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The banality of a darknet developer

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There's an interesting post over at 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.

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.” ...
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What's very sad to me is the incredible naivety this geek has about the seriousness of what he's involved himself in:
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.”
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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.

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:

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.
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(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.

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.

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
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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


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.

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.
-Vurbal (February 06, 2015, 12:03 PM)
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Bingo! :Thmbsup: That's where you frequently bump into that nebulous border between imagined and actualized sociopathological behaviors.


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