Archive by Author | 371492rl

‘500 grams of Cocaine have been added to your shopping cart!’

In the last couple of years, there has been a considerable increase in the number of drugs sold online, via the Dark Web. This number is only expected to increase, not at last because of the growing usage and availability of the Internet. I thought it was quite interesting to see how it appears to be quite normal nowadays to browse through the online catalogue of drugs, select your preferences, put the selected items in the shopping cart, and order. So I did a bit of research, and I have quite a story to tell you all, so grab that cup of coffee and embrace yourselves!

So, before we begin, here’s a short 101 on Dark Markets. In 2002 the ‘Onion Router’ (Tor) was released. This is a technology that basically allows everyone within these dark markets to hide their identity and location. It enables secure and confidential communication, preventing users (including governmental agencies) to track down your browsing activity. On Tor, virtually everything is anonymized!

Silk Road was an illicit platform on the Dark Web established in 2011, mainly enabling drug trafficking. In 2013 the Federal Bureau of Investigation shut down the platform and arrested its owner, ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’ a.k.a. Ross Ulbricht.

After the FBI took down Silk Road and arrested Ross Ulbricht and Charlie Shrem (the executive of a Bitcoin exchange service), one would expect that most of these underworld “businessmen” maybe would consider taking it easy for a while, right? Well, apparently these people didn’t get the memo! After Silk Road’s destruction, a plethora of new online drug markets emerged. The industry competitiveness increased heavily, driving ‘weaker’ drug firms out of business and opening a whole new world for drug dealers.

Now, indeed you might think; ‘How did that happen?’ But it’s quite simple folks. Basically the FBI shot itself in the foot! The arrests and the website-shutdown were widely publicized, introducing ‘dark markets’ to a much wider public. Buyers and sellers started establishing new platforms to keep up with the ever-booming business. So… I guess they actually did get the memo. Mike Power on the matter (google the guy if you don’t know him).

The FBI have acted as the most creative marketing and advertising agency that the hidden web drugs sector could have possibly hoped for’

Ladies and Gentleman, a round of applause for the FBI!

However, this does pose another question; if this incident has proven that the FBI is indeed capable of tracking down sellers active on these elicit markets – regardless of the anonymity Tor networks supposedly provide – why are these markets still growing? Well, one of the reasons is that dealers find it safer to do business online. James Martin of Macquarie’s Policing and Intelligence Research Institute states the following:

Law enforcement is only part of the risk for people who sell drugs. The bigger risk and more frightening risk is not someone kicking down the door to arrest you, but someone kicking down the door to kill you and steal your stash”.

These online drug markets offer both dealers and customers a less violent trade mechanism. In addition, the anonymity and highly competitive nature of these markets drive down prices and increase the level of quality, given that the vast majority of sales are exclusively based on customer reviews.

So now, you might be thinking; ‘What the hell does this have to do with the Bitcoin guy being arrested?’ Well, the most widely used digital currency in the dark web is Bitcoin (after all, of what use is it to browse anonymously if you are going to pay with your very traceable credit card?). Given that Bitcoin is an encrypted digital currency that allows for anonymous financial transactions, it was a crucial component to the establishment of Silk Road and crypto markets in general. Shrem (our Bitcoin guy) was involved in a money-laundering scheme that allowed Silk Road customers to convert money to bitcoins and vice-versa.

So after Silk Road was shut down, it only makes sense that the share value of Bitcoin crashed, losing up to half a billion dollars, that is, a drop of approximately 25%. However, as more online drug markets were established, Bitcoin’s value rose again above prior levels in a matter of weeks.

So why did I tell you all of this really? Well here are some of the lessons to be learned!

  1. The use of Tor browsers can be expected to increase exponentially; perhaps not so much because of the ease with which narcotics can be purchased, but more because it offers truly anonymous browsing for the vast majority of users (it took the FBI months to find Ross Ulbricht alone).
  2. The dark web has created a whole new landscape for criminal activities that current law enforcement techniques are not ready to tackle.
  3. The online drug markets will continue to grow (not at last thanks to the FBI’s need to be in the limelight).
  4. The implications of these mysterious markets are very much real. Ross Ulbricht is facing a life sentence, a high level executive has been arrested (more than can be said of the bankers responsible for the financial crisis), and the stock value of Bitcoin fell by up to $500 million upon the shutdown of Silk Road.
  5. Should you be an (amateur) investor or simply tempted to invest in Bitcoin, make sure to keep an eye on the developments in the dark web!

Sources

Buxton, J; Bingham, T 2014, ‘The Rise and Challenge of Dark Net Drug Markets’, Global Drug Policy Observatory, Swansea University

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/08/net-us-crime-silkroad-bitcoin-idUSBRE99113A20131008

http://www.coindesk.com/dark-markets-grow-bigger-bolder-year-since-silk-road-bust/

http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/02/fbi-seize-deep-web-marketplace-silk-road-arrest-owner/

http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/10/amid-silk-road-uncertainty-bitcoin-value-drops-over-20-in-3-hours/

http://www.freemansperspective.com/silk-road-died-bitcoin-crashed/

http://www.wired.com/2013/10/bitcoin-market-drops-600-million-on-silk-road-bust/

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“IPhone 6S is here and the only thing that’s changed is everything”! Is it though?

Apple recently launched its new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus with a brand new slogan: “The iPhone 6S is here and the only thing that’s changed is everything”. When reading this, I became surprisingly eager to know how new and different this smart phone actually is. In fact, many IPhone users might consider upgrading! So the question is, is it worth upgrading to or not?

At first sight, the iPhone 6S seems almost identical to the iPhone 6, and therefore lacks the ‘wow’ factor. But let’s not judge a book by its cover and see whether we can actually bring some justice to this slogan!

The table below presents a comparison between the iPhone 6 and 6S. The screen size, resolution, pixel density and storage options did not change one bit (International Business Times, 2015). Some might not even appreciate the changes in thickness and weight, although some of this might be due to the use of 7000-series aluminium, which is claimed to be less pliable (Techradar, 2015) (So, no whining people!). Another thing that many will value is the much faster Wi-Fi connection all-possible with the new A9 –processor with embedded M9 motion coprocessor (techradar 2015).

iphone-6s-vs-iphone-6-specs

Camera

But here it comes; Apple did more than slightly improve the camera quality, increasing the rear camera to 12-megapixel and front camera to 5-megapixel (IBtimes 2015)! Unfortunately, increasing the mega pixels doesn’t necessarily result in better quality photos; more mega pixels just implies bigger photos (yeah, this is called marketing) (Iphoned 2015). However, when you zoom in more details are revealed and the picture remains sharp much longer (macworld 2015). The cameras are also equipped with 1,22 micron-pixels, while the iPhone 6 and 5S included 1.5 micron-pixels. The smaller the micron-pixels, the less light will be caught; implying that the new iPhone takes worse photo’s than its predecessors (Iphoned 2015).

4K video

The IPhone 6S and 6S Plus are the first ones that can shoot videos in 4K-resolution! There is just one downside to it, 4K videos are a disaster for your memory. After just 32 minutes of filming, your 16GB IPhone would already be full! And that is IF you are not using it for other applications as well (iCulture 2015).

Storage

In fact, this gets me to the following point; Apple didn’t increase the minimum storage from 16GB to 32GB. But to make things even worse, they didn’t include a micro SD card slot to be able to create more storage space yourself. Obviously Apple smartly solved this by referring to its online iCloud storage system as an alternative. But this doesn’t really help if you have poor 4G connections or a low monthly data cap (International Business Times 2015).

3D Touch screen

The most revolutionary and exciting new feature in the 6S series must be the 3D-touchscreen. ‘YES 3D!’ But how would this work? Yeah, I asked myself the same thing at the time. So basically, practising a little bit more pressure on the screen should do the trick, after which a pop-up window should appear against a translucent background. Apparently this new feature allows you to use apps, without having to open them completely (Techradar, 2015). It works just like the Force Touch on the Apple watch (macworld 2015).

                                       3d touchhscreen

 Live photos

Apple added new software, called ‘Live photos’, which records 1.5 second before and after taking a photo. (International Business Times 2015). When pressing on the 3D-touch screen, it shows the movement in the picture during those seconds (Techradar, 2015). Unfortunately only those with IOS 9 or El Capitan can see the animation in the picture, everyone else only receives a normal JPEG (macworld 2015).

Downsides Upgrades
  • No increased storage capacity
  • 3D Touchscreen
  • No Micro SD card slot
  • 4K video
  • No new external design
  • Increased camera mega pixels
  • No extended battery life
  • Stronger screen with dual ion exchange process
  • Increase in weight & thickness
  • New rose gold colour
  • Faster Wi-Fi
  • New ‘Live Photos’ feature
  • Stronger 7000-series aluminium

 

Price and release date

The iPhone 6S and 6S plus will cost respectively, $649 and $749 and will be released on September 25 (techradar 2015).

Bottom line; the 2 newest additions seem to be the 3D Touch and Live photos, although Live photos isn’t even accessible for everyone. Personally, I think that if you already own the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, upgrading seems to be an unnecessary luxury. You won’t even be able to show off, as no one will even notice you have the new version for god sake! Secondly, ask yourself this; do you actually need 4K video and increased camera mega pixels? Yeah sure these can come in handy if you’re (1) a fanatic ‘vlogger’, (2) a selfie addict, or (3) a selfie addict (you get my point I hope). I must admit however that I do appreciate the stronger material that is used for the screen and the stronger aluminium. Especially after all the fuzz about the iPhone 6 being bendable (#Bendgate) (Elsevier 2014). Don’t get me wrong, I think all the upgrades are great extra’s. I just don’t think it’s worth upgrading for. However, if you own older versions of the iPhone, this one might be a huge upgrade worth buying.

bendgate

Sources:

http://www.nu.nl/mobiel/4122713/apple-presenteert-nieuwe-iphone-6s-en-6s-plus-met-3d-touch.html

http://www.nu.nl/reviews/4122794/eerste-indruk-verbeterde-iphone-6s-mist-grote-toevoegingen.html

http://www.iclarified.com/51296/first-iphone-6s-ad-the-only-thing-thats-changed-is-video

http://www.macworld.com/article/2982500/apple-phone/hands-on-with-the-iphone-6s-and-6s-plus.html

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/iphone-6-vs-iphone-6s-whats-difference-should-i-upgrade-1519137

http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/10-things-we-d-like-to-see-in-the-iphone-6s-and-iphone-7-1269122

http://www.iphoned.nl/nieuws/nieuwe-iphone-6s-camera/

http://www.elsevier.nl/Tech/achtergrond/2014/9/bendgate-nieuwe-iPhone-6-eenvoudig-te-buigen-1606531W/