid detection, such as don’t ever log into your drug site in a public place. Mr. Ulbricht also used lousy online security on multiple occasions. Getting out of the business is, alas, not the lesson some people are likely to learn.

Lesson I learned? Stay two light years away from anyone or anything in those worlds.

Update: 5/29 – ArsTechnica – Sunk: How Ross Ulbricht ended up in prison for life /Inside the trial that brought down a darknet pirate. Extremely long article on the trial with lots of background. I only read about half of it.

Article has minute details on how the feds distracted Mr. Ulbricht in the library, pushed his laptop out of reach as he was looking over his shoulder, grabbed it, then kept it awake so the encryption wouldn’t slam the drive closed. Good background on the humongous amount of incriminating evidence he stored on the laptop, which was logged in as DPR at the instant of his arrest.

Lots of background on how lousy his defense case was, or his non-defense as the author characterizes it.

If you ever want one article to give you a full background on the case, this is the one to bookmark.

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