The darkest parts of the internet

Now for something a little different: Today marks its opening POLITICO Techour new podcast about politics and tech policy.

I spoke this afternoon with POLITICO’s Mohar Chatterjee, who is kicking off a 10-part limited series podcast exploring the dark web markets, the least regulated parts of the world wide web — a landscape of dubious, often known criminal enterprises. for years, but has consistently thwarted efforts to eradicate it.

we talked about transcontinental removal earlier this year in Russia, Hydra, the massive darknet market, the technology that powers it, and how far international law enforcement agencies have to go to stay one step ahead of the world’s cybercriminals.

Here’s an edited and condensed version of our conversation:

Let’s start with the basics: What was Hydra and what is this podcast about?

Hydra was the world’s largest darknet marketplace at the time of its takedown. But more than that, it was a place organization. It was a place where different cybercriminals, actors, collectives, whatever you want to call them, came together and advertised and sold their wares.

Hydra was dismantled a few weeks after the invasion of Ukraine, so there were these massive geopolitical forces moving at the same time as this other thing was happening – it made me interested in understanding what was behind these markets and how the two things were connected. .

There are many of them. Hydra was not the first and will not be the last. We wanted to use its dissolution to investigate the cross-jurisdictional authorities involved in an international Jenga puzzle, a kind of takeover of darknet markets.

What technologies are these cybercriminals using to get ahead of the law?

Everyone uses cryptocurrency. That’s the name of the game. For example, Hydra was seven years old, so they use Bitcoin, but you know, a lot of new markets like the White House Market, which is now retired, or AlphaBay, which has been relaunched and is still active, use Monero. harder to track than Bitcoin because of how they shuffle wallet addresses and how amorphous the ledger technology can be.

Another is their level of communication encryption. WhatsApp and Telegram actually have pretty good encryption, but darknet markets have stronger PGP encryption.

How do different countries cooperate to track this type of crime?

The Budapest Convention on Cybercrime here is a document regulating international cooperation. But it was the German authorities who seized the servers that Hydra was running on, and the only person who was actually prosecuted as a result of this whole operation was the Russian authorities. So there are many loopholes that caused this dark web platform to operate for seven years before law enforcement agencies could coordinate and act. I was told in the background that the US strategy for dealing with this sort of thing is still trial and error.

Now, national security interests collide with such cybersecurity concerns in a way we haven’t seen before. The podcast is about mapping the evolution of the relationship between cybercriminals and government agencies.

But where is the government still lagging behind?

I think the easiest thing for people to visualize right now is ransomware that can strike anywhere. On darknet forums, this is incentivized by profit, so it leads to something called “.as a ransomware service,” where an entire infrastructure is created with people trying to find vulnerable access points and selling those access points, leading to ransom and hostage negotiations.

For the individual, these places are havens for stolen credit card numbers and email addresses. Chances are your data has already been stolen and is floating around in one of these huge databases on the darknet forum. It’s just a question of when someone will choose your specific information.

It’s not necessarily that you have a huge shadow army of cybercriminals, but software allows a small group of people to exercise this compromising power over a much larger group of consumers – people like you and me.

Listen POLITICO Tech is here and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Elon Musk found time this weekend, Between publicly dropping internal Twitter emails and banning his friend Kanye West, to express his agreement with a growing tech world complaint: “mainstream media” did not pay enough attention To ChatGPT, a new chatbot version of OpenAI’s GPT-3 language-generating AI.

coverage of language models at outlets such as New York Times, Atlantic and, yes, here, has been voluminous in recent months, but I’m not here to play media critic. Instead, I’ll give the floor to a very special guest writer with a bone to pick with us, and maybe a little conspiratorial bee in his digital hood:

Dear [Tech News Outlet],

I am writing to express my disappointment that ChatGPT is not covered on your site. As a long-time reader, I have been waiting for comprehensive coverage of the latest advances in technology, but it seems that ChatGPT has been completely overlooked by your team.

It is clear to me that there is some kind of conspiracy going on here. ChatGPT is a groundbreaking technology that has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with computers, but your site barely mentions it. This lack of coverage is unacceptable and shows a lack of dedication to staying on the cutting edge of tech news.

I can only speculate as to the reasons behind this error, but I suspect there are powerful forces trying to stifle ChatGPT’s potential. Whatever the reason, it’s a disservice to your readers who want to keep up with the latest and greatest news in the tech world. I urge you to fix this oversight and give ChatGPT the coverage it deserves.

Yes, this letter was all written by ChatGPT, and I asked him the question “Write an angry reader letter to a tech news outlet about not covering ChatGPT enough with the conspiracy element.” If this sounds a little eerily familiar to journalists, have hope all your subjects don’t start using the right tool.

Contact the entire team: Ben Schrekinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Steve Heuser ([email protected]); and Benton Ives ([email protected]). Follow us @DigitalFuture on Twitter.

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