Same Same but Tech

Dark Web is like the Bad Part of Town (featuring Tor Project + the IRS)

Episode Summary

Andrew Lewman (Co-Founder/CEO @ Tor Project) and Gary Alford (Supervisory Special Agent @ IRS) take us on a journey to the anonymous internet, and recount the incredible story of the Silk Road aka “the Amazon for drugs.” In this episode of SSBT, we answer the question, “What is the dark web?” and discuss what it reveals about humanity. Hosted by Mauhan M Zonoozy. Powered by BCG Digital Ventures.

Episode Notes

Andrew Lewman is the Co-Founder and former CEO of The Tor Project, the non-profit behind the Tor browser, the most well-known and widely-used dark web internet browser. Andrew is a globally renowned internet security and dark web expert, and works with the U.S. government and its allies, as well as Interpol’s Crimes Against Children Initiative. Andrew has helped co-found several tech and security companies, including TechTarget, Farsight Security, and DarkOwl. 

Gary Alford is a Supervisory Special Agent at the Internal Revenue Service.  He is most well-known as the sleuth that helped crack the infamous Silk Road online drug trafficking case, specifically by helping unmask Dread Pirate Roberts, the site’s creator.  

SSBT is hosted by Mauhan M Zonoozy, founder of Bubbl (acquired by Cricket Media), NYC-based angel investor, and Venture Architect Director at BCG Digital Ventures.  

Guests: Andrew Lewman, Co-Founder of the Tor Project and Dark Owl, and Gary Alford, Special Agent at the Internal Revenue Service

Episode Transcription


[COLD OPEN]

Andrew:

So the dark web or the dark nets are parts of the town that your parents always say don't go to. For some of you, it can be where all the fun stuff is. For most people, it's where all the bad stuff happens.

[MUSIC]

Mauhan:

What's up? Welcome to Same Same But Tech, a podcast where we explain the most talked about tech buzzwords one analogy at a time. I'm Mauhan, and today it's all about the dark web. What would you do if you were invisible? I'm serious. If no one could find you or even see you.? Okay. Maybe not invisible, but what if you were completely and utterly anonymous? You could say whatever you wanted, do whatever you wanted, act however you wanted, and no one would know that you were actually you. Honestly, I'm not sure what I would do. I know for a fact I would probably go to work in my underwear. And I can admit that because I'm not really ashamed of that because I basically do that on Zoom everyday. But I don't know what else I would do. Would I do bad things, illegal things, maybe I just do good things. What I just secretly blurt out compliments to my friends? 

SFX: Hey buddy, I like you. 

Mauhan: Well, what if I told you there was a place we could try this invisibility thing out? The thing is you can't really  walk there. You can't drive there, but you can surf. In this episode of Same Same, we take a tour of the anonymous internet, also known as the dark web.

Andrew:

I'm Andrew Lewman. I'm principal researcher for Laxdaela Technology. I'm vice president at DarkOwl.

Mauhan:

Andrew is one of the biggest names in the dark web space.

Andrew:

And I'm one of the cofounders of the Tor project.

Mauhan:

If you've heard of the dark web, you've probably heard of TOR, spelled T. O. R. TOR stands for The Onion Router. TOR’s the most popular software for accessing the dark web. It's kind of like a dark web internet browser. Now the reason you need special software to access the dark web is because the internet is complicated. It's sophisticated, it has layers. In fact, it has three layers. The outsider top layer of the internet, the one you’re on most days, it's called the surface web. 

Andrew:

Surface web is effectively anything you can find in a search engine. Say Google, say Bing, Yandex, whatever you like. They crawl open pages. There's no login.

Mauhan:

The surface web is pretty familiar to all of us. When you Google podcasts and Same Same pops up, or if you're reading the news or watching some videos, that's all usually surface web stuff. Sometimes people like to use an iceberg analogy to explain layers of the web. The top of the iceberg that's above the water, that's the surface web. But if you dip your head just below the water, well now you're swimming on what's called the deep web.

Andrew:

Deep web is generally anything behind authentication, meaning you have to log into it. So things like your bank account should not be easily crawlable by Google, nor should your email, nor should your private files that you store on your laptop or your phone should not show up in a search result. And that's generally considered the deep web. And size-wise, the deep web is generally considered to be a hundred times larger than the surface web.

Mauhan:

The deep web is 100 times larger than the surface web. A hundred times is a lot, but the thing is the deep web isn't really that sexy. It's actually a lot of medical records, academic transcripts, bank statements, legal docs, blah. You don't need any special software to access that stuff or to surf the deep web. Usually you just need a login and a password.

[SFX]

 

Okay, quick recap. While surface web is all the stuff you can Google, deep web is all the stuff you need special permission to access. And to be super clear, the deep web is not the dark web. A lot of people mix those two terms up, but they are not interchangeable. Now the dark web is the deepest and least accessible part of the internet. It's that part of the iceberg that's way deep down there.

Andrew:

The dark web or the dark nets are parts of the internet that require a special software to get access to special addresses like a dot onion, a dog bit a dot ITP. You cannot just go type in your normal browser. Like you can't just take Chrome or Safari or Firefox and just type in, you know, Silk Road at onion. It won't go anywhere. It's not a valid domain name. You have to have TOR installed, you have to have your browser configured for TOR, and that's what the dark nets or the dark webs are.

Mauhan:

So of course we asked Andrew if you had an analogy to explain the dark web, something to help us grasp this tech buzzword concept a little bit better.

Andrew:

The dark web or the dark nets are parts of the town that your parents always say don't go to. For some of you, it could be where all the fun stuff is for most people is where all the bad stuff happens. A lot of them are sold or built as a panacea for solving all the problems on the internet. And then of course the criminal world has just taken them over.

Mauhan:

That's a great analogy. Think of the dark web as the part of town where you find things that are a little less halal. As Andrew mentioned, that area of the dark web isn't on the map. It's not on Google, it's not accessible with Chrome or Safari or any basic internet browser. What that means is that you can hide there and maybe that's why criminal activity ended up there and with seemingly no consequences. Or maybe it's because the dark web is all about anonymity--anonymity-- a no nymity. You get it. To access and live on the anonymous internet, you need software that supports anonymity. And like a lot of forward thinking technologies that began with the military.

Andrew:

Some of the best known darknets are TOR, ZeroNet and ITP. And TOR and ITP are similar that they're based on this concept called onion routing, which is developed by the US Navy in the 1990s.

Mauhan:

Yeah. Why did the Navy, like, why were they developing this in the first place?

Andrew:

So the military was looking to secure communications. And you know, if you think of a, I guess an analogy is, I'm sure everyone's seen at least one war movie and there's always some poor soldier with a giant antenna sticking out of their backpack. That's the communications officer. That's the communications point back to HQ or to field HQ. And if you're a sniper, you need someone to take out to stop communications back to base. So you look for the person with the giant antenna. And the analogy for The Onion Routing Project is, either all the soldiers have antennas or none of them have antennas. And now you're a sniper with one shot before the force reacts, you know, who do you take out or you just hold your shot and wait to find some other information.

Mauhan:

That's crazy. But it makes sense that this would come from the military. The whole concept of the internet came from the US department of defense. It actually originated with DARPA, which back then was known as ARPA, the Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Andrew:

Right. So dark nets go all the way back to about the mid 1980s and some professors at MIT started working on this, started saying, Hey, why don't we create an encrypted, you know, anonymous overlay over the existing internet. So there's a bunch of technical terms that is basically everything's encrypted. No one knows who anyone is and there's no easy way to trace people.

Mauhan:

One way that TOR hides a person or website’s location is by sending data in random routes from computer to computer to computer to another computer. By doing so, it makes it incredibly hard to find where things all started, kind of like layers of an onion, but an encrypted onion with a ton of encryption layers. Each time you peel a layer, there it is, another encryption.

Andrew:

So the core idea of the onion routing project was for scholar traffic analysis resistance. Basically, if someone…[fades out]

Mauhan:

Like the military use case, there was, and still are plenty of legit reasons to have an anonymous internet. For example, you might not want advertisers to track you online. You might want to save space to discuss medical issues or to give honest customer reviews. You may want to be able to express yourself or discuss political or social issues without fear of persecution. This is what the dark web could provide. Privacy and free speech, two massive value props of this ecosystem. And that's why some very legit entities have dark websites. Facebook launched a dark web version of their site for better security and privacy. BBC launched a site to stop media censorship. Even the CIA has a TOR site to communicate on the dark web, but everything is not all rainbows and care bears. Remember, this is the bad part of town.

[MUSIC]

Andrew:

If you've heard of things like Silk Road or Alphabay or Hansa, they are marketplaces that sold all sorts of drugs and weapons and fake IDs and counterfeit passports and counterfeit money. Um, and other programs, you know, hacking programs to break into other companies.

Mauhan:

Of all those dark websites, the most famous was the one called Silk Road. If you've read, seen, or heard anything about it, you've probably also heard of the founder. He became pretty infamous.

Andrew:

His nickname was Dread Pirate Roberts.

Mauhan:

Hey, do me a favor. Remember that name.

Andrew:

He was out there talking about and marketing heavily. ‘Here's how to get on my, my marketplace site.’ And he made some really simple websites that are available anywhere in the world, you know, like dot com, dot net, dot org sites that walked you through a simple three-step process. One, go download to a browser. Two, copy and paste this address, which was, you know, just for sake of argument and say it was SilkRoad.onion, copy paste that address in a TOR browser and then three, create an account and buy some Bitcoin. And here's, here's what Bitcoin is, here's how to get involved in Bitcoin. And now you're on my marketplace, which is called Silk Road. And a bunch of vendors, you know, say you wanted some hard cocaine, heroin, um, MDMA, whatever you wanted was there. Or you wanted some fake IDs or whatever, you can go buy it there. And it's all anonymous and it's just, it seems that the criminals just overrun everything. And you know, law enforcement is still catching up.

[MUSIC TRANSITION]

Gary:

Well, one day I'm in my suit, I'm going into a meeting and I get stopped in the middle and they said, Oh no, come into this office. And I was like, why, I have a meeting? It was like, no, no, no, you can skip the meeting, which is usually a bad sign. So I go into the meeting and my bosses are there and they said, Oh, we have a great opportunity for you. So I was like, Oh, what is this opportunity? And they said, well, have you ever heard about Silk Road? And I said, no. They said, okay, have you heard about TOR or the onion browser or this hidden dark net? No. Did you hear about Bitcoin? No, you don't know about any of these things. And they explained to me Silk Road was this underground website that was selling drugs almost like the Amazon of drugs. And they wanted me to, um, lead an investigation or take over the investigation into it. And I knew nothing about it. They said, well, can you handle it? And I said, I could.

Mauhan:

Now at this point, Silk Road had come to define the dark web. They had become synonymous like two peas in a pod, peanut butter and jelly. Siegfried and Roy. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. But the thing was, no one knew who created Silk Road. Everyone just knew that same screen name. 

Gary: 

Yes, so the name he had was Dread Pirate Roberts. 

Mauhan: 

One of the things we did know about Dread Pirate Roberts was that he or she was smart and slippery. I mean very smart and very slippery, enough so that Dread Pirate Roberts stayed ahead of the law for years. Seriously, no one could unmask dread pirate Roberts, or even get close to doing so. That is until one persistent IRS agent was put on the case.

Gary:

Hi, my name is Gary Alford. I'm a Supervisory Special Agent for IRS criminal investigation. I'm most known for my involvement in the Silk Road investigation.

Mauhan:

Taking a step back, it's worth mentioning that Silk Road wasn't necessarily started with all of this mal intent. The essence of the site was that it was a free market connecting buyers and sellers outside of the scope of government control or interference. It was kind of like a libertarian experiment in that sense, and I'm not defending it, but there was this ideology behind it to give humans the means to decide things for themselves or at least what they would buy or sell, or use or consume. Sometimes that meant counterfeit products, sometimes that meant fake IDs. A lot of that time it meant drugs, but online with Silk Road, you can do all of that without the need to engage in sketchy back alley transactions in the bad part of town. Instead you could get all sorts of contraband online with pretty great customer service.

Gary:

Dark Web is like the internet, but it's an underground internet or an underground marketplace. So if you think of the internet as being in the open, just like an address in the street, you go to a market, you see the store, you see addresses. Well, the dark net is more hidden. So the people who go in and out of this market, they're hiding or concealing who they are and the places they're going and or maybe the places they're going, the topics they're talking about are more hidden. So you can imagine if someone was spending too much, they want to hide, they want to use cash when they go to Macy's or some other store because they don't want them to know that they're spending all the money. But now the store itself would be hidden. Now that is kind of unusual. Normally you want to find a store, they have billboards, say, come to my store. You're trying to drive people to the store. But now you have a store that's in the middle of nowhere, let's say, and you can't find it. You have to specifically locate it. Normally stores don't operate that way.

Mauhan:

Right! Normally stores don't operate like that. Normally if you run a store, you want to advertise, you want people to know about you and come to your store and buy stuff. That makes sense. A store wants you to know where they are. But I guess sometimes maybe they don't.

Gary:

You can imagine, sometimes, the reason that is is because people are searching for it for illicit activity. So this was the unintended consequences. And this led to let's say a lot of black market activity on TOR or the dark net.

Mauhan:

Voila. Silk Road. Gary is with the IRS. As in, the Internal Revenue Service, most commonly known as the tax man. And while I did understand why the DEA, the Drug Enforcement Agency, would get involved in this case, I mean it's right up their alley. It's about catching a drug related marketplace. I wasn't so sure what Gary and the IRS were doing chasing down Dread Pirate Roberts.

Gary:

Well, we track money. So normally we track money in terms of tax cases. So usually we're looking into an allegation that someone's making money or they're not reporting it. But we also have a lot of investigation into illicit activities. So a lot of people forget. Our most famous case was Al Capone. So what people, some people know in the tax law, we don't discriminate. Illegal money, legal money. It's the same. It has to report.

Gary:

I mean, if the IRS could take down Al Capone, then yeah, definitely. Let's put them on the case. The only thing is that in its lifetime, Silk Road cleared hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions. That's a lot more Bitcoin than Capone. Now realizing that Silk Road made that much money made me think, As Gary mentioned, no one is advertising their underground marketplace. There's no Facebook ads, there's no billboards. So how on earth are you getting anyone to that site? Let alone attracting enough people to make up a couple hundred million dollars in sales? Gary asked the same question.

Gary:

So the first thing that got to me is like, okay, you look at it like it’s a business. Okay, just like Facebook, whoever's running this is not some mythical hero. He's just some person like me sitting in front of a screen. So wouldn't I like, like if I had a pizza store, hand out some pamphlets or something. So I said, let me see what the first mention ever on the internet about this Silk Road because you can't just find it and I'll start there. 

Mauhan: 

Someone had to advertise it, like one person had to tell at least one other person. 

Gary: 

So like, yeah. If somebody had a local drug dealer that no one knew, well someone had to tell him, Hey this, this person sells drugs and it's good drugs. So, well who was the first person to ever say this? So I started looking at it. So I started looking for the first ever mention. And then doing that, I found these two postings from a username ‘Altoid’ and they were on two separate sites. And it was like a person like, Hey, if someone's looking for drugs, have you ever saw this site? So it kind of looked like advertising. So I say, Oh, this is a pattern. And when looking into who Altoid was, I started looking at all the posts on this one discussion forum, the Bitcoin forum, the person put an email address and it had an email address, rossulbricht@gmail.com And that is a quite a unique name. So, um, it wasn't too hard to find out who Ross Ulbricht was.

Mauhan:

I picture you  in this film in the war agent at home, sleuthing on the internet trying to find this guy's name and you found it. And so now you're saying stuff matched up to this guy, this potential Dread Pirate Roberts.

Gary:

It's funny you say that cause that's kind of how it happened. It happened almost like in the middle of the night. I was thinking about it and I just had this idea. And usually a lot of my thoughts come at night cause it's quiet and I, you know my now wife but uh, fiance then, I like jumped out of bed. I said I had an idea how did, how did he get it out there? So I really went downstairs and started like looking up and along came this post. And I was like, this is very interesting because it’s something that it seemed at the time that not too many people would have found cause I hadn't read about it.

Mauhan:

How good is that story? Gary just lounging in bed thinking about stuff and then suddenly he has that stroke of genius. I can just picture him running out of bed, grabbing his computer and then furiously Googling stuff left and right. The crazy thing is it seems to have worked. Late night Google searches and internet sleuthing provided Gary with a clue that might just crack this case.

Gary:

The thing was, Mr. Ulbricht was a unique person. He was an Eagle scout, so nothing, let's say on the surface screamed, I'm running a multimillion dollar international drug empire fighting the US government. However, you just couldn't ignore the fact that the evidence was kind of pointing at him. So by the time I got into it, there was everybody was investigating it. No t just the DEA, not just New York, all over the country and worldwide internet researchers were trying to figure out because it was this great mystery. Who's running it? Who is this folk hero Dread Pirate Roberts

Mauhan:

A few months into the case, Gary gets a call from the FBI. He arrives at their office and learns they have pulled off what everyone thought was impossible. The FBI had found the servers Silk Road was being hosted on and had made a copy of it.

Gary:

About a month later I was invited over to the FBI to take a look at the server. So when I went to their space, they had stuff all over the wall--

Mauhan: 

What  kind of stuff did they have on the wall? I just pictured faces with clothing, like you know, threads with pins.

Gary: 

And yeah, you're right. There's like post-its, there's diagrams. Like, I did notice there was all these arrows at the top and it had the name of a cafe and it was in San Francisco. So I was like, really? And I was like, well I'm, I have a guy, I'm looking at a guy from San Francisco and the prosecutor was there and agents were there. I believe the prosecutor was there and they kind of just dismissed it. I mean, at the time, I guess a lot of people had people out of San Francisco and I kind of said to myself, I'm never coming back here. This is their investigation, you know, just leave it alone and just move on. So that happened. 

Mauhan: 

B ut you didn't leave it alone. 

Gary: 

I couldn't. So I became, uh, I was, uh, annoying at the workplace cause I was back at work and I just still thought I was right. And I was like, well, how come they haven't taken them down? 

Mauhan:

This is the part of the story where our protagonist gets a bit discouraged. But something doesn't let him let it go. He's convinced, he's passionate, he's committed, but he didn't have many options. So Gary did the only thing he could think of. He did everything again just  in case he missed something. One of the first things Gary revisited was checking Mr. Ulbricht’s travel. If he was Dread Pirate Roberts, then he had to have made some attempt to get out of the country. Right? So Gary asked Homeland security to run a search on Ross Ulbricht one last time.

Gary:

They say, Hey, there's a hit on Mr. Ulbricht. I said, what? What do you mean ‘a hit’? He said, someone he's in the computer. I said, no, he's not. Let me see. 

Mauhan: 

This is a tipping point. Apparently in July, 2013, Department of Homeland Security Investigators discovered that no fewer than seven fake passports were being delivered to Mr. Ulbricht’s house. They intercepted those passports, found their way to his house and they knocked on the door.

Gary:

And I guess Mr Ulbricht is a fast thinker because they start questioning him. So he has to admit that he's going by a different name. He's paying by cash. But I guess the agents, I theorize were not so much interested in the person receiving the IDs. They were more interested in   where were you getting the IDs. So Mr. Ulbricht said, well, hypothetically you could get them on Silk Road.

Mauhan:

When we heard this, it felt like a whoops, like, why would you ever say that? But I think it was hubris. It was the type of hubris that someone that starts a massive underground marketplace on the dark web would have. It was Ross Ulbricht smiling in the face of the law.

Gary:

So I was like, it's him,: it's him. I'm like, I'm like losing it. So I go, like running into my bosses office. It's him, it's him. Because I didn't really realize, I was trying to convince people for so long. And then he was like, when I told him, he was like, okay, you have to call the prosecutor. So I called the prosecutor and I told him, very excitedly, what I came up with cause I had been talking to him for let's say several weeks about Mr. Ulbricht and he's like, wait, say it again. Say it again. I was like fake IDs. This guy who's an Eagle scout, tell me why he's living under a false name. Tell me why he's living by cash. Tell me why he needs seven fake IDs. Tell me how he knows hypothetically Silk Road.

Mauhan:

In that phone call with the prosecutor and other agents, Gary connected the dots. He linked Ulbricht, SIlk Road, and an IP address all in San Francisco.

Gary: 

For  some people on the phone call, that was very strong. So by the end of that phone call, I believe everybody was pretty much convinced that Mr. Ulbricht was Dread Pirate Roberts, which actually I didn't feel as much pressure before. I felt more pressure after the phone call.

Mauhan:

Why is that?

Gary:

Because before it was just, I thought I was right. I was just --

Mauhan:

Now you better be right.

Mauhan:

Things escalated pretty quickly after this..

Gary:

[Gary breaking through] In a case that big ...

Mauhan:

--- and soon enough, the team headed out to San Francisco to make the bust on Mr. Ulbricht. But to do so, they wanted to catch them logged in to the inner workings of the site as an admin. Catching Ross Ulbricht logged in would mean that there was no doubt that he was the alter ego of the infamous dark web mastermind. Dread Pirate Roberts. Luckily for law enforcement, Mr.  Ulbright chose to work out of a public library that day instead of in his home. Once he got there, the undercover agents got into position all of them with eyes on his screen and then they tried to bait Ross Ulbricht with a customer service ticket that submitted to Silk Road.

Gary:

Um, the undercover told him, well, there was a customer service ticket. So, just like a regular website, people have problems like customer service for buying drugs. Things weren't shipped or have a problem. So he said, the undercover told dread pirate Roberts, Hey, I have this customer service ticket. Do you mind looking at it? So for Dread Pirate Roberts to look at it, he'd have to log into the part of the website that only Dread Pirate Roberts could sign into. So then when he logged in and said, here's this, Oh, I can see the ticket here,  We knew that he was signed in into the inner workings of Silk Road. 

Mauhan:

At that point, agents swooped in. 

Gary:

As soon as he turned, the computer was snatched away and then when he turned back, we had the computer in custody and then he was arrested. So we got him literally, as some people say, ‘riding dirty’ when they get drug dealers. He was typing dirty.

[MUSIC]

Gary:

Mr Ulbright changed the world. There is no putting genie back in that bottle.

Mauhan:

Looking into our crystal ball, where's the dark web going in the future? Is it going to change our lives for the better, or for the worse? After all that noise that Silk Road caused along with the copycat sites that followed, is there even room or even a need for the dark web moving forward?

Gary:

I think dark web will be part of our future. I think now people are more knowledgeable. When Silk Road started it was more naivete, so some people thought that only, it would only be used for good. But now just like most technology, it was used for bad, but I think there’s  good uses for it because the internet is different than it was when I first started. So a lot of people, that's where they do most of their communication. So I can see the need for some of the privacy to try to keep it hidden because a lot of people don't talk in real life anymore. So I do see a place for it and it's just a matter of having people understand how the technology works because ultimately, hopefully, people will try to on themselves limit the bad uses of it and won't support the bad uses of it and will support the good uses of it.

Mauhan:

Gary is totally right. Today's enormous reliance on technology is a great reason why privacy is more important than it ever was. I really like that optimistic view, that we'll all begin to better understand, appreciate and police this technology ourselves.

Andrew:

I think it was community driven. So I've watched on ZeroNet there is you know a ton of child abuse sites have popped up because it was quote anonymous and decentralized. So there's no one machine to take down. Only thousands of them. But there are communities who now do child abuse block lists. Like, here's a list of all the sites that are, that are bad and other sites you can subscribe to it and you can subscribe to it and automatically not visit those sites.

Gary:

So if someone was in the community and as all the neighbors and someone in that community, they could see it in someone shot someone else and everyone in that community saw it. Well all it takes is for one person to say, I witnessed it, I saw who shot him. It was this person. To have that courage. But if we live in a society where no one wants to step forward, even though everybody saw it, then what is law enforcement going to do? I always tell people, well the Google car is going around, I've seen him many times. It's collecting information. So is the, is the issue that you don't like the information being collected or is it a question of what is a sign on the side of the car about who's collecting it? Because privacy is privacy.

Mauhan:

Balancing privacy and security is a delicate dance.

Andrew:

At TOR was that, you know, technology is agnostic and you can go buy steak knives anywhere on the world. No one will ask you a question. Most people assume you're gonna use it to cut meat or cut vegetables and not stab people with. And it's just a matter of what's societaly, what's acceptable. And you know, with some of these more advanced technologies of the dark nets and all that, you know, you'd never put a brand new driver into a race car, without giving them some training, education and that that's the same sort of way of, you know, moving people along to say, Hey, before you use these dark nets, realize the power you have here. Tools and technologies will always be out there. Um, so I don't think you'll ever be able to define this as a safe technology. This is unsafe technology. It's just technology. Just like cars. You know, we've seen cars used to run over people in a protest, but for the mass majority of usage is to get from point A to point B. It's a human problem. It's not a technology problem.

Mauhan:

When you ask people to pick any superpower, anything in the world, what would it be? You get a lot of cool answers, ability to fly, mind reading, endless napping. Sometimes you get invisibility and that's a super power that the dark web and TOR provide. Surfing the dark web is anonymous and in anonymity you find invisibility. Which is cool. In a time where all of our personal data is online and I swear to God our phones are listening to us, anonymity affords us this beautiful shield of privacy, let alone for people in military situations, or under oppressive regimes or people dealing with horrible situations where they need a protected channel to say help. That is where this technology is incredibly valuable. But what invisibility also provides is the ability for us to act without consequence, without someone knowing it was you. That's the interesting thing about this technology. Sometimes it really just amplifies human behaviors and our own natural tendencies. Good. And bad. Sometimes technology acts as a mirror. That's not the dark web’s fault. That's not TOR's fault. It's not up to the engineers, scientists, or technologists to fix this one. It's up to us as people to make sure the good voices on the dark web, on the deep web on the surface web and in real life are always loud enough and strong enough to drown out the bad.

[SFX]

Mauhan:

Thank you to our guests, Andrew Lewman and Gary Alford. Today's episode was written and hosted by me, Mauhan Zonoozy, produced by Corinne Javier and Lee Schneider. Executive produced by Stephanie Wolfe. mMusic by Oeuvre. You can find Same Same But Tech on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your ear candy. Thanks for listening. Spread love.

Announcer:

This episode was brought to you in part by BCG Digital Ventures. BCG DV builds revolutionary new businesses with the world's most influential corporations. Learn more at bcgdv.com.

Gary:

The name he had was this, um, Dread Pirate Roberts, which comes from the movie the princess bride. So it was a ingenious also marketing strategy. So for those, unlike me, I did watch it growing up. I'm a little bit of a nerd. Um, it was this character who was a Dread Pirate Roberts, but he would pass on the title to the next captain. So he would have a ship. He would dock, he would have everybody go off and he would fire everyone. And then he would get a whole new crew. But what people didn't know is he had switched to a new person and that person went by dread pirate Roberts. So it was like a mythical, who was this person? It could be the 50th person, and it was great. It really caught on. So we were trying to figure out who was this Dread Pirate Roberts.

Mauhan:

That was great. Now I'm, I think I'm going to buy your movie rights. Can we make a film?