One of many reasons cited in the FBI's indictment of online black market Silk Road was the sale of "illegal goods and services" related to hacking.
Section 19, subsection d., paragraph iii. of the indictment reads:
There were 801 listings under the category "Digital goods," ... For example, one listing, titled "HUGE hacking pack **150+ HACKING TOOLS & PROGRAMS**," described the item being sold as a "hacking pack loaded with keyloggers, RATs, banking trojans, and other various malware."
Ironically, the FBI has been in the spotlight recently for using many of these services itself. As reported in August by Jennifer Valentino-Devries of the WSJ:
The FBI "hires people who have hacking skill, and they purchase tools that are capable of doing these things," said a former official in the agency's cyber division.
The FBI has proposed using controversial hacking techniques including RATs, or Remote Access Terminals, which take control of a target's computer without them knowing.Although the government is certainly free to use some techniques that private citizens cannot, these hacking exploits stand on shakey legal ground — and some have been found to be illegal.
Devries point outs in her report that a Texas judge ruled against FBI software used to"extract files and covertly take photos using a computer's camera" because he was worried that "innocent people" might become targets for surveillance.
Whatever the case, it should be obvious from Ulbricht's indictment and Devries' reporting that the modern FBI is treads on surveillance ground more frequently used by criminals.
It is even "loath" to use those tools on hackers, for fear "the suspect will discover and publicize the technique," sources told Devries.
One paragraph from the WSJ report gives new meaning to the phrase "it takes a wolf to catch a wolf":
Federal agencies have largely kept quiet about these capabilities, but court documents and interviews with people involved in the programs provide new details about the hacking tools, including spyware delivered to computers and phones through email or Web links—techniques more commonly associated with attacks by criminals.
As the FBI has recruited hackers to help implement these powerful techniques, it is not unlikely that the Bureau has employed some former customers of Silk Road.
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