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Author Topic: The banality of a darknet developer  (Read 3351 times)

40hz

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The banality of a darknet developer
« on: February 06, 2015, 08:06:17 AM »
There's an interesting post over at Motherboard.com that speaks depressing volumes about the mindset behind some people who indulge in online criminal behavior. Far from being the revenge-seeking villains or revolutionary saboteurs of Hollywood and television legend, they're ordinary and somewhat boring individuals with an attenuated sense of morals and responsibility. Their sole motivation? Money, plain and simple.

Quote
This Anonymous Web Developer Makes Counterfeit Banking Sites for $15K
Written by
Jordan Pearson
Staff Writer (Canada)


February 5, 2015 // 03:00 PM EST Stylish design matters: both for legitimate websites, and the shady scammer sites that only need to look legitimate in order to convince someone to hand over their credit card information. Online criminals need competent web designers, and cash-strapped programmers sometimes need the business—if they’re willing to put aside their scruples in exchange for a bunch of Bitcoin.

I came across an old post on the r/darknet subreddit by a web designer soliciting scammers to enlist their services to build phishing sites—fake websites that look just like real ones (say, Gmail) but really only exist to siphon personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims. “Looking for a real web designer who'll turn your questionable project into something professional looking, no questions asked and 100% anonymously?” the poster, who went by the username WolphReph42, wrote. “You've just found your guy.”

I was interested, but not in their services. I wanted to know what it was like being a web designer on the darknet. So, I emailed him using PGP encryption, crossed my fingers that he hadn’t ditched his disposable Safe Mail account yet, and asked.

“I'm no criminal myself,” wrote WolphReph42. “I don’t find ways to scam people, I’m no hacker, I’m not a drug lord that spends his time in a ill-lit room behind a Chinese restaurant smoking a cigar and counting wads of cash: I’m just like any other person, with a good job and enough pay to support a comfortable but not too lavish lifestyle.” ...

What's very sad to me is the incredible naivety this geek has about the seriousness of what he's involved himself in:
 
Quote
WolphReph42 insists that he’s not a criminal, although he told me that he suspects he may be charged under intellectual property copyright laws due to his website spoofing. Still, he doesn’t believe he can be charged for the damage eventually inflicted on the site’s victims.

I spoke with David Fraser, a lawyer specializing in internet technologies at Canadian law firm McInnis Cooper, to get a legal perspective on WolphReph42’s activities. Unfortunately for him, he may be in more danger than he imagines.

“Copyright infringement would be small potatoes compared to the larger crime,” Fraser said. “Culpability is going to depend on what they know or what they ought to have known about their role in the overall crime—fraud, for example. In the totality of the circumstance, in terms of what they know, I think the prosecution would look to how they’re advertising their services.”

As for what the penalty might be for a mercenary web designer doing under the table work for scammers, Fraser said courts may sentence them to prison if the site’s fraud is found to be over $5,000. WolphReph42 told me that he protects his identity using standard PGP encryption, Tor, proxy servers that mask his true location, and a new laptop every few weeks.

But will that be enough?

“Nobody wants to be a potential accessory to a crime,” said WolphReph42. “As for me, I just like money.”

Regardless of anyone's opinion of what WolphReph42 is doing, one thing he obviously doesn't get is the first two rules for breaking rules. It was best expresses in the movie Fight Club where members and prospective members were told: "1st RULE: You do not talk about FIGHT CLUB. 2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about FIGHT CLUB..."

Be interesting to see how this plays out long-term now that WolphReph42 has outed himself to a journalist. No would-be client in their right mind would go near somebody this clueless going forward. He's also painted a nice day-glo target on his forehead blabbing like he has. Hopefully, no agency that issues badges is shopping for someone to make a sad example of.

And, hopefully, no former clients are getting nervous about it either. Many of these folks have particularly unique and effective ways of reminding their hired help to keep one's mouths shut.


Full article here.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2015, 01:04:13 PM by 40hz »

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Re: The banality of the darknet developer
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2015, 09:44:32 AM »
I just want to interject a bit on the term "darknet developer"...

Clarifications
"Darknet" is NOT about drugs & crime & terrorism & raping puppies/kittens.

Can that stuff happen? Yes.

What is it about? An decentralised alternative to traditional ISPs:

http://www.reddit.com/r/darknetplan/

http://wiki.projectm....org/Getting_started

Quote
Project Meshnet aims to build a sustainable, decentralized, alternative internet. You can help in several ways, from spreading the word, starting up your first Cjdns node, or starting a local meshnet group called a MeshLocal.

(The TOR network is also referred to as a "darknet" -- multiple uses there.)

Calling this fellow a "darknet developer" is misleading. If he were a "darknet developer", he'd be working on Cjdns or something similar. He isn't.
 



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40hz

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Re: The banality of the darknet developer
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2015, 11:37:35 AM »
I'd like to clarify a bit too. :)

Yes, but...
Human organizations and assemblies are known and branded by the lowest common denominator that is tolerated as being part of their group.

That goes for the so-called darknet as much as it does for things like: police agencies, businesses, churches, and governments. You can't hold up a double standard and expect to be taken seriously. And like the police departments and government agencies that have figured so prominently in the news over these last few years, if those who also claim membership in a group in question don't elect to actively do anything about the rot in their midst, they too will get tarred with the same brush.

Look no further than the term 'hacker.' It was once considered a badge of high honor among the old personal computing crew. Now it denotes you're nothing more than a common cyber-criminal. Or non-radical Islam attempting to distance itself (in the minds of many) from its more violent and radical brethren - while simultaneously doing its best to remain out of the fray. While I sympathize, there eventually comes a time when you're expected to take a side or make a stand. Silence and inaction is often interpreted as giving tacit assent. Not fair maybe. But that's the way it goes in human society where, sooner or later, you may have to choose a side.

You can try to "clarify" as much you like. But you can't control the use of a term in common parlance. For many years Federal Express tried to get people to stop calling them "Fedex." Eventually they bowed to reality and adopted 'Fedex' as their official name. "We the People" had spoken. Vox populi, vox Dei, as the Romans said.

Quote
Vox Populi Vox Dei

"The voice of the people is the voice of God."

This does not mean that the voice of the many is wise and good, but only that it is irresistible. You might as well try to stop the tide of the Atlantic as to resist the vox populi. As God's laws cannot be withstood, neither can the popular will. After Edward II. had been dethroned by the people in favour of his son (Edward III.), Simon Mepham, Archbishop of Canterbury, preached from these words as his text.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
[/size]

The simple truth is we only get to express a preference for what we wish something to be called. We don't get to dictate to everybody else how to call it. Or how to think of it.

Even the most clueless will actively resist that form of mind-control. ;) ;D

 8)

« Last Edit: February 06, 2015, 01:29:10 PM by 40hz »

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Re: The banality of the darknet developer
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2015, 12:03:14 PM »
Whether it's online scammers or just garden variety Congress critters, it usually just comes down to Dunbar's number. It's the difference between  hurting real people or the idea of people.
I learned to say the pledge of allegiance
Before they beat me bloody down at the station
They haven't got a word out of me since
I got a billion years probation
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I recommend reading through my Bio before responding to any of my posts. It could save both of us a lot of time and frustration.

40hz

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Re: The banality of the darknet developer
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2015, 12:06:48 PM »
Whether it's online scammers or just garden variety Congress critters, it usually just comes down to Dunbar's number. It's the difference between  hurting real people or the idea of people.

Bingo! :Thmbsup: That's where you frequently bump into that nebulous border between imagined and actualized sociopathological behaviors.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2015, 01:30:36 PM by 40hz »

40hz

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2015, 01:07:03 PM »
@Ren - to your very good point, I've changed the header in the OP to read "a Darknet developer" rather than "the Darknet developer." It's much more accurate to phrase it that way. :Thmbsup:
« Last Edit: February 06, 2015, 01:24:43 PM by 40hz »

wraith808

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2015, 01:34:14 PM »
Hmmm... I develop software.  And I'm on the internet.

... I'm an... internet developer?!

... even better...

I'm an architect.  And I'm on the internet.

I'M AN ARCHITECT OF THE INTERNET!  AL GORE WATCH OUT!  ;) ;D 8)

Al-Gore-invented-the-internet.jpg

40hz

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2015, 03:44:23 PM »
... I develop software.  And I'm on the internet.

... I'm an... internet developer

polls_bigbrother_1129_376127_poll_xlarge.jpeg

Thank you! Remain standing...Do not attempt to move...Keep your hands in plain sight at all times...

wraith808

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2015, 04:06:11 PM »
... I develop software.  And I'm on the internet.

... I'm an... internet developer
(see attachment in previous post)
Thank you! Remain standing...Do not attempt to move...Keep your hands in plain sight at all times...

Heh :)

But to the point that I was making... it's a developer that uses the Darknet.  And I think that's the point that Ren was getting to.  Someone using the medium that just happens to be a developer... isn't a developer of that medium.

40hz

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2015, 04:15:58 PM »
^Um...I'm using 'darknet' as an adjective. Just like 'web developer' is not someone who is necessarily doing development work the Internet itself.

If I wanted to say "a developer on the darknet" I would have said so.  :-\

I suppose you think a "game developer" is someone who does development work on games? Why couldn't she be someone who's "game" for doing some development work? And not necessarily software either! :P :P ;D

And I think that's the point that Ren was getting to.

Yeah. I think I might have figured that out previously. That's why I changed the header line. ;)

Note: Ren and I grok each other pretty well most times. (We go back a ways and usually try our best to keep each other young.)  ;D
« Last Edit: February 06, 2015, 04:26:36 PM by 40hz »

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2015, 07:41:47 PM »
^Um...I'm using 'darknet' as an adjective. Just like 'web developer' is not someone who is necessarily doing development work the Internet itself.


But, the even the article is not using it as an adjective.  So...  :huh:

Like, if you look at the title "This Anonymous Web Developer Makes Counterfeit Banking Sites for $15K"


I see... darknet subreddit.  And I also see that he set up darknet marketplaces.

But they never use it as an adjective, so that's where I suppose the disconnect occurs to me.  How does anonymous=darknet?

40hz

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2015, 09:25:21 PM »
^The choice of using the word 'darknet' as an adjective was purely my own. And unless conventions have changed, 'darknet' has primarily been used (in my experience) to refer to the anonymous part of the deepweb where connections get made where neither the identity of the person accessing - or the server hosting - is known. So yes...I guess anonymous web = darkweb.

At least to me it does.  :)

If somebody is taking it to mean 'criminal' because the activity I was posting about clearly is, I don't really know what to say. People think that about the deepweb too - although I've always understood the deepweb to be the parts of the Internet that aren't reachable via regular public search engines. Or in some cases (often by design) sites that are not able to be reached by any search engine at all.

But again, these are geek terms. And while the definitions for this sort of "in" terminology are generally agreed upon, the specific details, amendments, qualifications, wrinkles, semantic gamesmanship, and attempts at disambiguation often go on ad nauseam. (Even geeks have their private agendas and axes to grind, just the same as normal folk do.)

Hope that clarifies my end. If there was a disconnect, it's hardly your fault. Or mine really. You can probably google a thousand articles that would disagree with my use of the term: darknet. And there'd likely be just as many that wouldn't. So think Humpty-Dumpty in Carroll's Through the Looking Glass:

humpty_dumpty_alice_words.jpg

Quote
Humpty Dumpty took the book and looked at it carefully. 'That seems to be done right —' he began.

'You're holding it upside down!' Alice interrupted.

'To be sure I was!' Humpty Dumpty said gaily as she turned it round for him. 'I thought it looked a little queer. As I was saying, that seems to be done right — though I haven't time to look it over thoroughly just now — and that shows that there are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents —'

'Certainly,' said Alice.

'And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'


Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

'Would you tell me please,' said Alice, 'what that means?'

'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'

'Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

'Ah, you should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side, 'for to get their wages, you know.'

(Alice didn't venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can't tell you.)

'You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,' said Alice.

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2015, 09:25:59 PM »
Just to point out some tidbits about English grammar...

@Ren - to your very good point, I've changed the header in the OP to read "a Darknet developer" rather than "the Darknet developer." It's much more accurate to phrase it that way. :Thmbsup:

Yes - the use of the indefinite article "a/an" changes the meaning significantly (see below at the end). Which leads to...

Hmmm... I develop software.  And I'm on the internet.

... I'm an... internet developer?!

This works because of the general familiarity of the terminology is able to dispel any ambiguity. i.e. The semantic components themselves act to clarify the grammar.

I'm an architect.  And I'm on the internet.

I'M AN ARCHITECT OF THE INTERNET!  

This doesn't work. The structure:

> Noun1 of Noun2

Can be rearranged as:

> Noun2's Noun1

Or, in this case:

> I'M THE INTERNET'S ARCHITECT!

(Also, compare "John's son" and "the son of John".)

(In other words, the difference between an adjective and a possessive can be obscured by the syntax (grammar).)

The meaning there is significantly different from:

> I'm an Internet architect.

As with "internet developer", this is grammatically ambiguous, though the context and frequency of use should serve to clarify the intended meaning, i.e. A developer on the Internet vs. A developer of the Internet.

With "darknet", the term isn't in sufficiently common usage for most people to be able to properly understand the intended meaning, i.e. they do not have any reference to make the proper distinction. Thus, usage is prone to ambiguity. Again, the difference between whether it is a possessive or adjective creates that ambiguity. Here's another example:

1. Microsoft Xbox
2. Microsoft's Xbox

In #1 we are sufficiently familiar with "Microsoft" to understand the relationship. (Also, there's a different emphasis at play here, but for the current purpose, that should be ignored to avoid tangents.)

I'm quite certain that everyone here understands well enough what "the darknet" is and isn't, but this crowd is extraordinarily well educated in the general field, and far above what your average computer user is. For us to understand the proper relationships is trivial (or second nature), but for the general public, there is a good deal of ambiguity going on. i.e. It is simple for experts to discern meanings from ambiguous text as they can recognise absurdities that the general public may not be able to.

Far too often language gets co-opted for political purposes, and while our politics may differ significantly, I'm relatively certain that we all share a common value in cherishing an open and free (as in freedom) world-wide communications network (information super-highway/Internet/darknet/meshnet/whatevernet).

Anyways... Hopefully I've illustrated one of those tidbits in English grammar where ambiguity can create confusion.


But to the point that I was making... it's a developer that uses the Darknet.  And I think that's the point that Ren was getting to.  Someone using the medium that just happens to be a developer... isn't a developer of that medium.

Yes. I was pretty lazy above and only outlined that specific case. Here above I mentioned the definite article, but didn't expand on that -- I think it's clear enough to understand how "the darknet developer" can be interpreted as an abstract noun, and thus, "all developers on the darknet" can then be inferred, again illustrating how that ambiguity quickly mushrooms into a wildly inaccurate distortion of the facts.

Now, would anyone like me to lecture on number agreement and ambiguity in English grammar? ;D



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Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker

40hz

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2015, 09:33:03 PM »
Now, would anyone like me to lecture on number agreement and ambiguity in English grammar?  ;D

LOL! No. Thank-you, please;D

This one is for you Ren...even though I'm sure you've already seen it:



 :Thmbsup: :Thmbsup:

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Re: The banality of a darknet developer
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2015, 12:21:41 AM »
^^ Heh! That was cute! I'd not seen that before.

BTW - Ambiguity in number agreement is actually very interesting. :) The tl;dr is that you end up switching a subject and its modifier in order to emphasise where the importance is. However, you may still end up with disagreements between British and American grammarians. FWIW, American grammar delivers more information in this context.
Slow Down Music - Where I commit thought crimes...

Freedom is the right to be wrong, not the right to do wrong. - John Diefenbaker