The dispute between Apple and the F.B.I. was not the biggest case involving cyber security and it surly won’t be the last.
There’s another case that set the bar for the discussion of whether our basic rights in the digital realm were being violated.
Deep Web, directed by Alex Winter and narrated by Keanu Reeves, argued that the U.S. Government was wrong for when using illegal tactics to apprehend a man that might not have done anything at all.
Deep Web introduces the story by informing the viewers with a quick origin of the Dark Net.
It all started with a system that enabled anonymous communication without that information begin tracked back by the user. Think of it as the incognito window feature on your browser, but it does more than just remove your browsing history as you log in. Originally created for the military and journalists, it has become an open source software that anyone can download for absolutely free. This system is called TOR and it has provided people with the necessary tools needed to increase online security, prevent corruption, and improve communications from all over the word.
However, along the way, people have begun using this software for vile acts including prostitution, distributing child pornography, and assassination attempts via email. The most critical case that caught the attention of the federal government was a kid, classic cartoons, and a frightened mother.
The unnamed mother noticed her son fidgeting a lot. She also noticed him rushing to the mailbox and trying his best to be secretive about it. She knew that he was hiding something from her.
One day, the mother managed to get to the mailbox before her son could. When she opened it, first thing she noticed was a small package. Inside the package was an old cartoons DVD. However, she was not prepared for what was inside the case. She opened it and saw that it was pure crystal meth. The feds got a hold of the package and discovered that it was linked an popular drug-purchasing website, Silk Road.
Silk Road was like Amazon for drugs. It was a website that used TOR and Bitcoin, an untraceable digital currency conversation system, to keep their site under the Feds’ radar.
For a website that sells people illegal goods as much as Amazon sells people items, it kept very strict guidelines for selling and purchasing stuff on Silk Road.
- You could not sell lost or stolen products.
- Distributing kiddie porn was a no-go.
- No products that can harm the buyer-except for drugs, because taking drugs is a choice; murder isn’t
Although it is obvious that this website was run by a team of computer scientists. One person in particular identifies himself as the top dog behind Silk Road: Dread Pirate Roberts.
For those who don’t know, Dread Pirate Roberts is a references to the Princess Bride.
In the book, DPR is a pirate who’s feared all across the seven seas. As the story progresses, the reader discovers that the pirate is more than just a man. Dread Pirate Roberts was a symbol. The name would become more terrifying than the person’s true identity.
The creator of Silk Road and Dread Pirate Roberts, who was later revealed to be Ross Ulbricht. The Feds tracked DPR’s IP address to a public library in San Francisco, where they arrested him for several charges including the alleged murder of Curtis Green, drug dealing and trafficking, and other charges that didn’t stand on trial.
Why were the Feds trying so hard to get rid of Silk Road. The way I see, people can sell their drugs online means that they would be little need for “employees”. Also, there’s no middle man and the fear of getting cheated out of their drugs was little to none.
Personally, what I saw in the film was that their argued that the War on Drugs was a multi-billion dollar industry. The mandatory drug tests in federal prisons, the militaristic weaponry obtained for raids and gun fights with the dealers. This opening scene from the 2015 hit biographical film Straight Outa Compton gives a good description of what I am talking about.
I understand that drugs are bad, and in order to keep the people safe, we must go above and beyond to minimized as much trouble as possible, but not if our basic online freedoms are the main causalities.
Ross Ulbricht’s was trialed and condemned the second he create the site. The Feds knew exactly was they were doing and they knew how to hid it. At the time, they wanted to make DPR an example to those seeking to use the internet other than for harmless communication, connectivity, and research. If they were to get a warrant for hacking into TOR to track Ross, then his 4th amendment might’ve have been violated.
4th Amendment of the Bill of Rights
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
TOR is a very powerful weapon that con be used for multiple purposes. The Cypherpunks, established in the early 90s, were a group of cryptographers, using the advances of technology to continue to fight for a government- free internet.
Ross was convicted for 30 years to life, with no possibility for early parole. However, the fight still lives on. Apple is taking a huge stand from keep the government from make 2016 like 1984. To this day, Ross and his attorney are pleading for and appeal. People will find ways to keep the internet great.
During the upcoming days before the final decision is made about Apple and the FBI, I want you to put the phone down and think what is worth fight for: a great Cyber Security or a great Homeland Security?
I hate to end this blog post like this, so I’ll leave you with some inspiring words and a song. IF YOU HAVE A COMPUTER, PHONE, OR ANY WEB ENABLE DEVICE, THE YOU CAN BE A PIRATE.
ANYONE CAN BE A PIRATE.
FOR FURTHER READING:
- Ross Ulbricht Silk Road Appeal (1,800 pages) (54.6MB)
- WIRED Presents: The Untold Story of Silk Road By Joshua Bearman (Part ONE | Part TWO)
- A Customer Letter from Apple