Feds Seize $1 Billion in Stolen Silk Highway Bitcoins
Greater than seven years have handed since Ross Ulbricht was arrested in the science fiction section of a San Francisco library and charged with operating the sprawling, darkish net drug bazaar often known as the Silk Highway. However when the Feds laid fingers on Ulbricht’s laptop computer that day, they discovered keys to unlock solely a fraction of the bitcoins that he had amassed over the Silk Highway’s years of bustling black market drug commerce. Immediately the Justice Division lastly revealed the place a billion-dollar tranche of the Silk Highway’s treasure ended up: stolen by a mysterious hacker, and now seized by the US Treasury.
The DOJ as we speak filed a civil forfeiture grievance over 69,370 bitcoins—and different variants of the cryptocurrency—seized on November 3 from an unnamed one who court docket paperwork seek advice from solely as Particular person X. In response to the IRS’s prison investigation unit, Particular person X efficiently hacked the Silk Highway someday between Could of 2012 and April of 2013, stealing that abundance of drug cash from the darkish web page’s bitcoin addresses earlier than Ulbricht’s downfall in October of 2013. The IRS says it has lastly tracked down the hacker who stole the Silk Highway’s almost 70,000 bitcoins—now price greater than $1 billion—and allowed regulation enforcement to take management of these funds.
“The successful prosecution of Silk Road’s founder in 2015 left open a billion-dollar question. Where did the money go?” wrote US legal professional David Anderson in an announcement saying the seizure. “Immediately’s forfeiture grievance solutions this open query a minimum of partly. $1 billion of those prison proceeds are actually in the USA’ possession.”
Cryptocurrency analysts first spotted the motion of the $1 billion assortment of cash on the night time of November 3. The pockets had lengthy been seen on bitcoin’s blockchain and mentioned on hacker boards however had remained unmovable for anybody who did not have the key keys to spend it. Although it was removed from clear on the time who the cash belonged to or why they’d been moved on Tuesday, Blockchain evaluation agency Elliptic on the time connected the pockets to the Silk Highway: In Could 2012, the 70,000 cash had been moved from the Silk Highway addresses to 2 different addresses.
By April of 2013 these cash had been consolidated at a single tackle, the place they largely sat dormant till this week. Even then, it was unclear whether or not Ulbricht had merely been shifting some cryptocurrency round. Later that yr, although, 101 cash moved from the tackle to the now defunct bitcoin change BTC-e. By then, Ross Ulbricht was in jail. Even when it the cash was his, he would not have had entry to the keys needed to maneuver it.
The federal government’s forfeiture grievance affords a solution to that thriller: The tackle the cash had been moved to in 2013 belonged to not Ulbricht however to a hacker who had stolen them. With the assistance of blockchain evaluation agency Chainalysis, IRS investigators discovered 54 transactions shifting 70,000-plus bitcoins from Silk Highway addresses—transactions that Elliptic says occurred in 2012—to the 2 different addresses Elliptic had flagged on Tuesday. The transactions have been for spherical quantities of foreign money, and none appeared within the Silk Highway’s personal logs as purchases or vendor withdrawals, suggesting that they have been possible the work of Particular person X transferring stolen loot.
In actual fact, the forfeiture grievance states that it discovered proof that Ulbricht managed to determine the net persona of the one that had someway hacked the Silk Highway and brought the funds—price $354,000 on the time—and threatened Particular person X to attempt to coerce them to return the cash. (The grievance does not clarify how the Silk Highway breach occurred or the place investigators discovered of these threats, however each could have been documented on Ulbricht’s seized laptop computer or on the Silk Highway’s seized server.) Particular person X appears to have ignored Ulbricht’s threats and held onto the cash lengthy after Ulbricht was arrested, tried, and convicted, quietly watching them explode in worth within the years since.